Archive for the ‘Israel Wine’ Category


Monday, October 19th, 2009

Having returned last night from 2 1/2 weeks in Israel, I saw the doc about my wrist again today.  Surgery is scheduled for Friday – I am getting a screw put into my wrist.  Can’t say that I am too excited about the upcoming procedure, but it will hopefully end this regretful wrist saga.

While in Israel I of course tasted a bunch of wine.  I did not however take any tasting notes, so we’ll have to discuss the standouts in real rough format.

Of special note was the ever increasing Israeli boutique wine market.  It seems just about every Israeli wine lover with the ability to plant some vines or buy some grapes is starting a label or opening up a boutique winery.  Sarcasm aside, some of the better boutiques are doing an amazing job.  I’m still worried about the pricing policies many of these wineries are adopting, but the product they are releasing is continuing to be of high quality and showing continued improvement.

On to the wines, I tried a new Segal Winery wine called “Single”.  The wine was on promotion at a restaurant and was being offered for the equivalent of about $25/bottle.  Full of fruit, hints of oak, soft & subtle, this wine went great with our grilled meats & chicken.

A few days later we happened upon a 2003 “Dishon vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon also by Segal Winery.  Always the fan of Segal vineyards (their “unfiltered” is amazing), I was disappointed.  This 6 year old wine was showing some complex secondary characteristics (desirable in aged wines) & was very much alive.  But it seemed to have undergone a minor secondary fermentation in the bottle as there was a bit of “fizziness” to the wine.  The fizziness seemed to dissipate as the wine was open & revealed a lovely wine.  But the initial glass or two with our food was not what it should have been and detracted from the food/wine experience.

Another negative wine-in-restaurant experience happened when we ordered a wine from a VERY well thought of winery; Yatir – the 2005 Cab-Merlot-Shiraz blend.  Others enjoyed the wine more than I did as I felt it seemed a bit cooked, showing baked/stewed fruit aromas & flavors.  I wonder if it was stored near a hot kitchen.

I stopped by old friend Ze’ev of Sea Horse wines and tasted a new blend – a barrel sample of his 2009 Cote du Rhone/GSM (grenache/syrah/mourvedre).  A very pretty floral nose reminiscent of a light Dolcetto.  The wine had a light body and will make for a terrific summer red (summer of 2010).

Finally, I attended a tasting of Psagot wines.  Of late I have been hearing positive things about Psagot but have until the tasting stayed away due to pricing that being unfamiliar with the wines prevented me from buying a bottle.  Special thanks to the good folks at Buy Wine Israel for insisting I be there cause WOW, these wines were impressive.  We started off with a Viognier that showed great varietal expression.  Flowers, honey and a overall pretty bouquet this wine was soft and balanced, something often difficult to achieve with these ripe (and often high alcohol) varietals.  From there we tasted several reds, including a vertical of the merlot (2006 & 2007), a cab & a blend.  All the wines were impressive but the Merlots stood out to me.  I believe that the Judean Hills are producing some excellent wines but the Merlots are some of the best around.  Chilean Merlot has been getting good press in recent years & I think it is time Israeli Merlot (Judean Hills in particular) get their due.  Now if only Israeli wineries could figure out a way to produce equally good wine & price them more along the lines of the wines coming out of Chile.  Though I am not sure it is feasible and don’t see it happening, if/when Israeli wines are priced on the shelves at $15 (give or take $3) they will be well on their way to appealing to the mainstream wine market.

Happy surgically repaired wrist, Israeli (merlot) wine tasting!


wrist update, Trump Invitational & Dalton wine tasting update

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Chugging along here.  Wrist is still in a cast & it seems I have a long way to go.  I’m told it could take a full 3 months.  It has only been 3 weeks.  AHHHHHHHHHHH…….

Cast & all, I will be wearing my Wine Tasting Guy hat tomorrow.  For the second straight year I have been invited to talk about wine to those in attendance at the Trump Invitational Golf Tournament put together by the Eric Trump Foundation to raise money for St. Jude’s children’s charity.

I had lots of fun at last years event.  Met some Trump family members who were all pretty cool.  And the golfers were all quite receptive to the wines I was pouring, many of which were Israeli wines.  Hope I will have a story to share with you following tomorrow’s event.

Finally, I had the pleasure to attend a tasting of Dalton wines last week.  Dalton is an Israeli based winery, located (and with vineyards) in the Galilee region of Israel.

The tasting was led by proprietor Alex Haruni.  And it was A TREAT!

