Winter Wines

Following are some tasting notes from a handful of wines that I have had the opportunity to taste over the past wintery week

The winter has arrived, and as I have written in the past, in my opinion the choice of which wine to serve should not only be affected by food pairing considerations but should also be in correlation with the weather or surrounding temperature. With air-conditioning and heating, these are very easy to control but as a general rule of thumb, the ambient temperature usually effects my wine selection. Heavier reds for the colder environment (be it winter or an air-conditioned room) and vise versa, opting for white wines in heated or warmer settings.

Following are some tasting notes from a handful of wines that I have had the opportunity to taste over the past wintery week:

Golan Heights, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, El Rom, 2008 – quite different and much more complex than the regular Yarden Cab, from the attack it is quite clear why the El Rom is considered to be one of the Golan Heights' flagship vinos. 18 months in French oak, full bodied, on the nose and palate concentrated and layered black fruits, ripe plums, herbs, tobacco, oak and dark chocolate all leading to an extra long finish. The wood could use another year or two to fully integrate but definitely a very enjoyable wine that will develop nicely over the years.

The Cave 2005-2008 – operating as an entirely separate winery, the Cave is affiliated with the Binyamina winery with Sasson Ben Aharon and Asaf Paz at the helm. Traditionally, a Bordeaux style blend, I recently had an opportunity to attend a vertical tasting of the Cave wines, from 05 through the recently released 2008. The 05 is still enjoyable but I would recommend drinking it in the next year or two as it is already showing age. Of the four wines, my favorite was the 2007 – a full bodied wine with generous aromas and flavors of black berry fruits, purple plums, dark chocolate and notes of orange marmalade leading to a long finish. The 2008 was also very enjoyable and while still a bit firm, after several minutes in the glass opens nicely revealing pleasant aromas and flavors of not overly jammy dark berry fruits, followed by dried herbs and notes of chocolate leading to a long finish.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2008 – Traditionally, one of my favorite Israeli Carignan’s, the 2008 is definitely up to par with previous releases of this wine. Overall the Vitkin winery produces fine wines and if you get a chance, I would also recommend trying their Cabernet Franc and Rieslings based vinos. Dark almost garnet in color, the Carignan is full bodied showing concentrated black berry fruits, young plums, blueberries followed by hints of dried herbs and a cool minty sensation.

Or Hganuz Winery– Established in 2005 and situated at the foothills of the Meron mountain, Or Haganuz Winery (a Kabbalic name meaning the ‘hidden light’) is managed and operated by the residents of an Ultra Orthadox cooperative village (similar to a kibbutz) baring the same name. Production levels are at some 100,000 bottles per annum released in 3 labels: Amuka Vineyard (3 vinos), Marom Vineyard (2 vinos) and Namura Vineyard (consisting of a single Cabernet Sauvignon wine) all are of course strictly kosher. I had a chance to sample several of the winery’s offerings on different occasions, most were pleasant entry level wines, my favorite being a medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from the winery’s Marom label that is true to its variety showing distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics. The winery also produces an enjoyable and different sweet red wine titled Har Sinai.

Yatir, Viognier, 2009 – Much has been said about Israeli Viognier wines and of course they are very different than those found in Condrieu (I recently had an excellent on by Guigal), but still there are a few good Viognier based vinos to be found in the local market, with Yatir’s Viognier definitely in the latter category. Light straw with gold reflections, generous tropical fruit, white peaches, flowers and citrus all backed by refreshing and pleasant acidity. This one can definitely be enjoyed in the winter or a warm summer afternoon.