Posts Tagged ‘Shiraz’

Israeli wine is the best!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Call it writer’s block, call it a much needed vacation or blame it on the J-O-B…what can I say?  I took 10+ weeks off from blogging.  It is like the gym, once you stop going for a while, getting back into the routine can be difficult.

Well, I’m back…and with a purpose.  I’m here to explain why Israeli wines are the best.

OK, maybe not the best (yet), but I do believe that many of the better Israeli wines are also some of the most interesting wines in the world.

I was compelled to post this thought given the incredible award recently bestowed upon the Carmel Winery, Israel’s oldest and largest winery.  Decanter Magazine in their annual awards declared the Carmel 2006 Kayoumi (single vineyard site) Shiraz the best Rhone varietal over £10.  This meant the wine was deemed better than Syrah/Shiraz from famed French Chateau & Australian wineries.

Israel is considered by most to be a “new world” wine producing region.  Which makes sense when you consider that the MODERN wine-making culture in Israel is only about 30 years old.  But this New World region is like a child with an OLD SOUL.  You know those kids…the ones whose maturity is well beyond their years – who seem to literally possess an old soul.  Well, so too Israel & its vineyards.  These are vineyards that are planted amongst ancient (3000 years +) wine presses.

So what does all this have to do with Israeli wine being the best?  Well, other “New World” wines are generally fruit driven.  While typically “Old World” wines are earth or spice driven.

Talk to people in the know about Israeli wines and you will hear about wines that are a mix of fruit & spice.  The warm Eastern Mediterranean sun ripens the grapes and gives the wines a fruity character.  In addition to this fruitiness there is a unique & interesting spicy herbaceousness to Israeli wines.  Some say it is the wild herbs that grow all over the country.  Others say it is the magic of the place.

If you ask me I believe that all are contributing factors.  No matter…all I know is Israeli wines are really good, and starting to garner international recognition.

Happy Israeli wine tasting!


What a Day! 2 Wine Tastings!!

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

I went away (within Israel) for the sabbath to a friend of the family.  A wonderful woman and great cook it is always a nice shabbat when spent with her and her family.  But it doesn’t hurt that she lives next door to a fabulous winemaker, who is also a brilliant & warm man and whom I am fortunate to call a good friend.  After attending early services (started at 6:20AM – YIKES) we had a “kiddush” in the sukkah of the winemaker friend.  For those of you familiar with the word kiddush when referring to the blessing over wine, I’m using the word here to refer to “a ceremonial meal served … following the recitation of kiddush at the conclusion of services, in which refreshments are served. Traditionally, this often includes cake, crackers, and fish.”  BUT, this was no ordinary kiddush…and not just because we started drinking at 9AM…

wine_tastingThis was a wine tasting kiddush, and the winemaker friend and his amazingly hospitable wife prepared all kinds of salads (made from home grown tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and herbs), quiches, cheeses, cakes, etc to go along with the truly FABULOUS wines we were about to taste.  There were 7 of us around the table and we were in for quite a treat.  Since it was Sabbath I did not take tasting notes, but it is a day and wines I will not soon forget.

The first wine we opened was a 2006 Chateau Lafont Menaut Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux Blanc.  Crisp, minerally, refreshing…great start!

Normally we might save special wines for the end, but we were about to open some elegant aged Bordeaux.  And while they were the “stars” of the night, they are also wines that are not nearly as robust as they were in their youth, leaving them susceptible to being overpowered by younger, more tannic (and robust) wines – which is why we tasted them first.

So following the Bordeaux Blanc we opened a 1998 Chateau Monbousquet St. Emillion Grand Cru.  WOW.  At 10 years old, this Bordeaux tasted young!  Excellent fruit and plenty of tannins.  Some plums, great earthiness and a hint of mocha. 

Up next was a legend.  Maybe not from a legendary vintage, but…a Chateau Latour.  The 1981…yes, I said 1981 Pauillac Grand Vin de Chateau Latour – what a treat!  We were concerned that the wine might not be alive and drinkable, but fortunately we underestimated the staying power of good Bordeaux.  Very much alive, this wine started off tight, showing nice prune & leather characteristics, eventually opening up to show fruit – all packaged nicely, silky soft and round.  Its tannins and acid had dropped out over time, and this wine was quite soft.  Maybe not everyone’s preferred style, but undoubtedly a special wine.