We tasted 9 wines in all, including 2 as of yet not on the market.  One, the 2006 “Super Premium” (shown above with white label and Hebrew writing), will be released Spring 2010.  And the second unreleased wine is a fortified Muscat was a single vintage example of a wine which is to be made using the “Solar System” (as is done with Spanish Sherry).  The final blend is expected to be a blend of 5 vintages so we got an EARLY preview as the 2006 we tried is the first vintage.  I hope Alex & family don’t drink it all and have the willpower to save some for the loyal customers. 😉

Of the wines presently on the market, there were as usual a few standouts.

The 2007 Dalton Viognier (wild yeast fermented) is both fermented & aged in oak barrels, of which 1/3 has NO YEAST ADDED, left alone for spontaneous fermentation.  The wine had a golden lemon color, with aromas of honey & melon.  Flavors of honey, flowers, vanilla, cream & toasty oak led to a long toasty finish.

We did a mini vertical of Dalton reserve Merlot – 2005 & 2006.  Though it seemed Alex preferred the 2006 which had fewer herbaceous notes, I enjoy this bit of what I believe is Israeli terroir and preferred the 2005.  But that might also have had to do somewhat with the extra year of bottle age that I thought led to a softer wine.

The 2005 Dalton reserve Merlot had a lite garnet color that faded to burnt orange at the rim.  Subtle red fruit and herb aromas led to an elegantly soft & fruity palate that  finished long and smooth.

The 2006 Dalton reserve Merlot was garnet with ripe red fruit flavors.  Full bodied and extracted, the pure fruit on the nose and palate were supplemented by chewy tannins and an acidity that I believe will soften with a year or so of bottle aging.  The wine had a long finish.

The 2006 pre-released “Mattatiah” (AKA Super Premium) is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc.  This wine was made with 200% new French oak (new oak for one year taken out of barrels and then put back into brand new oak for another year), very low yield vineyards, and when released about 1 year of bottle age.  The wine is clear ruby, dark to the edge.  Black fruit and sweet oak aromas lead to a ripe, concentrated, soft & plush wine with a pleasant & rich long finish.

Happy one-handed, charitable golfing & Israeli wine tasting!


Dalton Winery NYC tasting

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Starting off with the wrist, I will tell you that losing the use of a dominant hand is NOT FUN.  It doesn’t hurt much anymore, but it sure makes simple mundane activities real difficult.  I have my 2 week checkup tomorrow and will know more (I hope) about healing time, etc.

BUT, a quick note to let you know about a tasting taking place TOMORROW.

Alex Haruni of Dalton Winery (Premium Israeli wine…and yes, kosher) is in town & will be pouring some SPECIAL wines at an event TOMORROW night, Wednesday 9/9/09.

Information on the tasting can be found here (only $36)…

The wines to be poured are as follows:

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Reserve Merlot 2005
Reserve Merlot 2006
Reserve Syrah 2005
Reserve Viognier 2007

Dalton Estate Fume Blanc 2007
Dalton Alma (Bordeaux blend) 2007
Dalton Zinfandel 2006

And two special not (yet) commercially available wines — Super Premium 2006 and Muscat 2006

Should be a special evening.  I’ll be there…will you???

Happy (one handed) special Israeli wine tasting!


James Beard: Zahav Israeli cuisine & wine tasting

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I was thrilled to be invited to attend a lovely evening at the James Beard House this evening.  This evening’s guest chef was Michael Solomonov, who together with an army of his talented Zahav chefs all came up from Philly and prepared exquisite foods that were paired with wines from Israel.  I did not partake in many of the foods and ended up roaming the dining area, speaking with guests, in particular about the wines.  And I am proud to report that the response was tremendous.  People were loving the food & wine pairings and on several occasions I was told by guests how pleasantly surprised they were by the quality of the wines.

Though not kosher, the award winning Zahav restaurant prepares attention worthy Israeli/Middle Eastern cuisine in a kosher style; not sea food, pork products & the no dishes contain both meat & milk products.  You really should check the place out.  And don’t take my word for it, listen to Esquire Mag, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit or the James Beard awards who are much more credible sources who agree that this is not a place to to be missed.

With Israeli wine on my mind I’m sure you can imagine how happy I was to read this article in The NewSTAR online – a LOUISIANNA publication.  Very cool to see them speaking of the ancient wine making tradition of the Canaan region, now Southern Lebanon & Northern Israel.

Did you know that you can find some of the oldest documented ancient wine presses in the world in Israel – some over 3,000 years old!

Happy Israeli FOOD and wine tasting!


