This was a very interesting night with one of our best wine lists ever. We ended up with a very international list (minus any American entries) – and each region showed beautifully. The food of course was excellent. Bracha and Uri continue to put out inventive and tasty dishes month after month. While Uri rarely cooks for the masses, Bracha is available as a private chef and caterer – both in Israel or on trips abroad. As the pictures month after month can attest, the food is beautifully prepared. What I can tell you is that it is incredibly tasty and at an extremely high level as well. Much of the food that we get to sample each month would have no problem standing up to plates served at any kosher fine dining establishment. This month my favorite dish overall was the Chicken, Miso, Cherry and Eggplant dish – while my favorite component was the Aji Amarillo Salsa served as a sauce with the NY Strip. Super-flavorful
But this is not a food blog. It’s an unfiltered wine blog and that’s what you are going to get. There were some really interesting pairings and progressions wine-wise (tasting 2 out of 2 of the Yarden top-tier releases side by side, tasting 2 of the Gvaot 2012 top releases side by side etc). There were also a number of bottles that we tasted that were off list and brought as blind tastings to see what people thought or as advance tastings of wines to be released in the future. Most times these bonus bottles are not really worth our time. This go around, we were graced with some truly interesting and fun advance tastings – as well as some real disappointments (for me at least) on the blind side of things.
One of the things that I have been looking forward to has been getting to experience the “new” Barkan now under winemaker Ido Lewinsohn. I’ll get to the specifics in the notes, but the 2 wines that we tasted blind were not for me at all. On the plus side, we got an advance tasting of the just bottled 2017 Hunter’s Valley – by Ya’acov Oryah (served side by side with the inaugural 2009). This wine is not set to be released until 2023 or so, but is already showing as something very special. But more on all of that below….
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blanc, 2009 – This wine is now attaining the profile that I most appreciate with the BdB’s. The searing acid that has been dominant since release is finally starting to simmer down – ad ngiving more a of a lemon curd flavor with some of that yeastiness coming out to play as well. My most enjoyable experience with this wine to date.
Barkan, Reserve, Chardonnay, 2017 (Bonus Bottle) – This bottle was served blind. For me this is a pass right now. The oak (spent 6 months in the barrel) is just to prominent for my tastes, and not at all integrated into the body of the wine. Will it get better? Maybe – it was just released. So I might give this one another chance in a few months. I will say – about half the people around the table liked it. So for NIS 33 you really don’t have much to lose….
Barkan, Reserve, Gewürztraminer, 2017 (Bonus Bottle) – This bottle was also served blind. This ine is definitely not for me AT ALL. It is WAY too sweet, no acid. OVerall very flabby. But even MORE people around the table liked this one – so maybe I just have too high a standard here…. Again – it’s about NIS 33 – but IMHO there are better options even at this low price point (either of the Tabors is better than this).
Yaacov Oryah, Hunter’s Valley, Sémillon, 2009 – Not much has changed since previous tastings. This stuff continues to impress – 9 years old!!!!!
Yaacov Oryah, Hunter’s Valley, Sémillon, 2017 (Bonus Bottle) – This wine was only recently bottled and is not set to be released until 2023!!! Super interesting tasting it after the 2009. Acid is simply OFF THE CHARTS, That of course is on purpose as it is what allows this wine to age as well as it does. Truth is, in it’s current form, it is actually enjoyable as well though not nearly as much as it’s older brother. It also sort of has the opposite profile (super fresh and bright) though a similar mouthfeel overall.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Pinot Noir, 2000 (Bonus Bottle) – What you would expect – DEAD
Private Label Mystery Blend, 2016 (Bonus Bottle) – A guest brought this bottle as the person who made it (I believe a hobbyist) wanted an unbiased opinion. Overall not bad as an everyday wine- bright acid, medium tannin. Fruit forward of course with raspberry up front and some spice. Seemed food friendly. Probably meant to drink young. I have no idea whats in it or who made it.
Yaacov Oryah, SOB (Special Oryah Blend), 2017 (Bonus Bottle) – This is a private bottling made by Yaacov Oryah. It consists of 22.0% Grenache, 20.5% Petit Sirah, 20.0% Carignan, 19.5% Pinot Noir & 18.0% Syrah. This was a barrel sample having been in oak only 4 months so far. This wine changed drastically from first pour until the end of the night – IMHO for the better (not that it was weak to the start either!). At first pour this wine showed lean mineral and fruit. Really layers of fruit which because of the setting I really did not have the ability to fully appreciate, though cherry was certainly at the forefront. I was surprised by the lack of tannin – making me wonder if this was going to be a wine that would be wonderful for young easy drinking, but not have the core to really hold and develop. 3 hours later – the fruitiness subsided and the tannin woke up. My guess is we are going to see this wine evolve nicely over the year. It already has a fairly complex flavor profile. I see that deepening. But again, this is only a barrel sample – so really anything can happen.
