Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Blending Wines…

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Has it only been a week?  Time does fly when you are having fun, but I have been doing SO MUCH running around that I can’t believe I have only been in Israel for 1 week so far (OK, 9 days).  I have 6 days left, but I know that will fly.  I’m headed up North tomorrow to the Galil region which includes the highly regarded Galil & Golan Heights viticultural sections. Can’t wait!

But what I wanted to write about tonight was some quick “blending” tidbits.

 wine blending

While at a winery last week talking to a winemaker he had some visitors.  While telling the people about his wine, a woman noted that they were all blends – no 100% varietal wines.  When the winemaker briefly walked away to take a call she mentioned to me and the two others in her party that she thought blends were inferior to wines made from only 1 grape varietal.  I told her that I thought otherwise – what about Bordeaux, which can consist of up to 5 grape varietals?  She was surprised to hear this, and a gentleman who was with her then said that yes they are blends, but they consisted mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Once again trusty Wine Tasting Guy told them that many Bordeaux (generally Right Bank) have a majority Merlot.  This too surprised them.  In the end they realized that this winemaker is making quality wines and they purchased a few bottles.

The second blending story took place tonight, following the completion of the Succot holiday.  I was in Jerusalem for the last day and made my way upon the holiday’s completion from Jerusalem to a winery near Sederot.  There I worked with some winemaker friends on a blend.  I am by no means qualified to concoct a wine blend.  Like everyone else I know if I like a wine or not.  And yes I may be able to comment on and attempt to assess a wine, but create a blend???  We were playing with 3 varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Sangiovese.  It was a lot of fun and I learned a thing or two but in the end I think I made things harder on my winemaker friends as opposed to being able to help them out. 

A quick recommendation.  Make your own blends!  No, I’m not saying you should go become a winemaker (although that isn’t a bad idea either), what I’m saying is it is OK to mix wines.  If you happen to have some leftover wine from 2 or more bottles you MAY want to consider mixing them.  I wouldn’t mix different colors, vintages, or very different wines.  And truthfully, more often than not the new wine will probably not be as good as the original wines.  But I DO like to mix bottles for 1 reason.  TO PREVENT OXIDATION.  If I find myself with more than one open bottle and want to best preserve the wines, the best thing to do is to fill ONE bottle and re-cork, removing all oxygen.  Although the wine might be a little weird, at least it won’t be ruined – something that happens with extended exposure to oxygen…

Happy wine blending!!


Wine scores

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Let me first apologize for my online absence.  No excuses, but…  There was Yom Kippur, the sabbath and the subsequent not-so-short FLIGHT TO ISRAEL!  Yes, I am here in the Holy Land.  I arrived yesterday, just a few hours prior to the beginning of the holiday of “Sukkot” – described by as “the ‘Feast of Booths’ (or Tabernacles), named for the huts (sukkah) that Moses and the Israelites lived in as they wandered the desert for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land”.


I am here in Israel for the holiday of course but also to spend time with family (my adorable niece…and her parents) and to work on my Israel wine project. 

While drinking wine with a wine industry friend this afternoon in his Succah I admitted that my palate was still not where I would like it to be.  He surprisingly asked why I felt that way.  I explained that I felt I could decipher between an 80 and 85 point wine and an 85 and 90 point wine.  BUT, I still feel like I struggle to truly decipher the supposed subtle differences between 90 point wines and 93 point wines.  To which he made a face and basically said HOGWASH!

Which of course got me thinking.  There is so much talk of scores as they relate to wines.  And I have written about scores here before.  SO, is there a difference between a wine given a score of 90 and a wine given a score of 93???

The aforementioned friend theorized that much of it has to do with marketing.  Many of the wines I have seen that have been given those 2-3 extra points are single vineyard wines.  With the idea that the specific site possesses some unique characteristics and should not be blended and subsequently LOSE those distinct characteristics.  I have heard this to be true and I do believe it – to a certain extent.  This line of thought invoked the expression “terroir”, described by Wikipedia as “a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the wine made from it”.

This post can go on and on about scores, their purpose, terroir, if it is real, etc.  But I don’t want to bore you with this debate.  I will sum up for now by saying that I have been thinking a lot about a new way to evaluate wines that will turn the traditional scoring method on its head.  It certainly will not replace the existing scoring method for those who use it to collect wines, drink high scoring wines, etc.  But I do expect that as I continue to flesh out the concept it will prove useful to casual wine drinkers.

Happy SCORELESS wine tasting (from Israel)!!


A taste of Israel

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Happy B-day to WTG. Happy B-day to WTG, Happy B-day to WTG, Happy B-day to YOU!

OK, that is out of the way. I tend to I shy away from b-day attention, but hey, a Wine Tasting Guy only turns 21 (yeah, right) once right?!?!?