Clos de Gat – Israel wine tasting

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I recently attended an Israeli wine tasting consisting exclusively of the wines of “Clos de Gat”.  This clever name, was derived from the French word Clos, meaning a walled vineyard, and Gat which in Hebrew is an ancient wine press.  The winery, located at the foothills of the Judean Mountains (where David slay Goliath), is actually in an enclosed winery property that contains an ancient wine press  dating back over 3,000 years (talk about “old world” wine region!).

I am pretty familiar with the wines of Clos de Gat as I sold these wines throughout NYC when they were first imported into the country several years back.  I have also had the good fortune of meeting with the winemaker at the winery and hearing some of his winemaking philosophies.  Of particular interest are his dry farming, use of wild yeasts and open vat fermenting practices.  Regardless of HOW he is doing it, what he is doing seems to be working!  Consistently ranked among the best Israel has to offer CDG also attains high scores from critics in Europe as well as Stateside.

As to the wines themselves, they are very much in the modern mode; big, extracted and quite robust.  Terrific beef/game steaks! While some of the older wines (from the 2003 & 2004 vintages) showed very nice elegance.

I must admit that I did have a favorite, and it was a wine that is new to me.  It is also probably the least expensive of all the CDG wines.  It was the white wine blend known as “Chanson”.

The 2007 Chanson, a complex blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% semillon, 7% Viognier & 3% Chenin Blanc seems to be a hodgepodge wine made from experimental fruit.  Which it may well be.  Nonetheless, this clear deep yellow-light gold wine has a bready/yeasty nose, with notes of honey & lime.  On the palette flavors of yeast (lees stirring?), honey & white flowers.  There was also what seemed like a hint of intentional oxidation.  It was not the slightest bit off-putting and actually reminded me a tad of some old Lopez Heredia whites (but not quite).  This crisp unoaked wine was refreshing and had a nice long finish.

From the Chanson we moved on to the 2006 CDG Chardonnay.  A full bodied oaked Chard that was a favorite for some.  This wine excellently mimics white Burgundy.

Moving right along to the reds, the 2006 “Harel” Syrah, blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon was inky, extracted with a burst of berries that seriously coated the mouth.  Though CDG does well with various varietals, and I am always amazed at the Merlot from CDG, Syrah might be the varietal that does best in the Judean Hill region.

At this point we moved on to the 2005 “Harel” Merlot which could stand up to the best new world merlots.  And then on to the 2006 “Harel” Cabernet Sauvignon which I found to be a bit jammy and seemed to have a good deal of residual sugar.

Moving beyond the (anything but simple) entry level “Harel” series, we tried the 2004 CDG “Ayalon Valley”, Bordeaux blend.  Though the highly regarded “Sycra” series was still ahead, I think this Bordeaux blend was showing best this evening.  The blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot & 7% Petit Verdot was clear and deep red with a garnet, almost brick rim.  Aromas of black cherry, jasmine, spices & herbs with a mouthfeel that was soft & silky I would say that this wine is comfortably at its peak.  A long elegant finish had me craving a good rare steak (though I am sure the 9 days [with no meat] played a supporting role in that craving).

The final two wines came from the aforementioned “Sycra” series.  First was the 2003 Sycra merlot that had aromas of berries, herbs & cola and while extracted it was not overpowering and had a long finish.  While the 2004 Sycra Syrah was inky with blueberry, black berry & charcoal aromas, silky tannins and a long finish.

In all this tasting, while not timed best for some of us (aforementioned 9 days), CDG once again proved that the best wines from Israel can comfortably hold their own with the best from other new world wine producing regions and will undoubtedly be a force in the ever expanding world class wine category.

Happy Israeli wine tasting!


Tishbi Wine/Food event

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I mentioned last week that I attended an Israeli wine tasting of Tishbi Wines.  In addition to the wines there was some gourmet accompaniments such as artisan olive oils & fruit preserves which are “produced from the actual Tishbi wines according to a range of varietals“.

I’m not sure what to say other than I was BLOWN AWAY!

Led primarily by Oshra Tishbi of the Tishbi family, people were having so much fun that the tasting went on for ours…in a hot room with no air conditioning (it broke).  The questions were great, the discussions lively and the food and wine terrific.

I must make a confession here.  I have not been a huge supporter of Tishbi wines.  When in Israel on a recent trip I stopped by a Tishbi Cafe in the Zichron Yakov area.  The food there was great and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines.  Why had I previously not been a huge supporter and why was I so surprised?  Well, lets just say that growing wine vines in an area more suitable to bananas or oranges doesn’t make for the highest quality wine grapes.  Wine grapes need cool nights (which do not exist where most of the Tishbi owned vineyards are) and do better in nutrient poor soils.