Our third red of the morning was a negociant wine. The 1996 Tardieu – Laurent Hermitage made mostly (or entirely?) of Syrah was very interesting.  A 12 year old wine, I found it to be high in acidity.  The acid will usually drop in a wine as it ages, so this surprised me.  But I was told that 12 years is not old for Hermitage, and that it would soften with further aging.  It did have a nice minerality and some subtle mocha aromas.  A wine (Hermitage) I will definitely be re-visiting…

At this point it was getting a bit late (11AM and apparently people had lives to get to – you believe that?!) and with 3 wines left we opened up the 2 baby reds of the bunch.  A 2003 Artadi Pagos Viejos Rioja and the 2001 Grant Burge “Meshach” Shiraz.  These were fruit forward style wines.  I don’t remember much about the Rioja aside from its up front fuit and nice earthiness.  While the Meshach Shiraz was HUGE.  It actually reminded me a bit of a California Zinfandel.  It had BIG fruit and an almost sweet taste.  But this was not a one-dimensional wine.  It showed pencil shaving & cigar box aromas.  Was well structured (especially for such a big wine) and went quite well with the cakes which by this time had been served.

A final treat was a dessert wine from Alsace.  The Domaine Bott-Geyl Sonnenglanz Grand Cru Alsace dessert wine, made of Pinot Gris (and apparently given a 98 by Robert Parker) was a deliciously sweet treat.  Its acid was present, which prevented any cloying sweetness, but it was so well integrated it was almost as if it wasn’t there.  Very tasty and a special wine to finish things off with.

Assuming I haven’t lost you yet, there was another tasting.  This one at a more normal hour (7PM).  After the Sabbath I drove into Tel Aviv to meet up with a friend who I may work with on my Israel Wine Project.  He has a beautiful apartment in a hopping part of the city and he had about 8 people over for some Israeli wines.  I brought some bottles of local Israeli boutique wine and we had a lovely time.  I talked a bit about each of the wineries, told them about the wine makers, and we then tasted the wines together.  A lite Carignan based wine was casually enjoyed.  A Sangiovese/Syrah/Cab Franc blend was intriguing and determined to be a great food wine.  While the king, a Cab based wine (with 10% Merlot) was thoroughly enjoyed and drunk to the last drop. 

Happy TWICE A DAY Wine Tasting!


Cheers! And Shiraz’s peppery notes

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Cheers to red wine & a longer life!!!

red wine cheers

The NY Times had a few wine related articles today.   The first, discussed a topic that has been written about frequently here, that of “resveratrol” – the wonder-drug contained in red wine.  Previous reports had indicated that the amount of resveratrol in wine were nowhere near enough to be effective from simple wine consumption.  But one of the sources in todays article notes “a mere four, five-ounce glasses of wine “starts getting close” to the amount of resveratrol they found effective”, as opposed to previous studies that determined that “to gain (sufficient) dosages people would have to drink more than 100 bottles of red wine a day”. An interesting read that can be found here.

The other article titled “What’s the Peppery Note in Those Shirazes?”, talked about Australian (where Shiraz originated) researchers who sought to find out why there are peppery notes in Australian Shiraz.  (more…)

Wine bar outing

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

A quickie post for tonight (or this morning as the case may be).

Went out to a wine bar tonight.  It is one I used to frequent but haven’t been to for a little while.  On a cold Monday night – THEY WERE PACKED.  Unbelievable!!!

I had an Australian Shiraz (too extracted & “sweet”) and a Sancere (nice & crisp) while my date had a Tempranillo (better than my Shiraz) and a Vespiolo (Italian white – first time I heard of it and while it wasn’t my speed the date enjoyed it).

Now it is not as if this wine bar is doing it all RIGHT.  In my very humble opinion they are not.   The stemware, which I think was once of a higher quality, seems to have been downgraded (breakage does add up).  The wine list, at least that done by the glass, although claimed to be frequently revised, seemed stale.  And finally, having not yet made my first billion and as such seeking an under $50 bottle – I struggled as they were far and few between.

All that said, the WARMTH (both literally & figuratively) was easily visible and very apparent.  The owners (a cute couple) mingle freely with their customer friends.   The service seems to always be done with a smile and the servers patience seems to be endless (not that I INTENTIONALLY test peoples patience – I just know I am a pain in the ass at wine bars).

All in all, for a stickler like me, this place is far from perfect.  That said, the lesson to be learned here is that perfection is a relative term and this place is consistently packed, patrons consistently have positive things to say, and the overall mood is generally a very positive one.  Kudos to the owners!

Happy wine Bar Hopping!