Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Wine’

Decanting & “Wine imports on fire”??

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Wow, what a weekend.  Some incredible highs and sadly a low or two.  I don’t want to get into the not-too-interesting details of my personal life in this medium but lets just say I need to update my blog bio. 😉

OK, now that that is out of the way, I want to touch on the idea of decanting.  I received an email from Wine Enthusiast online a few weeks ago.  Like so many others they are apparently Vlogging.  There is a nice piece written about decanting as well as a quick video.  While they do sell the products they are writing/reporting about, the information is useful.

That said I believe the important points about decanting are summed up perfectly in the first line written bu Erika; that decanting is done “for enhancing the flavors of a young wine or for removing sediment from an old wine”.  I’m not certain that I would use the same language, but it does present the case for decanting.

Some experts disagree about the first part (enhancing flavors) but all do agree that IF you choose to remove an old wine from the sediment that may be at the bottom of the bottle, a decanter is useful.  CAVEAT – older wines break down when exposed to oxygen much quicker than younger wines.  And decanting an older wine to remove it from its sediment puts the wine at risk of premature oxidization.

A wine mentor of mine suggests simply pouring a wine with sediment very gently (at a 90 degree angle) from the bottle into the glasses and not removing it from the bottle to avoid this extra risk.  Using this method you will likely need to leave the last 10% (or so) of the wine in the bottle at the end.

On a completely separate note, I came across a business wire article about Argentinian wines.  Apparently Argentinian wine imports are “on fire” (nice PR work!).

Argentina’s department of customs reports that Argentine wines were up 43.2% in value and 34.1% in volume.  Those are some pretty impressive figures – especially when you consider the state of our economy and the lack of growth most wine regions have experienced of late.  Given Argentina’s image as producing quality VALUE wines this does make sense, but it is no less impressive.

As an Israeli wine person I must admit that it makes me wonder what Israel wine needs to do to gain wider acceptance.  The experts agree that the quality is there.  Is it simply a matter of price?

I truly believe that when WE finally get retail locations to rid themselves of their “kosher” wine sections and simply stock their kosher wines like they do their other wines (by region, varietal, etc) that Israeli wines will take a huge step forward.  This is by no means a revolutionary idea, as it has been proposed countless times by my contemporaries.  Now I wonder, how can we get the retail decision makers to listen?

Happy Argentinan/Israeli wine tasting…decanted or not!


Obama the Wino

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Guess what wine loving readers?  Our new president is a wine lover too!  He told me so himself!  OK, not really, but that is what Reuters is reporting in its article “Wine makers toast a new wine drinker in the White House“.

Apparently his OLD house (not the new white one) has a 1,000 bottle wine cellar.  SWEET!  I’ll drink to that…

OK, so he’s drinking beer.  I could not seem to find that picture of the two of us drinking that delicious Israeli wine 😉

Now let’s hope Obama’s love of wine is one of the many things we can be proud of from our new President.

Happy presidential wine tasting!



Monday, January 19th, 2009

“Why do we park on a driveway & drive on a parkway?”

This is the play on words joke I am reminded of as I prepare a quick little piece once again using the word “cork”.  In my last post I talked about “corked” wine.  And today I want to talk about “corkage”, or a corkage fee.

As the cartoon indicates a corkage fee is a fee restaurants charge guests who choose to bring their own bottle (of wine).  Not all restaurants offer this courtesy, but it is something certainly worth taking advantage of during these difficult economic times.

Some places that allow people to bring bottles for a fee are either restaurants that do not have their own liquor (or beer & wine) license.  Also, new restaurants that have not YET gotten their licenses will often allow guests to bring their own bottle – sometimes without charging a corkage.

People may be embarrassed to bring their own bottle but I read just today in “Wine & Spirits Daily” about a survey of women & wine with “Full Glass Research” wherein “55% (of women surveyed) stated that they are comfortable bringing their own bottle and paying a corkage fee“.