So how was it that I was so pleasantly surprised and the wines were so well received by all?  For one thing – good wine making.  But more importantly, the Tishbi folks have contracts with growers in the prime grape growing regions and are making their higher series wines from said HIGH QUALITY FRUIT.

A crowd favorite white was the 2008 Chenin Blanc.  It is a semi-dry wine but I did not pick up much sugar at all in the wine.  It had a nice acidity that kept it lively.  And if I am not mistaken this wine DID come from the aforementioned Tishbi vineyards.  Goes to show you.

Also of interest were the locations of the vineyards of the 3 reds I enjoyed most.

The 2006 Estate Shiraz is made from fruit grown in the Judean Hills.  For several years now I have been saying that I believe the Judean Hills is a region where the Merlot & Shiraz do really well.  Not producing wimpy wines, these varietals really pack a punch when grown here.  I picked up on the characteristic Israeli herbs in addition to a ripe plum & kirsch liquor thing.  The wine had a touch of heat, but also had a long finish and was well liked.

The 2005 Estate Cabernet is made of fruit grown where I think Cabernet does best in Israel – the Galilee (AKA Galil region).  Typical and quite pleasant black fruit with a touch of Israeli herbaceousness this wine also had a nice long finish.

And interestingly enough, the last DRY red wine was a desert (not dessert) wine.  Made from grapes grown in the negev desert, the 2004 Sde Boker (the region within the negev) Special reserve was indeed special.  A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot & 10% Cabernet Franc, this wine had aromas and flavors of blueberry, plum and mocha chocolate with silky tannins and an almost sweet long finish.

But the surprises did not end with the wines.  Those fruit preserves were DELICIOUS.  Not yet commercially available in the US, I STRONGLY suggest you keep an eye out.  We tried about 5 flavors, but my favorite was the “Sangria” flavor.  Aromas and flavors of berries, jasmine & cinnamon; spread on a cracker, a piece of bread, or (don’t tell) straight off the spoon – WHAT A TREAT!

Many thanks to all who participated.  I am especially happy to have had the opportunity to try these wines as I will be recommending them, especially the Estate series which I think are of great value.

I continue my wine group Burgundy tasting tomorrow night – SUMMER STYLE.  We are doing Chablis!  Yes, I’m excited.  I also have to revisit the boxed Chardonnay.  It will be two weeks tomorrow night.  I’m a bit scared, but looking forward to that as well.  Until then…

…Happy Tishbi wine & fruit preserve wine tasting!

Phishin & Sippin’

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Tonight I was out on Jones Beach to see Phish…

NEXT Thursday night I’ll be at the JCC tasting some fine Israeli wine

If you have not tried an Israeli wine, or more specifically a Carmel wine lately, and you’ll be in the NYC area, you really MUST come check it out.  4 whites & 4 reds…light refreshments… for only $20/25…how can you go wrong?!?

Hope to see you there.

Happy Phishing & Carmel Wine Sipping…


“Map-It ™ Because Place Matters”

Monday, May 18th, 2009

“Place Matters”.  This is what is telling us with their latest marketing tool.

Terroir, or the “sense of place” as it is often described, is said to be what distinguishes ordinary, or what I suppose could theoretically be laboratory wines (those manufactured anywhere, and tasting of nowhere), from extraordinary wines; those wines that truly bring you to a specific geographical location through its aromas and flavors.

The idea of terroir-driven wines makes sense to me in that these wines possess a unique quality.   They might possess that unique smell of saltwater from the parallel ocean, or they might possess a flinty aroma from the flint stones scattered throughout their vineyard.  Or, as is the case with some of the better Israeli wines, they might possess an herbaceous or even green olive quality from all the wild sage, rosemary, thyme and olive groves that grow throughout the country and often surround the vineyard itself.

Getting back to the new Map-It feature, I wonder how important it is for people to SEE (on a radar image) the location where the wine was made, or better yet (when available) where the grapes were grown.  If it opens up one’s imagination to a story and helps to paint the picture behind the wine for the wine-curious consumer then I guess it is important.

As is generally the case when it comes to my bizarre mind, this all led me to think about Israeli wine.   In this case as it pertains to Israeli wine in retail stores.   Outside of Israel I would venture to say that NYC has the greatest selection of Israeli wines in the world.  But if you are to enter a retail store seeking an Israeli wine do you know where the clerk would take you?  To the KOSHER section.  WHERE in the world is kosher???