Anyway, I attended a wine tasting tonight, and it was my favorite kind. It was an ISRAELI WINE tasting at the as of yet not opened 92Y Tribeca.  I poured wine at the event and it was FABULOUS! People at the event were “WINE CURIOUS”. I did get some requests for “white wine” or “red wine” or “the best wine”, but for the most part, people were engaging me in conversation about the wine. Where did it come from (Israel), what region (most from Galille, but some from Golan), what grapes were used (Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Viognier, etc.)… YES, there were some people who just wanted to drink, but that is OK. I busted balls – made all the people who asked for white pronounce “VIO-GN-IER” before I poured them anything (actually pronounced VEE-OAN-YAY).  Speaking of Viognier, the Galil Mt. 2007 Viognier was the hit of the event.  I was told by more than a few people that it was the best wine of the night.  I went through 3 bottles of the Viognier before finishing 1 bottle of anything else I had.

wine cheers at table

But seriously, it was a very productive tasting. Many of the people were sincerely curious as to the varietal, origin, winery, etc. They also wanted to know where they could find the wine. Some were truly upset that they could NOT buy some of the wine poured at the event on the spot. I had to explain to them that it was illegal to sell to them and they would have to buy it at their favorite wine shop. But overall, people were happy to engage the WTG in conversation about GOOD, ISRAELI wine. And I was thrilled to be able to oblige.

Happy Israeli Wine Tasting!


Steak & wine – a match made in heaven

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Those who know me well know that there is little in this world that I enjoy more than a good rare steak and a fine bottle of red. As a matter of fact I have a bunch of friends I might never see if not for our steak & wine nights. Forget that, I have friends who might not actually be friends if not for the steaks I grill & the wine I bring (kidding fellas – I hope).

steak & wine But seriously, I was elated when I read an article recently in the Economist “Of Sommeliers and Stomachs”. Scientists from my beloved Israel have determined that compounds in red wine “thwart the formation of harmful chemicals that are released when meat is digested”. Is that unbelievable or what!?!! The research was led by Joseph Kanner of the Hebrew University (my new favorite person!). Not being scientifically inclined, I’d encourage you to read the article for yourselves. But in essence, toxins found in high fat foods (such as a nice rare steak) are combated by the polyphenols found in red wine at the moment that they meet in the stomach. This seemingly prevents the “toxic materials from getting any farther into the body” – he knows, he did some nasty experiments with rats that you can read about in the article.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Steak & red wine is good for you. Cheers & eat up!

Happy wine & steak tasting!


Less know wine region(s) in the news

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Yes, I have been tempted to write about Israeli wines a lot lately given the fabulous press they have been getting with recent articles in Wine Spectator (online version only available to subscribers) & The San Fransisco Chronicle (found online at the SF Gate).

But any post about Israeli wines will be elaborate and hopefully include some specific news/update describing progress concerning my previously discussed Israel Wine Project.

So instead, I want to bring up wines from another not-too-discussed wine region – Washington state.

Washington State

Washington State, is known to produce some exceptional reds, in particular Merlot, Syrah and yes, of course, Cabernet Sauvignon (and blends including all or some of the aforementioned varietals). (more…)

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.

Israeli wine tasting – Castel & Binyamina

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

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!!


Israeli Wine – Wine Advocate ” Modern Israel: A Survey (A Work in Progress)”

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Well ladies and gentlemen, the results are in.

I will be copying a list of wines & their scores from Israeli Wine Critic Daniel Rogov’s “Wine & Food Forum”.  I am waiting for my physical copy of the issue to arrive before I comment specifically.  The only thing I would like to share is my excitement for a 92 score given to a wine I worked on – The TZORA “Or” dessert wine.  No, I was not the winemaker & admittedly, not even as assistant, but I DID help out and as such I take pride in said wine’s positive review.

More comments later.  Without further ado, the scores…

Golan Heights Winery, Heightswine, Yarden, 2005, Score 93
Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin, 2003, Score 91
Golan Heights Winery, Chardonnay, Odem Organic, 2005, Score 86
Golan Heights Winery, Viognier, Yarden, 2005 Score 86
Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, 2003 Score 86
Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom, Yarden, 2003 Score 88
Golan Heights Winery, Blanc de Blancs, Yarden 2000 Score 86

Yatir, Ya’ar Yatir, 2003 Score 93
Yatir, Cabernet-Merlot-Shiraz, 2003 Score 90

Castel, Grand Vin 2004 Score 92
Castel, Chardonnay, 2005 Score 91
Castel, Petit Castel, 2005 Score 90

Tzora, Or, Dessert Wine, 2006 Score 92”

Carmel, Limited Edition, 2004 Score 90
Carmel, Gewurztraminer, Sha’al, 2005 Score 90
Carmel, Cabdernet Sauvignon, Kayoumi, 2004 Score 89
Carmel, Shiraz, Kayoumi, 2004 Score 88
Carmel, Petite Sirah, Appelation, 2005 Score 88

Clos de Gat, Syrah, Sycra, 2004 Score 90
Clos de Gat, Red Blend, 2003, Score 89
Clos de Gat, Chardonnay, 2005 Score 89
Clos de Gat, Syrah, Har’El, 2005 Score 88
Clos de Gat, Merlot, Sycra, 2003 Score 86