A final note about this convenient and practical option is WHAT BOTTLE to bring and pay the corkage fee.  Typically you can not bring a bottle that the restaurant already offers.  And inexpensive/generic bottles are often frowned upon.  May I suggest an unusual Israeli wine…

(Incidentally, Reuters in their review of the wine industry from 2008 said “Less well-known wine countries such as Israel … which (has) been making wine for millennia, (has) also seen (its) shares of the U.S. market gain a bit” – keep it up!)

Happy corkage fee wine tasting!


Size Matters

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Back from the holyland, hence the UN-holy title.  Fear not, Wine Tasting Guy’s mind is not in the gutter.  I’m speaking of wine glasses.

wine glass sizs

While tasting wine at several wineries (and in some people’s homes) in Israel I noticed people serving wines in small glasses.  Size is relative, but I’m a believer (though not all would agree) that bigger is better.  More room to swirl, more room for the aromas to linger and easier to tilt the wine so that you can observe and appreciate the color.

In addition to size, good wine should be drunk out of out quality glasses.  There are tons of quality glasses out there nowadays.  No, they don’t have to be hand blown glass.  No, they don’t have to cost $50/glass.  But they should be thin glass bowls (I prefer tulip shaped) and they should not have a rounded lip.  The lip of the glass should be straight so that the wine runs directly down into your mouth.

Although the power of suggestion is one I fervently try to avoid I have heard MANY people say that wine simply tastes BETTER out of better glasses.  And you know what… I agree.

SO, you can imagine my disappointment when I tasted wines at some of the Israel wineries out of cheapo glasses.  If an artist was to display their art don’t you think they would use the best frames, light & background possible?  Then why wouldn’t the wineries want their wines shown in the best glasses.

I know, good glasses can be expensive.   And the good glasses break VERY EASILY.  And there were many wineries that DID serve their wines in good glasses.  But given how strongly I feel about Israeli wines I would like to see ALL wineries pouring their wines out of the best (and most cost effective) glasses.

Happy quality wine glass wine tasting!


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!


Israeli wine terroir

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I mentioned “terroir” in my last post.  I’m sorry for repeating something just mentioned, but since it is not a common expression outside of wine circles let me reiterate.  “Terroir” is described by Wikipedia as “a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the wine made from it”.  These “aspects” could include soil, weather, altitude, etc…


I bring up terroir again as it is a buzz word within the wine world.  It is also a word that I am CERTAIN has great relevance when it comes to Israeli wines. 

I believe that when not manipulated too much Israeli wines are an incredible combination of new world and old world.  They possess earthy old world qualities in addition to fruity new world qualities.  And I think this is one of the amazing things about many Israeli wines and an important factor in making them so special.

Back to “terroir” though, I believe the concept of terroir is important to Israeli wines given that they possess sumptuously unique herbal qualities.  I have heard spices such as Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and sometimes even Mint used to describe Israeli wines.  I have also heard some describe (what I believe to be) this same herbally component as green olive.  I mention these unique and interesting descriptors before mentioning why I think recognizing these flavors and aromas is so important. 

I have been pounding the pavement of Manhattan selling Israeli wines the past few months and there have been a few people whose palates I respect who have described some of the Israeli wines I tasted with them as having a “green” quality.  This descriptor is not a positive one.  Sure some people like it (and they are certainly NOT wrong) but it indicates a wine that is either bitter, under-ripe (something that used to be very common with French and other cool climate wines) or simply overly herbaceous rather than fruity.  This “green” profile often occurs as a result of wines made from young, immature vines.  Or it may be a wine that has been pressed too much and bitterness is extracted from seeds and skins and have overpowered the fruit of the wine. 

Some well regarded wine critics have recently called many Israeli wines “green” (while at the same time praising the wines??).  And while I appreciate (and at times am envious of) their work, in general we all know how I feel about critics.  They certainly serve a purpose, but their influence has become too powerful (shame on us lay-wine-people).

Bottom line, call it what you will.  Israeli terroir.  Herbal.  Herbaceous.  Green.  WHO CARES.  Try it, and if you like it BUY SOME, BUY MORE, and TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!

Happy herbal Israeli wine tasting!


