Israeli wine tasting – Castel & Binyamina

The Kosher Wine Society hosted a tasting tonight with Israeli winemakers from the Castel & Binyamina wineries.

The evening started with a 2004 Sauvignon Blanc from the Binyamina winery.  Sauv Blanc, when not oaked, is generally a wine that should be consumed young.  As such this wine was nice and pleasant but a little over the hill and mostly indistinct.

Once everyone arrived we were treated to a very special talk by Eli Ben Zaken, the winemaker (together with son Eytan) and proprietor of Domaine du Castel.  Castel is among Israel’s best boutique wineries (producing approximately 100,000 bottles) and has received very positive reviews for their wines of late.

Eli gave an insightful talk about Israeli wines, the Israeli terroir, industry and varying winery philosophies.  The guests were then treated to The “C” by Castel 2006 Chardonnay.  Castel’s Chard is very well regarded.  I personally thought the nose hid the purity of fruit with it’s smoke (1/3 new barrels) and cream (full malolactic fermentation).  But the mouthfeel, balance, minerality and long luscious finish must be why the “experts” love this wine so much.  Very nice.

We then tasted both the 2005 Petit Castel & Grand Vin from Castel.  Again I had problems with the nose on both.  I found the Petit Castel had a heavy herbacious/green bell pepper nose.  I know many people love this characteristic, but I really only like it in very small doses.  As to the Grand Vin, although it had at least 1 hour in the glass to aerate, I still found it to be mostly closed.  It showed some subtle black fruit, earth & spice, but it was too subtle and probably could have used some decanting.   That said, the mouth-feel on both wines was great.  Really well balanced, soft gripping tannins, fruit & earth.  Yum!  Very nice wines.

We ended the evening with a brief talk by Assaf Paz, the winemaker from Binyamina.  Assaf joined Binyamina less than 2 years ago and I am confident that Binyamina has exciting times ahead.  While the guests drank a 2006 late harvest gewurztraminer Assaf talked about the challenges in producing late harvest wines.

All in all it was a very nice and charming evening.  The winemakers were all very engaging and were happy to answer questions. And oh yeah, there was even some cheese and crackers.

I encourage you all to go check out these wines.  You’ll be happy you did!!


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