Archive for the ‘Oenology & Viticulture’ Category

Wine starts in the Vineyard – Golan Heights Winery

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Made a trip back up to the Golan Heights today.  Once again, feeling like a VIP (I think I can get used to this) I was taken on a private tour of some vineyards and given a tasting of selected wines.  I even got to take a trip up a row of vines on a mechanical harvester.  WOW!

looks a little freaky huh…mech harvester

The work being done in the vineyard is mind boggling and that work is truly reflected in the quality of the offerings.  Making wines exclusively grown in the Golan Heights region on its volcanic soils (a result of two volvano eruptions – the most recent a short million years ago), GHW (Golan Heights Winery) grows 22 varietals and produces close to 30 wines.  And that does not include the wines made in the Galilee region by its sister winery Galil Mountain.

yarden logo

Starting with the whites I was quite impressed by the quality of the entry level 2007 Golan Sion Creek White.  A blended wine that is advertised as semi dry (I guess there must be some residual sugar in there) this wine showed bright & fresh crispness with some citrus notes and a mouth watering acidity.  While at the other end of the wine sophistication spectrum, the 2005 Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay is a BIG golden chardonnay with toffee, caramel, nutty aromas and a creamy palate that finishes long with all sorts of complexities.

While on the red side I was introduced to some wines that really got me excited.  Of particular interest was the 2003 Yarden Syrah – a big California style Syrah with dark fruit, this concentrated wine with big soft tannins will coat your palate and leave you with a nice long finish.  The 2004 Yarden El Rom Cabernet, a single vineyard Cab made from 3 blocks at the El Rom vineyard is a wine that appears to be quite ageworthy, yet it remained somewhat closed and required significant aeration to show its big black fruit, interesting cedar & clove aromas and concentrated flavors.  A wine I had been looking forward to trying and was rewarded with was the 2006 Galil Mountain Barbera.  Aged for 9 months in French Oak this dark purple wine (surprisingly dark I thought for a Barbera) had enticing aromas of red fruit, and everything forest from pine and bark to bushes and earth.  This light bodied, big acid and fresh fruit wine is a FABULOUS food wine.  Much more versatile in terms of foods it will pair well with than the more popular Cabs & Merlots.

But getting back to the title of this post, what I found most interesting about my time today (with the warm, patient and very knowledgeable Eran) was the work being done in the vineyard.  Not so much the typical leaf trimming, fruit dropping, etc – but the technology.  There may be a few people left who still think making wine is as simple as picking some grapes, stomping them in a tub and waiting for the natural yeasts to turn the sugars into alcohol.  But boy is there a LOT more going on in the high tech haven holy land winery.  The good folks at the GHW measure the weather on a second by second basis with a sophisticated weather monitoring station in each vineyard (often times more than one per vineyard).

GHW weather thingie

Included in this high tech gizmo is wind monitoring, both speed & direction, precipitation measuring, dampness & humidity checking and I’m sure all kinds of other cool stuff I can not remember right now at 2:50AM.  All wrapped up in a completely self sufficient solar station that sends the data back to the winery for analysis.

Now how’s that for cool high tech vineyard monitoring stuff!?!?!  Does it make a difference in the quality of the wine?  You are just gonna have to go pick up a bottle of Yarden, Golan, Gamla or Galil wine and find out for yourself…

Happy Golan Heights (and Galilee) wine region(s) wine tasting!


NYC has a what??? … a WINERY????$%^&

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Although I was late, I did make it to the event at the City Winery this evening.  It was a well attended event and it was great to see some friends and familiar faces there.

Forgetting for a second about tonight’s amazing speaker,  what i really want to discuss is, what’s the deal with the CITY WINERY anyway???

city winery

Does an über URBAN locale such as NYC really need a winery? And forgetting for a second about “need” (who needs half the stuff we have here in this great city of ours), do city folk really even WANT a winery?

I must admit that I do not know the answer to this question.  And I suppose only time will tell.  I think it goes without saying that wine has become HOT around the world, in major metropolitan areas, and in NYC in particular.  And when discussing my career in wine just about everyone I talk to comments about how romantic working in wine and making wine must be (it really isn’t – but that is not to say I don’t love it).  But when it comes down to it, how many people really want to make such a large financial commitment to having their own wine barrel/label/etc.?