Wines of the (economic) times

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Everyone in the world, particularly those of us in the US, are feeling the pinch of the challenging economic environment.  Government stimulus packages, collapsing banks, record numbers of newly unemployed – those luxuries we may have been splurging on a year or two ago are possibly absent from our regular shopping lists these days.  Where does wine fit in?  Can you still justify opening up a $20 (or more expensive) bottle of wine with dinner?  That is a lot to spend on an unessential (some might beg to differ) dinner item on just any day of the week.

wine glass money

There has been a lot written recently about food and wine in challenging times.

Eric Asimov wrote an article for the NY Times “Modest Luxuries For Lean Times”.  I was not familiar with most of the wines he wrote about, but I do agree that one can find some great buys between $10-$20 (while spending less than $10 is generally a gamble in terms of the quality).

There was an article over the weekend discussing New Yorkers inclination to turn to comfort foods.  Apparently New Yorkers are frequenting the fancy obscure restaurants less and opting for more affordable and familiar cuisine – such as a burger and mashed potatoes.  A burger shop manager was quoted, saying “people are looking for nostalgic, homemade food at a reasonable price”.

But I digress.  We are talking about wine.

Mike Steinberger, writing for Slate Mag “Drinking Away Your Sorrows –  How Has the Financial Crisis Affected The Wine World?”, discusses the issue at length.  Steinberger mentions recent auction success and stable wine prices as evidence that wine has not been affected.  He then cites a UNC-Greensboro economist who claims that “when the economy weakens, alcohol sales fall”.  And while he proceeds to repeat a theory I have heard before, that people drink less OUT, but still purchase alcohol to take home to drink, he then states that wine is not affected nearly as much as beer and spirits, citing evidence from Neilson garnered via bars, clubs & restaurants.  Finally, he quotes a retailer who says that “Instead of buying a $40 bottle, maybe they’ll go for a $25 bottle now, but they want wine on the table.”

As I hustle throughout the streets of NY I have seen this all first hand.  Wine Bars aren’t as busy.  Commercial spaces are staying vacant (a lot) longer.  Restaurants are closing at a faster pace and opening at a slower pace.  And retailers, looking to provide their customers with what they are seeking, seem to be looking for more wines that retail in the $20 & less category.

These are all things I will keep in mind as I move forward with my Israeli wine project plans.  And while I definitely have good reason to be cautious, spending as much time as I do at wine bars, wine tastings and wine retailers has given me a good feel for the market.  It is an ever changing market that I must stay on top of, but I believe in the journey and while that light (at the end of the tunnel) is hard to see, I know it is there…

Happy conscientious Wine Tasting!


selling wine, pouring wine & making wine – I’m BEAT!

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

The past 48 hours (actually all week) have been truly fabulous and unbelievably exhausting!

I’m averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night which is not terrible, but not too great either.   I’ve poured wine for retailers I’m trying to sell wine to.  I’ve poured wine at retailers for consumers I am hoping will buy bottles of the wine (they should – it is good stuff).  And I poured wine while playing guest bartender tonight at a fabulous intimate wine bar on the Upper East Side.

But before that, yesterday at about 4PM, I went out to Jersey to work on the Wine Tasting Guy cuvee’.  Actually, it is a wine I am making with two close friends.  The one I’ve previously mentioned.  I received a call on Monday from the guy whose garage we are using as our pseudo winery, informing me that the wine has finished fermenting and we MUST press it.  Wine ferments in open containers and it gives off CO2 while it is fermenting which protects it from the oxygen.  But when it stops fermenting it is no longer protected and must be moved to an oxygen free container.

fermenting wine

Sure enough I raced from work on Wednesday to Jersey so that we could press the wine.  And lo and behold while the fermentation had neared its end and slowed dramatically, it WAS still fermenting.  The wine was protected and there was no emergency.  But I must admit that our Cali Cab was virtually done so we went ahead and pressed that (pic to come…I hope).

So far I think this years wines are going to be VERY DIFFERENT from last years.  Much less fruit forward and more acidic.  They will be wines with a longer life, but potentially a little less approachable in their youth.  Or so I suspect…but I suppose only time will tell…

And as for tonight, while pouring at the retailer for the consumers was OK, the real fun was playing guest bartender.  I met some cool people and poured a lot of Israeli wine that people really enjoyed.  I was quite proud!

