Vitkin Winery Visit – April 2019

Since becoming Kosher with the 2015 vintage, Vitkin has pretty much shot to the top of the list of wineries which produce a consistently good line of wines. That’s not say there aren’t occasional misses here and there – but it is rare. In fact, having tasted almost all of the kosher output until now, there is only a single wine that I really didn’t like. All of the rest range from good to wonderful. VERY few wines can boast that kind of track record with me. For all of that, when David suggested another visit to Vitkin, I was apprehensive. “Another visit?” you ask – “but you’ve never written about a visit to Vitkin before!”…. Exactly. Last time I visited was also with Raccah this past November, but do to a misunderstanding between David and the winery, they simply were unprepared to handle the entourage that David brought with him – especially as we came while the winery was closed and they had no staff there [if I showed up with 6 unexpected guests at your house, you might not be able to handle it either] and in the end things just didn’t work out – as is documented in his write up – I’m AD in the post ūüėČ . No blame there , it was all misunderstanding – but I wanted to make sure that if we went, the winery knew in advance and everything was going to be cool. David is a persuasive guy and assured me we would be good, and thankfully it all worked super smoothly this time.]

I have to say, sitting with winemaker Assaf Paz is a pleasure. Super gracious and truly knowledgeable with a clear vision of where he wants to be with his wines. At this point, 55-60% of the wine that Vitkin produces is White & Ros√©. Of the remaining 40-45% Red, you will not find any Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or even Syrah. Assaf prefers to devote his energies to wines that he feels are suited to the Israeli climate and believes that the Israeli drinker is slowly developing a preference for this flavor profile. We can only hope. (For a full history of the winery, you can read Yossie Horwitz’ excellent write-up. No need for me to literally re-write history!)

2018 Vitkin Masa Yisraeli (Israeli Journey) White- A Columbard based blend (40%) with Roussane, Viognier and Grenache Blanc in equal amounts and a touch of Gew√ľrztraminer. The melon from the Gewurtz actually is felt far more than one would think based on how little Gewutz is in the wine. Grapefruit is present as well. Overall this is a very nice basic white with good acid. The finish is a little thin and alcoholic and sort of goes out of balance. Still, for the price, pretty solid.

2018 Vitkin Riesling – Very delicate nose. Faint funk. In the mouth some really nice acid. Definitely German in style. Beautiful citrus. Funk. Can use a little time for it all to integrate but this wine is killer. Their best kosher vintage yet for sure – and truthfully one of the best Israeli Rieslings available – and all at only 11.8% abv!

2018 Vitkin Collector’s Edition Grenache Blanc – On the nose honeysuckle, hay and some sort of blossoms. Crazy acid a beautiful fruit. Mostly melon. Excellent mineral. A saline monster. Needs to be drunk slightly warmer. Really lovely elegant wine!

2018 Vitkin Collectors’s Edition Gew√ľrztraminer – The nose here has crazy pineapple, which I do NOT mind. . Nice and dry with good body. Also pineapple in the mouth with typical grapefruit and some lychee. Really very nice. Far better than the ’17 – which I think is the rule with this vintage in general. This is one of a few really nice dry Gewurtz’s that have come out this year.

2018 Mystery Mediterranean Varietal – In 2013 Asaf imported vinestock of a white varietal from a country in the Mediterranean. While the wine is finished and bottled, the labels are not yet ready and that is holding up the release. Until it is released, Asaf does not want to name either the varietal or it country of origin. He is only willing to say that it is a Mediterranean country and that this is the first time the varietal is being produced in Israel. Crazy floral nose. White & Yellow fruit. Asian pear. Excellent mineral and some really nice hay. This is the kind of wine that I just adore. All I can say is that I pre-ordered some to make sure I get it when it is finally released – which should be within a couple of weeks after Pesach. Any later than that and I think Vitkin needs to look at getting a new printer….

2018 Vitkin Chardonnay – barrel sample – 70% in barrel. 5 months, the rest in steel . Some really nice apple and lemon. Acid is really prominent This requires more time for integration, but shows a lot of promise.

2017 Vitkin Masa Yisraeli (Israeli Journey) Red – This blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Cab Franc comes in at a very respectable 12%. This is not the first time I have had this wine and while my previous notes hold true for the most part, the wine has benefited from a couple of months in the bottle and is showing better. It is on par with the ’16 and maybe even a touch better. Juicy and tart. With mostly red and some blue fruit and a hint of roasted meat. It really is a perfect pasta wine and a great every day drink.

2017 Vitkin Collector’s Edition Grenache Noir – This is actually a blend of 93% Grenache Noir and 7% Marsellan. Roasted animal and dark red fruit on the nose. Both follow through in the mouth. Ripe but controlled. Light to medium bodied. Nice acid and tannin. The finish has a bit of chocolate and nice warm spice. Yummy.

2018 Vitkin Masa Yisraeli (Israeli Journey) Ros√© – We almost forgot to taste the Ros√© – and that would have been a pity. I think this is the best (kosher) vintage yet for this wine. A blend of Greanche Noir and Carignan. Wow – pink grapefruit. A hint of residual sweetness. (RS of 1.9 gr/l, so ) Excellent. 12% abv. This is a wine you want to GULP down . It is SO refreshing. I used this for my 4th cup at the seder this year after having a port for the 3rd and it was spectacular – AND super reasonably priced. This bottle proves again that you don’t need to be spending over NIS 80 for a quality Ros√©.

2018 Late Harvest Gew√ľrztraminer (Pre-Release) – We ended of the visit with another treat. A dessert wine – specifically a Late Harvest Gew√ľrztraminer. Here is the kicker – unless I am mistaken, this is the first naturally occurring botrytis infected wine since the 1988 Yarden Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc! (All of the GHW Yarden Noble Semillon releases were lab infected.) While no where near ready, it is already a beautiful wine. Nice acidity, to balance out beautiful honeyed apricot. Obviously this wine will develop greatly over the next number of years. I’ve had 15 year old bottles of the Yarden Noble Semillon that have held up wonderfully. But don’t expect this to be cheap at all. Pricing will be in the same range as other high end white dessert wines – and quantity is RIDICULOUSLY limited. But this is a special wine and worth getting yourself up to the winery to purchase – when it eventually is released.

Also I am told that there will finally be a kosher Shorashim release. Shorashim is Vitkin’s top tier flagship wine, released infrequently at best – I think the last vintage was 2011 which was prior to the winery becoming kosher. So that;’s ANOTHER thing to look forward to in addition to the goodies we got to taste now.

All in all this was a really great visit. My thanks to Assaf and the rest of the folks at Vitkin for spending time with us and letting us taste through these really great wines. It was an absolute pleasure.

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