Once in a while I attend a gathering of an Israeli wine group called Toameha (טועמיה) run by my friend Yitzchak Nimni. Many of the members including Yitzchak are regular attendees of RCC Israel, so it is a nice way to catch up with people in a non-RCC setting. This past Wednesday night a group of about 25 members met at Flam Winery where we were hosted to a mini vertical of Flam Blanc (’14, ’16 & ’17), an almost complete vertical of Flam’s kosher Reserve Syrah 2011-2016 skipping the inaugural 2010 vintage (not sure why they skipped it) and the 2015 vintage which was a shmita year (though made via heter mechira) and therefore problematic for certain attendees. We finished with a taste of the just released Noble 2014 which I had tasted previously at the pre-release event back in June. As Flam is literally 12 minutes from my house, I get there rather frequently and have tasted these wines many times, but as always, tasting vintage after vintage in the vertical format is always educational – especially in the presence of the winemaker.
2014 Flam Blanc – A blend of 57% Sauvignon Blanc and 43% Chardonnay. Apple and lime on the nose at first. As it opens, the gooseberry comes out some nice tropical fruit . While there is a healthy amount of Chardonnay in this blend, it leans far more to the Sauvignon Blanc side in the mouth with the gooseberry coming through. The Chardonnay rounds it out very nicely though with still nice minerality. Goes to show you, Flam Blanc has nice aging potential for an Israeli white. I would say this could go another year even. Very nice indeed.
2016 Flam Blanc – 58% Sauvignon Blanc and 42% Chardonnay – This was my least favorite of the 3 whites we tasted. The acidity seemed out of whack and if I had to guess was corrected during the blending. This has become more apparent with age and is not one that I would hold any longer – so drink up if you have it.
2017 Flam Blanc – Identical blend to the 2016 – but MUCH improved. Really clean and well balanced. As always apple, lemon/lime, tropical fruit on the nose. In the mouth fresh with clean lines – tropical fruit, lemon, apple, grass, and nice flinty minerality. As good as the 14? Probably not. but a real improvement over the 15 and 16.
2011 Flam Reserve Syrah – 89% Syrah and 11% Mourvèdre – Blue sweet fruit on the nose. In the mouth, some pepper, more blue fruit and some roasted meat and then some warm spice. Drinking REALLY well. This was my favorite of the Syrahs we tasted by far.
2012 Flam Reserve Syrah – 94% Syrah and 6% Mourvèdre – Made in the same style as the ’11 – there is some funk on the nose here and none of that sweetness. In the mouth though,at the start a touch more acidity – but everything else was muted including the finish – sort of just dies off there.
2013 Flam Reserve Syrah – Identical blend to the 2012 with 94% Syrah and 6% Mourvèdre. With this vintage, a shift was made in the style I think to a more robust Syrah – and it works. Presents sweet, almost candied on the nose. In the mouth, none of that sweetness. Big, bold and muscular with raspberries, roasted meat and black pepper. Medium acidity and tannin just starting to come to the center. Nice. Still has plenty of gas in the tank.
2014 Flam Reserve Syrah – 93% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon – At this vintage Golan Flam made a decision to fully embrace a more “Bordeaux” approach to the Syrah, partially because he was becoming less satisfied with the quality of the Mourvèdre feeling that the specfic clone was not really suited to the style – and so gone is the Mourvèdre and enter PV and CS. Despite this, I really liked this wine up through the end of last year. I think over the last few months though, it has taken a decidedly sweeter turn. Still nice though with deep blueberry, roasted meat and black pepper – but this guy is starting to drift out of my comfort zone – time to drink.
2016 Flam Reserve Syrah – 88% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc – continuing the transition fully out of the Rhone style, – unfortunately for me, this vintage is pushed way too far. It’s well made, but ultimately, it is very fruity, a bit over the top and too sweet or me. Perhaps it’ll settle down….
2014 Flam Noble – This was served out of a magnum. As I noted back at the pre-release tasting, this is by far the most approachable a Noble has ever been on release. I don’t know what that says for long term aging potential – but its pretty much ready to go – even out of a magnum – with minimal aeration given to open it up. Nice dark fruit and spice up front – with balancing acidity and velvety tannin. Fruit forward for sure – but not over-ripe and not pushed IMHO. Well balanced and nicely made. A nice way to end the night.