For those of you who may be considering this let me unequivocally say…DO IT!!!  The place is state of the art.  The winemaker is top notch.  The staff are bright, young & committed individuals.  You are assured a top quality final product.  And it will be yours.  Whether you end up doing it every year for many years or just try it once – it will be a priceless experience.  The pride I have every time I drink a wine I played even a small role in making is tremendous.  It is something you will not forget for the rest of your life and an experience like no other.  If you are in a position financially to give it a shot, JUST DO IT!

Happy (your name on a bottle) wine making!


Making wine in …NEW JERSEY

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

I woke up bright and early this Sunday morning to press the wine with my two “winery” (yes, I use the term liberally) partners.  Alas, our host, “Mr. C” became the proud daddy of a new baby girl even earlier in the morning.  Mazal Tov GC!  So it was down to “Mr. K” & yours truly “Mr. L” (aka “WTG”).

We had somewhere in the range of 320 liters of must (fermented grape sludge) that when pressed, fit snugly into our super sleek 200 liter stainless steel tank.   Sadly our mini 35 gallon basket press meant we had to load and unload several times.

CLK press

See more pics here.

It was a fun and gratifying mornings work.  I am hopeful that this Sangiovese, following a 14 day maceration period (two weeks of fermenting on its skins), is going to be a balanced, fruit driven beauty.

And just as we finished up, right on time, our esteemed winery host, “Mr. C” showed up.  His timing could not have been better as his hands were full….of BEERS & it was time for football.  Hey, better late than never.  And you know what they say, “IT TAKES A LOT OF GOOD BEER TO MAKE A GOOD WINE”…

As soon as we get the labels and capsules on the 2007’s I’ll be passing out samples to friends.  If you are reading this – YOU ARE A FRIEND.  Drop me a dime (or something) and I’ll make sure there is a bottle with your name on it.

Happy CLK home made WINE TASTING!


Home made wine from Englewood, NEW JERSEY???#$%^

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

I recently wrote about working on my second batch of home made wine.  The Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from California have been crushed, de-stemmed and had the yeast added.  The “must” is now fermenting away and based on the quality of the fruit, we are hopeful for our second vintage.

But today I want to write about year 1.  We decided upon things pretty late, which meant we were left to settle for whatever fruit was left.  We ended up picking up some Zinfandel that we were pretty excited about as well as some merlot that we were a little less excited about.  We  did our thing and the result was WINE.  How good was it you ask?  Good question.  It was youthful, simple, but seemed OK.  We were much happier with the Zinfandel than we were with the merlot.  But rather than spilling out the merlot we decided to try a Zin/Merlot blend.  It seemed to work so we bottled it and PRAYED…

haetz label

And you know what…???…it ain’t half bad.  Yes, it is a simple wine.  No, it is not age-worthy.  Yes, a lack of sulfites (good and bad) means a bottle open for more than 24 hours is vinegar and not wine.  But hey, if consumed within a few hours of opening the bottle it truly tastes pretty good.  Nice fruit.  Soft & round.  A nice wine.  SO, my big test.  I went to a party tonight and brought a bottle.  And people LOVED IT.  Everyone was super impressed that I (with my two partners) MADE this wine.  I was such a proud (psuedo) winemaker!

Happy home made wine tasting!


Sulfites & wine

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I recently came across an article discussing Sulfites.  Sulfites (AKA Sulfur dioxide or SO2) are a common topic as they relate to wine.  I have met many people who believe they are allergic to sulfites or get headaches from them.  I have also heard claims that white wine or organic wine does not contain sulfites.  Both not true – although organic can contain lower levels of sulfites than other wines.  Sulfites are added to wine to protect against oxidation, and are used at varying levels be different winemakers.  And yes, there are many who try to add as little as possible.


The article, written for the SF Chronicle, contains some stories about winemakers adding as little SO2 as possible.  But what I found most interesting were the following sections…

“Sulfites are present in all wines both as an additive and as a natural by-product of fermentation, and many countries require that their presence be indicated on the label.”

“Sulfur dioxide has been used in the production of wine for centuries – primarily as a buffer to keep wine from reacting with too much oxygen, but also to inhibit microbial spoilage (from bacteria or rogue yeasts) that could lead to off flavors and aromas, and as a winemaking technique to partly control fermentation.  It’s is one of the most useful and powerful tools available to a winemaker.”

How and why sulfites are used in wine

1. At the crusher: Sulfur dioxide in the form of a diluted liquid solution is added to just-harvested grapes at the crusher to protect against oxidation. Much of the sulfur added at this stage is effectively used up during the subsequent fermentation, converting into what is referred to as “bound” form, which has almost no flavor.