Tulip, Syrah, Reserve 90
Tulip, Shiraz, Mostly 88

Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2003, Score 90
Galil Mountain, Pinot Noir, 2005 Score 87

Pelter,Shiraz T-Selection 2004 Score 90
Pelter, Cabernet Franc, T-Selection 2005 Score 79
Margalit, Enigma, 2005 Score 89
Margalit Cabernet Franc, 2005 Score 88
Margalit, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Score 87

Tabor, Mescha, 2003 Score 89

Flam, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2004 Score 89
Flam, Classico, 2005, Score 87

Vitkin, Petite Syrah, 2004 Score 89
Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2004 Score 85

Ella Valley Vineyards, Merlot, Vineyard’s Choice 2003, Score 88
Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Vineyard’s Choice 2005 Score 87
Ella Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc, 2004 Score 86

Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserved, 2003 Score 88
Saslove, Adom Marriage, 2004 Score 86

Alexander, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Score 88
Alexander, Gaston, 2004, Score 87

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004, Score 88
Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dishon, 2003, Score 85
Segal, Merlot, Dovev, 2003 Score 84

Bustan, Syrah, 2003 Score 88

Ben Hanna, Petite Verdot, la Mariee, 2005 Score 88

Chillag, Merlot, Primo Riserva, 2004 Score 88
Chillag, Cagbernet Sauvignon, Primo Riserva, 2004 Score 86

Recanati, Petit Syrah-Zinfandel, Reserve Score 87
Recanati, Special Reserve, 2004 Score 87
Recanati, Cabernet Franc, Reserve, 2004 Score 85
Recanati, Chardonnay, 2006 Score 86
Recanati, Merlot, Reserve 2004 Score 85

Karmei Yosef (Bravdo), Chardonnay, 2006, Score 87
Karmei Yosef, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Score 87
Karmei Yosef, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003, Score 87
Karmei Yosef, Merlot, 2005 Score 81
Karmei Yosef, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001, Score78

Binyamina, Chardonnay, Onyx, 2004 Score 88
Binyamina, Cabernet Sauignon, Aquamarine, 2003 Score 82
Binyamina, Ruby-Syrah, 2003, Score 81

Gustavo & Jo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Premium, 2004 Score 87

Meishar, Cabernet Sauvignon, 730, 2004 Sore 87

Avidsan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reseve, 2005 Score 87
Avidan, Grnache Premium, 2006 Score 84

Dalton, Shiraz, Oak Aged, 2005, Score 86
Dalton, Zinfandel, 2005 Score 86
Dalton, Merlot, Meron Vineyard, 2005 Score 79

Tanya, Merlot, Reserve, 2004 Score 86
Tanya, Cabernet Sauignon, Halel, 2005 Score 85

Tishbi, Special Reserve, Sde Boker 2004 Score 85
Tishbi, Shiraz, Estate, 2005 Score 85

Odem Mountain, Merlot, Har Odem, 2004 Score 85

Hevron Heights, Cabernet Sauvingon-Merlot, Makhpeah, 2002 Score 86
Hevron Heights, Syrah, 2003 Score 84

Benhaim, Cabernet Sauvignn, Grande Reserve, 2003 Score 86

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude 720, 2005 Score 85
Barkan, Pinotage Superieur, 2002 Score 85

Sea Horse, Antoine, Tete de Cuvee, 2004 Score 85
Sea Horse, Elul, 2004 Score 84

Agur,Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, 2004 Score 85
Agur, Kessem, 2005 Score 84

Assaf, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2005 Score 85

Bazelet HaGolan, Czabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Score 84

Kadesh Barnea, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2004 Score 84

Ben-Zimra, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2004 81

Katlav, Wadi Katlav, 2005 Score 81
Katlav, Merlot, 2005 Score 79

The BIG Israeli Wine review – Wine Advocate

Friday, December 21st, 2007

OK, it is time to let the cat out of the bag.

Yes, I am The Wine Tasting Guy, but more importantly I am the Israeli Wine Tasting Guy.

What does that mean? Well, if I ever get my BIO up some of it will be explained. But for now, let’s just say I have a strong affinity for Israel, and as such I have spent extensive time working at wineries in Israel. Convinced that Israeli wine is top notch, under appreciated, and held to a much lower regard than it warrants, I made it my mission to expose Israeli wines to the masses. There are others out there with a similar mission, and their success is my success. But for now, I must focus on my mission. I have a lot of work ahead of me. More on how I plan on tackling this once perceived “impossible task” in future posts…

But for now, lets get back to the BLOG TOPIC – The Israeli wine report in this edition of the Wine Advocate. WA edition #174 is being mailed out tomorrow (or I suppose technically today) and will contain a thorough report on Israeli wines. I can’t wait!!!! As soon as I have seen it I will report on its findings, and eventually comment on them. Many thanks to Robert Parker & Mark Squires of the Wine Advocate for their soon to be released efforts.

Anyone who wants to talk Israeli wine, just drop me a dime and I’ll be more than happy to discuss for HOURS…..

Until the next time…HAPPY ISRAELI WINE DRINKING!!!

The (Israeli) WTG.