Posts Tagged ‘Yarden’

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!


Carmel’s quality wine revolution

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I fancy myself an aspiring Israeli wine expert, but I must admit that I have lots to do before I earn any such title.  Among the many things I must do is to better acquaint myself with one of Israel’s oldest wineries – Carmel.  YES, that Carmel, of the sweet, thick sacramental wine.  Well guess what folks, quietly the Carmel people have made HUGE advances in the vineyards, winery & their resulting products.  From their single vineyard and appellation series wines to their “supermarket” – “Private Collection” wines – the improvements have been dramatic.  And now that the product is better, they have slowly started to market the “new Carmel”, and people are noticing (see a blog post at the Hakerem Israeli wine blog here).


I recently checked out some of their unique single varietal appellation wines (Carignan & Petite Sirah) and was so (surprisingly) impressed by their quality that I included them in a blog post with some recommendations.  Clearly they are doing things right at Carmel (marketing wise as well as winemaking) as I was subsequently thanked via email and invited to the winery for a more formal introduction to Carmel and the changes that have been implemented in recent years.

I graciously accepted the invitation and had my appointment there today.  Upon arriving at the winery I was greeted by Ruti, a Sommelier and manager of their wine culture center (how is that for marketing?!).  A warm and likable person, Ruti was an encyclopedia of information.  She started with some very interesting facts about the 120 year history of Carmel.  Of interest was how the ambitious founder Baron Rothschild (of the famous Lafite Rothschild) wanted to be completely self sufficient and created both a cooperage (for making barrels) and glass blowing center (for making bottles) at the original winery.  Neither stuck, but how cool is that?!

Following our history lesson I was introduced to one of the (many) winemakers.  Understanding that wine starts in the vineyard, I was told that changes have been made to improve fruit quality by incentivizing the growers/co-owners to put in extra effort in their vineyards.  From shoot thinning & fruit dropping (to lower yields) to leaf trimming (increase fruit exposure to sun) & water management (cutting down on water leads to more concentrated grapes), the growers are doing everything to get their fruit included in the premium wines.  And the results in the vineyard are evident.  Prior to visiting the winery today I tried their LOW LEVEL supermarket 2007 “Private Collection” Cab/Merlot blend.  WOW!  Fabulous new packaging to go along with a wine that is a great deal at its price.  I was really excited to taste their “better” wines.

And taste I did.  Together with a Carmel executive, 2 winemakers & Ruti (yes, I was a bit embarrassed by all the attention) we went through 12 wines –  five white & seven red.  All REALLY IMPRESSIVE.

The 2007 Carmel Ridge White, a blend of sauvignon blanc (50%), Chardonnay (20%), semillion (15%) & french Colombard (15%) had a hint of effervescence to go along with its crisp acidity & pink grapefruit characteristics.   And the 2007 appellation whites: a Viognier, a Gewurtztraminer & a Reisling each seemed varietally correct and had their own unique appeal.

As for the reds, the single vineyard 2005 Kayoumi Cab showed black fruit, was round, approachable and very elegant, while the 2004 Kayoumi Shiraz was very upscale shiraz in style with a touch of black pepper, very fruit forward and a long finish.  My favorites of the day were still the appellation Carignan and Petite Sirah.  Not because they were the best, but because they were the most unique and really got me thinking.  Although the color of the Petite Sirah was incredibly dark (leaning towards being almost black) I was surprised by how light (relatively speaking) the body was.  Its gripping tannins and subtle dark chocolate were a pleasure.  The wine of the day was the Carignan though.  I may have been influenced a bit by Ruti’s enthusiasm for this wine, but it is a wine that truly speaks for itself.  The 2005 Appellation Carignan, made from 30-40 year old vines and blended with 10% Petite Verdot had an interesting toffee, mocha, chocolate, cedar thing going on.  A BIG juicy, mouth coating wine with creeping tannins and a modest finish – this is a wine you MUST try!

Of note were the alcohol levels of the wines.  I have heard some criticism regarding the high alcohol levels of some of Israels wines.  Yet i noticed that only the appellation Petite Sirah & Carignan were as high as 14.5% ABV (which clearly did not affect my affinity for them), while others such as the single vineyard wines came in at a more modest 13.5% (as was the appellation viognier which I had thought was a typically high alcohol varietal).

As is being done at the Israel wine revolution leader Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden), Carmel is trying to get away from being labeled as kosher, and doing everything possible to instead be considered a World Class winery whose wines JUST SO HAPPEN to also be kosher.  If today was any indication, they are well on their way!

Happy World Class CARMEL WINE tasting!


Camping, Le Rendezvous Wine bar & wine consumption

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

My sincerest apologies for the lag in posts the past few days.  Things have been hectic yet fabulous.  I returned today from a wonderful yet too short weekend camping trip.  There were 8 of us on the trip and it was loads of fun.  BBQ-ing, fireworks, fishing, tubing & BIG CAMP FIRES.  Ahhh…so much fun.  I brought a bunch of wine and someone questioned whether wine was camping appropriate.  I thought it was perfect actually.  While chillin’ in a chair & fishing on the Delaware river I preferred a cold beer.  But a bottle of rose in the early evening and a cup (no glasses at the campgrounds – oh well) of red at night with a burger by the campfire – SOOOO GOOOOOD!


Quickly want to thank everyone who made it out to Le Rendezvous wine bar last Thursday night.   The turnout was great and all who made it were treated to a spectacular night (if I do say so myself).  I was able to seat almost all the guests and like a good party host I mingled with everyone while constantly filling up their glasses with fabulous wines from Yarden & Galil Mountain.  I got lots of people nice and buzzed, but more importantly the guests and wine bar staff (and owner) loved the wines and really enjoyed the evening and ambiance at the fabulous Le Rendezvous wine bar.

Finally want to share an interesting little tidbit with you.  The Beverage Information group recently released their 2008 wine handbook and announced that wine consumption in 2008 once again rose – by 3.2%.  Doesn’t sound like a lot but it marks the 14th consecutive year of “case gains”.  The full PR Newswire release can be found here.

Happy Campfire Israel Wine Tasting!


Happy New Year!

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Not much to say today, but I don’t want too many days to go by between posts so just a quickie tonight.

Let me start by apologizing for my last post (ie. rant). I apparently overreacted to a post elsewhere regarding wines which had seemingly “changed” between a critic’s first and second tasting. I gather this is not the most common phenomena, but it is possibly a byproduct of young wine producers heeding a critics critique & intentionally altering their product. I do stand by my strong feelings on the matter & further DO NOT believe that ANYONE, consumer & producer alike, should allow a critic too much influence. But I suppose that sales is the bottom line and if the critic knows what people like and can help the producers to understand what that is, then maybe it is not such a terrible thing…most of us after all do need to earn a living.

Tomorrow night is New Years. Will you be drinking bubbly?

I recently picked up a couple of bottles of Yarden blanc de blancs 2000. A very well regarded vintage sparkling wine. So well regarded that it unexpectedly appeared on a list of random sparkling wines on and was given a very respectable 92 points, while The Wall Street Journal called it a wonderful international sparkling wine. I know, I know, I just got through chastising those who let points/critics dictate their wine enjoyment, but nobody is perfect , right?!?

Happy New Year!!! Hope it is a year filled with enjoying wines that YOU LIKE…regardless of what others say about said wine.