2. Barrel cleaning and maintenance: Sulfur dioxide was once the primary agent used to clean barrels and larger wooden vessels like puncheons or upright fermentation tanks; in the 19th century, this was accomplished by burning a sulfur wick, which released SO{-2} gas. Today, while other techniques are used in the cleaning process, winemakers often use a gas form of sulfur dioxide to maintain a sterile environment inside of wooden containers after cleaning.

3. In the winery: Sulfur dioxide is often used when topping up barrels that have lost some volume of wine through evaporation. There is a chance that microbial spoilage can occur at this point, so sulfur dioxide (as a diluted liquid solution) may be added as a preventative measure. Additionally, low levels of sulfur dioxide will protect against oxidation in the barrel.

4. During bottling: The bottling process can be rough on a wine, and there is the chance of overexposure to oxygen. Winemakers will often dose a wine with sulfur dioxide solution just prior to bottling in order to keep it in a reductive state, protected against oxidation. This SO{-2} should dissipate over time, although traces can remain present for longer periods in wines bottled under less breathable enclosures, like screwcaps.

Debunking myths

There are several widespread myths about sulfur dioxide – and sulfites in general. Here are some explanations that should help you to finally avoid that headache in the morning:

Sulfites in red wine cause headaches. While it’s true that exposure to high levels of SO{-2} is an unpleasant experience, there’s no hard evidence that proves sulfites and SO{-2} cause migraines in red wine drinkers. A phenomenon often called “red wine headache” is a combination of several things, with histamines considered one likely major factor. High levels of alcohol and residual sugar are also far more likely culprits than sulfites. When it comes to the negative effects of sulfites, asthmatics are the most vulnerable and need to closely monitor their intake of sulfites – or avoid them altogether. It’s worth noting though, that many foods – dried fruit, for instance – contain higher levels of sulfites than wine. Allergic reactions to sulfites include far more severe symptoms than headaches, like hives and anaphylactic shock.

Red wines contain more sulfites than white wines. The higher levels of tannin in red wines mean winemakers use less total SO{-2} in red wines than in whites. Sulfur dioxide is sometimes used to halt fermentation for wines that will be sweet, including many German Rieslings. Dessert wines, because of their high levels of residual sugar, have even greater levels of added sulfur.

Organic wines don’t contain sulfites. It is impossible to produce a wine without any sulfites, as sulfur dioxide is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation. Therefore, even wines with zero added SO{-2}, such as natural and organic wines from the United States and Europe, contain small amounts of the compound.

The entire article is an interesting read for those of you who are wine curious enough.

Happy minimally added sulfur wine tasting!


They don’t make ’em like they used to

Monday, May 5th, 2008

oak-chips.jpgI just read a recent post by Eric Asimov of the New York Times on his blog The Pour. The post, titled “Does Your Wine Need Viagra” deals primarily with the issue of alternative sources used by wine producers for imparting the OAK flavors to wines (chips, powders & staves instead of barrels). But the article itself, as well as the myriad of comments that follows seems to be praising the old world producers, how they let the wine make itself, without the use of modern technology. While the New World producers (specifically California) are using all sorts of alternative technologies and products to make wines that lose that something special. (more…)

Wine Country: Day 1 – NAPA VALLEY

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

A very important project has come up and it appears I will have to get to this post over the weekend, but I thought I would show you a quick picture of the Napa vines and their “bud out” – or beginning of formation of the grape bunches.


Details of the first day of the trip to follow….WTG.

Wine expert – what are the qualifications??

Friday, March 7th, 2008

I attended a wine event this evening. It was a charitable event featuring Israeli wines – my passion as those of you who have been reading for a while know. I know one of the organizers and asked if he wanted my assistance. He was happy to have me & informed me that he planned the event with some other people who are connected to Israeli wines. I knew whom he was speaking of reached out to said people. I simply volunteered to step in, should a question arise, that my hands-on Israeli winery expertise qualified me to handle, possibly something the others were not prepared to respond to.

While my offer was originally politely declined, I felt it my duty both as WINE TASTING GUY and as ISRAELI WINE GUY to attend. And I was happy that i did. My enthusiasm for Israeli wines seemed to possess a magnetism of sorts. I spoke with many people throughout the evening about topics ranging from Israeli wines in general, to more specific Israeli boutique wineries, as well as the idea that wine from Israel is (and should be) Israeli wine and not kosher wine – as is often the misconception. I was proud to have felt like I made a difference in helping to educate people. And the feedback I received was tremendous.