Now if only I had my own wine & sold it at my own wine bar…  Wouldn’t THAT be cool?!!?!!!!!  😉

Happy wine insanity!


A beautiful woman and a fabulous wine bar

Monday, August 18th, 2008

NOOOO…I did not pass away and go to heaven (although I bet that is what MY heaven looks like).  But I must admit that this afternoon and evening were quite wonderful.

Late this afternoon I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman with whom I have been in touch for a long time.  This guy is working to promote THE CAUSE – Israel wine.  And he seems to be doing a great job of it.  His approach is unique, but his passion is unmistakable.  He invited me to meet him at an in-house wine tasting event.  At this event he poured several wines, spoke to the people about the wines and the winemakers, and then took orders for said wine.  All the wines were Israeli wines made at what are considered to be boutique operations.  And while some of the wines showed better than others, all were generally warmly received.  Way to go Richard!

From this fabulous event I went to meet a lovely young lady at a wine bar I have been meaning to check out.  The young lady looked terrific (no, not because I drank a lot at the wine tasting event) and the wine bar was doing “IT” right.

What is “IT” you ask?  Ahhh…good question.  IT is the prefect level of service where the customer feels attended to, appreciated, yet not crowded, rushed or made to feel anything less than like a king.   Just really great service.

wine bartender

Upon initially speaking with the server, she modestly deferred to the asst. sommelier for wine related issues – something I greatly appreciate rather than being fed B.S. about wines they might know nothing about.  The sommelier was cordial, polite and gracious and brought us 4 samples to try so that when we made out ultimate selection we would be sure to be pleased.  And the clincher was the follow up service.  They were attentive, but from afar.  I was thrilled to be pouring my own wine from the carafe in which it was served.  And throughout my time I noticed the server looking over, almost waiting to be summoned, but not crowding us in any way.  She was really amazing.  How she came up with what (in one persons humble opinion) was the perfect combination of space & attentiveness I will never know.  But she got IT!

Happy fabulous (Israeli) wine tasting!


Buying wine at a wine shop

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

As part of my work for the Israeli wine distributor I am presently working for, I went into a wine shop on Friday afternoon to “hand sell” some of their wines.  The wine shop manager set me up next to the shelf displaying the producer’s wines.  I opened up 3 bottles to pour for customers as they came in, and said customers were offered discounts if they purchased any of the wines (in 3, 6 or 12 bottle increments) I was pouring – as well as others made by the producer.

I must say, things went brilliantly.  OK, it could have been better.  There was not as much traffic as I may have liked.  A few people did come in just to try some free wine.  Yes, there were one or two people who I suppose felt a “hard sell”, and ending up opting for other wines.  BUT for the most part people tried the wines, engaged in conversation about the wines, asked lots of good questions and then bought at least one if not 3 bottles of wine (to take advantage of the discount).

I have heard this from others but I am now fully convinced that this method of “hand selling” is truly the best way to sell wines.  It may seem obvious, but you have people entering a wine shop/liquor store with the intent to purchase a bottle (or more) of wine.  Yet they are suddenly faced with the daunting array of wines set before them.

wine shop

And standing right there to help is Mr./Ms. NON-PRETENTIOUS wine expert happy to provide a quick taste of wine for said customer and answer any questions they may have.  Two very important elements.  I always recommend that people taste a wine before buying a bottle of it (when possible of course).  And having someone there who may know a bit more about wine than the ordinary average Jane is also helpful and generally appreciated.

It was a great few hours and I really hope everyone who purchased some of the wines I recommended were happy with their selections.

Now if only I can figure out a way to be in 200 stores selling wine at the same time…

ASIDE: All NYC (and vicinity) residents are invited to an Israeli wine tasting this Thursday night.  I’ll be at the Le Rendezvous wine bar at 80th St. & 2nd Ave pouring FREE wine from 7-9PM.  There will be bubbly (show up early for this) as well as some whites, a rose’ and of course some fabulous reds.  Come say hi and introduce yourself!

Happy wine tasting & buying!