Mia Luce, Rosso, 2012 – Unfortunately, for me these have been very much hit or miss with a lot of bottle variation showing up now, with this being the best of the last 4 bottles of this that I have had. The dark fruit and berries were ther as was the earth and coffee. Overall not bad, but now what it once was. At this point I would drink up and not take any chances.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997 – We have had this two other times over the past year. This was the weakest bottle. Not dead – but fading IMHO.
Ben Zimra Winery, Lior, Cabernet Sauvignon,2012 – My first time with this wine. Its a 70/30 CabSav-Merlot blend, which spent 24 months in oak. It’s biggest problem was the company it was hanging out with – it was a nice well balanced slightly ripe and fruit forward Israeli wine.Nothing wrong with it at all – but nothing that was going to make it stand out evn among the Israeli wines that were served.
Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 – This wine has developed nicely. The tannin is now integrating. on the nose dark fruit and chocolate – which is replicated in the mouth with some cigar-box. Full bodied, nice acidity, rich but balanced and not at all over the top. This wine I thin has fully entered it’s drinking window. Not sure if it’ll get much better, though that’s possible. Should hold well for 3-4 years.
G’vaot, Masada, 2012 – In my top 5 of the night and my favorite Israeli of the night. (Full disclosure, this was my contribution for the night.)This might be the best vintage of this wine to date. Ripe dark fruit and berries, wrapped up in earth and spice. Nice core of acid and tannin which has softened a bit since I last had it. This wine probably has not reached peak yet, though it is drinking wonderfully now. I’m going to hold the rest for another year or 2 – it should hold after than for another 5 or so. Really great stuff.
Chateau Rollan de By, Cru Bourgeois, 2012 – Last time I had this, I was not at all a fan. This bottle showed better – but it again suffered from being served with far superior wines. Pleasant enough though this time around. Light to medium bodied. A little fruitier than I remember, but nothing crazy. Nothing wrong here – just nothing great.
Yaacov Oryah, Iberian Dream, Gran Reserva, 2011 – This wine is one of my favorites and has not changed at all since my last tasting, with ripe red and black fruit and some great earth with some sweet spice. Probably at peak and I think it can hold for another few years, maybe 3-4..
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Single Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom, 2008 – I haven’t tasted this in at least 3 years. When I last tasted it, it was at a totaly different stage, showing very young and I would have thought it had another decade plus ahead of development. Here it showed at peak with the tannin having softened and integrated. All of the flavors were there – dark fruit and earth – but the tannin is now firm but well integrated. Showing very nicely – but drink now for the next 3 years.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Rom, 2008 – If you read what I wrote about the Elrom above, you can apply the same thing here. Not sure if all of 2008 has moved to drink now, but both of these samples seem to indicate that. More complex than it’s CabSav cousin mentioned above, the Rom has depth and richness of fruit with dark berries and cherries with some nice spiciness and earthy notes. Again, surpsingly this wine has moved full on in to drink now IMHO. Very enjoyable.
Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 1999 – This wine is clearly drink up. While showing nicely immediately after it was poured, it started deteriorating within 5 minutes. Still some nice flavor there initially, with the usual earthy notes being front and center.
Tenuta Monchiero Barolo, 2010 – One of the few kosher Barolos that have been made. As this is the only Italian Barolo that I have tasted, all I had to go on was book knowledge of what to expect. In that regard, I thought I was going to get a hell of a lot more acid as that’s what Nebiollo is known for. While that wasn’t the case here, the wine otherwise showed well though VERY young. It was decanted for 3 hours and was only starting to open up. On the nose cherries, pepper and roasted meat. In the mouth, crazy tannin, cherries, roasted meat and sweet warm spice and some nice (but not crazy) acidity. Very nice. I hope to get to try this again one day.
ElviWines, Herenza, Rioja Reserva, 2010 – For me this was the best wine of the night – yes better than the PC ’03 for drinking now. It was decanted 4 hours or so and was open and showed beautifully. With some surprising notes vanilla in addition to the typical Tempranillo flavors you would expect. I love this wine. This wine is VERY young can easily age develop another 5 years and go for who knows how long after that. As I have said before, I am sucker for Tempranillo. It is my favorite varietal. So take that into account when weighing what I say.
Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, 2003 – This guy was open ed with slightly dropped shoulders for a couple of hours, then decanted for a further 4 hours. It was BARELY opening up when we got to it. It tastes as fresh and as young as a Bordeaux from the 2016 vintage. It is nowhere near ready for prime time. I would say it needs another 3 years before it’s truly approachable. Still – this was a treat, with crazy layers of flavors unfolding as it sits in the mouth. Dark fruit, earth, tobacco, herbs and spice all structured and almost distinct. The acid keeps this bright and vibrant. Having said all of that, it took a lot of work to get there. For me, to enjoy today, I would take the Rioja Reserva above in a second (even though it’s not at peak either!), even though this is clearly the superior wine.
Carmel, Single Vineyard, Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Shaal, 2016 – Still very young but already very nice. Deep dried apricot and honey backed by a solid acid core. If prior vintages are any indicator, this guy will improve over the next 5 years at least.