I hope you will all excuse me for a quick yet important diversion. This is not a political BLOG, and as such I do not want to get into current events. That said a travesty took place in Israel today when 2 terrorists infiltrated a Jerusalem Yeshiva (school for Judaic studies) and opened fire – killing 8 and injuring scores of others. I am not sure what to say other than that my prayers and thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones or who have loved ones presently fighting for their lives.

It is very hard to write about something like wine (and to maintain focus on something such as wine) at a time like this. But they say that the way to fight terrorism is NOT to let it affect &/or change ones normal routine. As such I will get back to the topic at hand.

Moving on from the more difficult subject of terrorism, let me get back to something I feel much more comfortable discussing. WINE…

OK, so tonight’s topic is “wine expertise”. I bring this topic up as at tonight’s wine event I was given a name tag that labeled me as an “Israeli Wine Expert”. And I was astutely asked by several people what qualifications I posses to be labeled an “Israeli Wine Expert”. Forgetting about me for one second, what i would like to discuss is – what qualifies someone as an aficionado to discuss &/or educate others about wine (or anything for that matter). Is it drinking a lot of it? Is it the desire to be an “expert”. Is it schooling? Maybe it is “street smarts” or as the case may be “winery smarts” – knowledge obtained through hands on experience???

I do not know. I am merely an aspiring connoisseur. I can only speak for myself. And for me, short of attending one of the world renowned schools of oenology & viticulture, I received a degree from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, a certification in Wine Sensory Analysis from the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, but MOST IMPORTANTLY (in my very humble opinion) – I rolled up my sleeves and worked 10, 12 & 14 hour days in vineyards and wineries both in Napa Valley & Israel. While I will readily admit that I am far from an “expert” I do feel that my passion and hard work has positioned me to address many of the questions that those who seek to learn more are interested in.

I wish you all happy wine tasting, drinking, learning & most importantly Peace & health!

Sadly soberly yours-WTG.

Wine Deal – yet ANOTHER Aussie Shiraz, with full disclosure!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

The following wine caught my attention for a few reasons. And none of them were taste (I haven’t had the opportunity to try it), or the insane price for which it is being sold.

The 2006 Winner’s Tank Shiraz Langhorne Creek is being sold here for $11.97. There were two other online outlets selling it for $11.99, while others were selling it for $13, $14 & as much as $17 a bottle.

But the reason I felt compelled to write about this deal is that it is an UNDER $15 bottle of wine. Having just written about the increase in prices of Australian wines I thought it would only be fair to include a wine that should fall into most people’s wine buying budget. Not that it should matter, but it did receive a 91 from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, and apparently has been a consistent “best buy”.

The other thing about this wine that stood out to me was in its description the producer proudly proclaims something we do not see a lot of. They specify their oak treatment method – something common when using barrels, especially new french oak barrels.  But here no barrels were used.  Given that this wine was produced in Australia & that the price is as low as it is, many might have guessed that it did not see the inside of a barrel. Rather it must have been aged with some other form of oak. But here the producer (seemingly proudly) states that this wine “spent 9 months in tank with French oak staves“. While Oak staves are more expensive and said to be better than oak chips or oak powder (yes, some producers use a powder to provide the oaky aroma & flavor profiles) I still commend this full disclosure and definitely want to give this well priced wine a try. I suggest you do the same. And while you are at it why don’t you tell me what you thought about the wine.

Off to a big kosher wine & food event tonight. I hope and expect to blog about it no later than tomorrow. I’m sure I will have a lot to say…

Until then, happy quaffing!


Wine making: technical aspects – Do You Care?

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

There are several thing that led to my career shift into the wine industry. But the bottom line is I really love EVERYTHING about it. The vineyards, the harvests, the hard work, the winemaking, the aging, all the technical aspects, etc…

BUT, that is me. I have been told by friends that if/when they hear someone ask me a wine related question they run for the hills. Because wine (and wine making) is SO INVOLVED I tend to stumble into long winded responses that can put people to sleep.

That said, I was recently asked by a friend at an Israeli winery to help them out with an English version of their “technical spec sheet” – something they have been told by their importer is very important in the marketing of their wines. While I was thrilled to help out, I wondered, DOES THE AVERAGE WINE CONSUMER REALLY CARE ABOUT STUFF LIKE “ph”, “TA”, BRIX AT HARVEST, etc…?????????

More on this topic in future blog posts, but I welcome any thoughts…

Happy ’08!