In terms of general consumer wine events in Israel, the Jerusalem festival held annually at the Israel Museum is probably the largest and longest running. When it started, it really was a great way to sample a huge variety of wines at all price levels outside of premium and get have a nice relaxed night out all for a very reasonable ticket price of about NIS 65. In recent years, the price has gone up to NIS 95 a ticket, the number of participating wineries and quality of wines that they decide to show has gone down. Couple all of that with sometimes excruciating heat and it becomes a real question as to whether the casual nice atmosphere of the venue is really worth it to balance it all out.
This year, the weather participated. It was breezy and cool last night when I attended. That right there makes a HUGE difference. Wines were being served at proper temps for the first time in a couple of years and that is half the battle. Unfortunately, that does nothing to help with scarcity of wineries or dearth of selection that the wineries who DO show up provide. Most wineries showed 4 wines or less. Of those wines, many were the lower end. Recanati for instance (who showed 5 wines), didn’t bring a single red. Many of the major wineries were no-shows (Carmel, Dalton, Barkan) and there were very few boutique wineries. In terms of Kosher, here is who showed up:
- Ella Valley
- Gush Etzion
- Rambam (Spain)
- Blue Nun
- Har Bracha
- Odem Mountain
Not a very long list….
To make matters worse, by 10:30 (or earlier) many of the wineries had closed up shop and left (i’m looking at you Covenant – among others)
or reduced what they decided to pour (there were a number of these, Drimia, Jerusalem etc). Perhaps they ran out of what they allotted. I’m not sure who is at fault, the wineries or the organizers of the festival, but that is almost criminal! If you are paying for an event, each winery should be pouring everything that they are supposed to be offering until the end of the evening!
Enough venting – on to the wines. The clear winner of the night on the premium end was Covenant Israel. The 2017 Viognier showed beautifully and for me was the best wine of the night overall! Their 2 Israeli reds were also on point. Another winner for me on that end of the spectrum was Matar. The newly released 2016 Matar Stratus Syrah was really nice as was 2015 Matar Petit Verdot. Good stuff there.
On the QPR end, the ridiculously named 2016 Ella Valley Ever Red White at NIS 35 really can’t be beat on a shekel for shekel basis (beware ONLY the 2016 whites were made by Ya’acov Oryah – do not take this as an endorsement of any other vintage). Also nice on the white side of things was the 2017 Yarden Gewurtz, 2016 Galil Mountain Blanc Dn’noir, and the 2016 Capsouto Cuvee Eva Blanc (do NOT buy the Rose at this point, it’s dead or dying – I can’t understand why they continue to pour it – better to not show a Rose than to show an old one).
On the red side, the QPR winery of the night for me was Jerusalem Winery – I found the 2016 2900 blend, the Marselan Reserve, and the Petit Verdot all acceptable (all of their whites though were undrinkable as far as I am concerned). The 2016 Har Odem Volcanic Syrah was also a winner as were a couple of my go to’s – the 2016 Capsouto Cuvee Samuel and the 2014 Lueria Terrace – neither of which is a new release, but both of which I enjoy often enough.
So, in short – the festival provides a nice cool relaxed atmosphere – and this year you could even find what to drink – and the weather was great. But really, they need to get their act togethe. More wineries, serving more wines – and for the duration of the event – especially at that price…..