There is a section for France.  Italy.  Spain.  US wines are generally grouped together, yet they usually are separated between states.  German wines.  Australian wines…I can go on and on.  Heck, even organic wines are USUALLY found in a section pertaining to their country of origin (though some stores ALSO have a special organic section).  So why does just about every store in the region with the 2nd largest concentration of Israeli wines group these wines together with other wines from all over the world??

What of those wines made in Israel that do not have kosher certification??

Why not create a section for Israeli wines (they should be contained within an Eastern Mediterranean section near wines from Greece, Cyprus & Lebanon) AS WELL AS a kosher section just as is done with organic wines???

Clearly I am a very biased observer here.  But the more I read about how trendy terroir is and how important a “sense of place” is when it comes to wine the more I wonder, why not for Israel????

Happy terroir driven wine tasting!


WTG Video Blog # 1 – about tasting & Dalton Sauvignon Blanc

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Here it is ladies and gentlemen.  My first VIDEO BLOG, or VLOG.

I’m still here in Israel and taking advantage of my brother’s technical expertise as well as his super cool video camera.  This is THE FIRST vlog so please bare with me.  I hope future VLOGs will be less rough, more concise and hopefully extraordinarily compelling.

Being that it is the first VLOG I wanted to talk a bit ABOUT TASTING or more specifically tast-ERS.  There is some interesting research on the topic and I have my own little theory.

Tim Hanni Created the “BUDOMETER” briefly detailing the following:

  • Tolerant tasters – fewer taste buds
  • Sensitive tasters – more taste buds
  • Hypersensitive tasters
  • Sweet tasters

To take the Wine tasting Continuum test to determine what type of taster you are click here. article divides tasters by number/shape of taste buds as follows:

  • Hyper (Super) Taster
  • Regular Taster
  • NON taster

And I, WTG have my own little theory of tasters as follows:

  • Beginner tasters – seek out “smooth” wine
  • Intermediate tasters – like fruit forward oaked wine
  • Advanced tasters – prefer balanced wine

Following my (not too brief) discussion on tasters, I proceeded to review the 2008 Dalton Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (link to 2007 version).

In the future I will try to do less talking and more WINE TASTING.

Sooo…without further ado, WTG Video Blog #1 (and I guess #2)…



Happy VIDEO Wine Tasting!


Katlav Winery

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I apologize for my extended absence, but I’M IN ISRAEL!!!!  I’ve been here for about a week and making time to post is (sadly) not on the top of my priority list.

Yesterday I traveled with some friends and the special lady through the Jerusalem Hills.  We did a couple of short & beautifully scenic hikes, and ended the day at a winery.  Katlav winery, located in Nes Harim within the Judean Hills was started by Yossi Yittach.  Unfortunately Yossi was not available, but we were treated to a tour & tasting by his trusty assistant Aviel.


The winery grows its own fruit and purchases some additional fruit, but only from the Judean Hills region.  I believe that the Judean Hills is a prime region with its high elevation (6-800 meters above sea level), hot days & cool night, and porous soils.  At present the winery is only making about 10,000 bottles but plans to grow to about 20,000 soon and even more in the future.  Many of the Katlav wines are exported – probably a wise business decision by proprietor and winemaker Yittach.

Aviel started us off with the 2007 Katlav Chardonnay.  I was there with a bunch of other people and did not take formal tasting notes.  However I remember thinking that the Chardonnay was interesting.  It clearly saw some time in oak as it had an attractive toasty nose.  It also evidently underwent some malolactic fermentation as its nose was creamy/buttery as well.  But on the palate this wine showed some of the bitter grapefruit & tart apple characteristics that I’ve been seeing in some un/lightly oaked Israeli Chard’s, and as such I am led to believe that maybe it only went through a partial malolactic (secondary fermentation that converts bitter malic acid into softer lactic acid).  A nice and interesting Chardonnay.

We then moved onto the 2006 reds.  The 2006 Merlot is already sold out, so we tried the ’06 Cab & the ’06 blend.

Beginning with the blend, which is comprised of 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot & 10% Syrah (from purchased fruit), this wine showed a lot of the Israeli terroir – herbal in nature with thyme & sage overlapping the black fruit characteristics.   These wines are not fined or filtered and the richness of this wine was evident.  A tasty red that is sure to pair wonderfully with herb infused/marinated Mediterranean dishes.

We ended our charming visit with the 2006 Cabernet.  A muscular wine with many of the aforementioned herbal traits this wine was my buddy’s favorite.  Showing nice black fruit, this wine will age well and I would guess begin to show off some secondary characteristics with a little age.  Pair this with a roast and savor the spicy Mediterranean terroir!

Happy Israeli boutique wine tasting!