Chillag, Tulip, Heineken & Culinary Festivals

Summer months are usually filled with culinary and wine related events, from food tasting events

Summer months are usually filled with culinary and wine related events, from food tasting events (the Slow Food Tel Aviv convivium recently held a fascinating tasting session focusing on tomato varieties), new summery wines being released, special culinary festivals and more. Some of these events are very well organized and provide foodies and wine aficionados with excellent opportunities to sample a wide variety of vinos and food items before purchasing a full bottle or package. Wine launching events and harvest festivals held at various wineries also provide a unique opportunity to meet the people behind the wine and gain further knowledge about the full process, starting at the vineyard and ending in the bottle.

Following is a brief survey of some recent and future highlights:

Chillag Winery - a couple of weeks ago the Chillag Winery launched two new wines - Cabernet Sauvignon, Vivo 2007 and the Chillag, Chenin Blanc, 2010 – the first white wine produced by the winery.

After completing her oenology studies in Piacenza, Italy and interning at the Tenuta Belvedere winery in Tuscany, Ms. Orna Chillag returned to Israel and decided to produce wines independently. Orna’s first wine upon her return was released in 1999. This was a barrel of Merlot labeled as Primo, produced at the Nachshon Winery and relying on grapes from the nearby Latrun vineyards.

Over the years, Chillag has become a somewhat cult winery with fans that are willing to swear by Orna’s wines. Production levels are relatively low, allowing Orna to have full control at all stages of production. The production style is primarily old-world, a fact quite noticeable when tasting certain red wines from Chillag. I started off with the Chenin Blanc, a grape variety commonly used in France’s Loire Valley and recently gaining popularity in Israel (Zeev Dunia’s Sea Horse Winery also produces a very enjoyable Chenin Blanc). Blended with 10% French Colombard grapes, when first poured, I found the wine a bit too acidic, overpowering the fruity characteristics. This changed as the wine aerated, revealing pleasant aromas and flavors of citrus, white peaches and pears leading to a clean finish. Orna recommends serving the wine alongside goat cheeses and smoked salmon. Next was the Chillag, Vivo, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – 85% Cab and 15% Merlot, aged for 14 months in oak barrels. Dark ruby with purple reflections, the wine is medium-full bodied suggesting various aromas and flavors, including plums, red berry fruits, black pepper and a touch of chocolate. Orna suggests aerating for two hours and serving alongside rich meat dishes and potent cheeses.

Tulip Winery - a new and interesting attempt from the now kosher Tulip Winery, only 5,000 bottles produced, the White Franc, 2010 is a semi-dry blend based on 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. Bronze with orange reflections, the wine suggests aromas and flavors of strawberries, summer fruits and citrus blossom. Not a complex wine, and personally I would have preferred a bit more acidity for balance, but putting this aside, it is a fun and tasty wine that will definitely go well with the hot Israeli summers. Serve well chilled as an aperitif or alongside light vegetable and fish starters.

Heineken - while I enjoyed an excellent and fascinating tour of the Heineken facilities in Amsterdam a number of years ago, I am far from being a Heineken aficionado. I prefer my beers heavier and darker, but hey, it’s all about personal taste. Nevertheless, I was genuinely impressed when I heard of Heineken’s new culinary project in Israel, titled Open Your World to Taste. Between 17/7-17/8, a select group of restaurants will be offering special dishes incorporating Heineken beer. The dishes are quite interesting and diverse, ranging from ginger & Heineken cake through fettuccini in beer sauce. Participating restaurants include: Colony, Zuni, Chakra, Orna and Ella, Yoezer Wine Bar, Basta, Kantina, Refael and Café Italia.

Upcoming Culinary Happenings - the Tabor winery invites families to head up north to the winery’s visitor’s center and go on a tour of the vineyards, learn more about the production process and sample some vinos. Tours will be operating, Sunday-Friday at 10:00, starting 24/7-31/8. For additional information please call – 04-676-0444. Famous Italian Chef Antonio Espozito will be arriving in Israel for a celebration of Italian pizza and baked goods. Chef Espozito, a recognized TV persona and renowned pizza master from Southern Italy will be the guest of the Nova Joya restaurant in Ramat Hachayal which will be offering a special pizza menu between 35-29 July. While there is still some time to go, 23-35 in August, the municipality of Rishon Lezion will be hosting a very impressive international food fair. Guests are invited to travel between the various booths, sampling fresh buttery croissants at the French pavilion, fresh pasta and Chianti wine at the Italian pavilion, beef Sichuan and dim sum at the Chinese pavilion, burgers and New York cheese cake at the US pavilion and many more.

Enjoy and L’chaim!