Blind Tastings with David Raccah and friends

When I visit the US, I usually spend some quality time with fellow wine-lovers who I get to see too infrequently. But with limited time (and funds), I basically stick to the NY/NJ area each trip to be close to my family. That makes visiting with friends from other areas a real treat. Luckily David Raccah makes his way to Israel a couple of times a year. Usually he organizes a few large blind tastings and winery visits for friends and I am happy to be counted among those who get to tag along.

A couple of  weekends ago David was in for a wedding and  for this trip scheduled 3 winery visits and 2 blind tastings one of which I hosted in Beit Shemesh.  I’ll leave the winery visits to another post and just deal with the blind tastings here.

The first of the tastings was held in Jerusalem on a Thursday night. Before I start, I’ll say that my palate is the most New World friendly of those that tasted at either session.

First the good:
2016 Carmel Kayoumi Riesling – This was the absolute surprise of the  night for me. I had tasted this a couple of months back and it was OK – but not on par with the epic ’14 – not even close. But I am happy to say that this wine has progressed and has turned into something really special. For me, the ’14 is still the winner – but I am sure it is a bit austere for the more casual drinker. This bottle blind had the weightiness and mouthfeel of a German Riesling , but the overall profile found in the ’14. At an average street price of NIS 65 – it is a NO BRAINER –  Stock up!

2017 Netofa Tel Qasser White- as per my notes from my first tasting last month in NY, very much in line with the ’16 and perhaps a slight step ahead. Really nice.

2017 Gvaot Chardonay-Cabernet  – As most years, very nice. The Cabernet gives the wine some heft and balances out the Chard in  a really unique way. I am surprised no one else has started doing this, as this has been a successful blend for Gvaot for years.

2017 Domaine Netofa Red – Perennial QPR winner for me. Really nice this year. Well made and perfectly balanced as usual. If I’d have to give one note, it was softer than I expected – by far the most approachable of the Domaine Netofa Red’s on release IMHO.

2016 Ben Zimra 26 Cabernet Sauvignon -Was totally surprised here. Not sure why, but this one hit the spot for me. Easy drinking Cab that didn’t try to overdo it with oak. Nice red fruit. Maybe a touch riper than I would have liked, but not so much that it killed it for me Will be looking to spend more time with it  at a later date.

2014 Tzora Shoresh Red – The first of my contributions to the evening – I happen to like this. Others thought that it had become lackluster. I happen to like the ’15 better (though I haven’t tasted in over a year), but this one still is doing fine IMHO.

2017 Netofa Tel Qasser Red -A step behind the ’16 for sure and riper, but still very nice. Also more ready  – a recurring theme for Netofa ’17 reds and perhaps the vintage as a whole. Typical Grenache profile for the most part. Enjoyed it.

2016 Covenant Israel Syrah 16 – I think I might have been the only one at the tasting that liked this, but at least I’m consistent – even blind (full disclosure, this was one of my contributions to the evening)

The following wines were OK – nothing wrong with them at all, just nothing extra special either. I would say that these probably deserve another look.

2016 Dalton Alma Scarlet – Eh. Again nothing wrong – just nothing to write home about. Should probably retaste under more optimum conditions.

2017 Dalton Estate Chenin Blanc  – Nice enough, but there are better options out there.

2017 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc   – Though at that price, it’s hard to justify – but it didn’t suck – and for me with SB that’s saying something I guess

2017 Teperberg Inspire Devotage   – Far better than the ’16, not as good as the ’14. Will likely try again. Could be it just needs to settle down

Unfortunately, these wines were not at all for me – not gonna bother paying to give them another chance either:

2017 Latour Netofa White – Shocked as I have been a fan of every Latour White up until now. The nose was weird – really sharp and the mouth had a really bitter bite to it that was way out there for what I would have expected from a Chenin, especially this one.

2017 Vitkin Emek Hefer Cabernet Sauvignon  – This is the first Vitkin wine that truly did not like at all.

2013 Lueria Rosso  – This was a nice wine, it just simply has not held up. Totally out of balance and sweet.

2016 Matar Cabernet Sauvignon  – This one was so sweet I thought it was done in the Jenuesse semi-sweet style. Huge miss.

2017 Dalton Fumé Blanc  – This might be unfair – but SB’s have to be really nice to even get a second look from me…. Sorry – personal bias.

Off Bottles (Corked, Oxidized, Dead):

Domaine Netofa White 17 – Corked

Avidan Nebbiolo 15 -Oxidized –  too bad – I was looking forward to Raccah tasting this one.

Galil Grenache Noir 14 – Oxidized

Yarden Pinot Noir 12 – Dead

2017 Recanati Med Blend Red   – Corked (though others at the table just thought it was bad wine…)

The following Sunday we met at my house in Beit Shemesh. David and a few of the others had just come from tasting through all of Ya’acov Oryah’s current releases. As I had already tasted through all of Yaacov’s stuff, I decided to skip and prepare for the onslaught that would come later in the evening.

Same format as the Thursday night tasting – with slightly fewer people. Results were far worse though. Getting the Oryah leftovers sort of made my night.

The good  (take note, not a red in the bunch):

2017 Lueria Unoaked Chardonnay  – Well balanced. Some lemon/lime, a touch of apple and nice mineral. I also suspect there is a bit SB blended in here as it did have some gooseberry as well.

2016 Elyon Supreme  Emerald Riesling-Muscat  – I never would have guessed this was an Emerald Riesling based wine – and that’s a compliment! Profiled more like an off-dry Gewurtz. For an Emerald Riesling, a win for sure. Enough acid to balance it out. Well done. Nice gateway white.

2017 Recanati Med Blend White – Made of Colombard, Roussane and Chardonnay. Round. Nice fruit. Maybe could have used a little more acid.  But overall nice.

2017 Gamla Riesling – So when I first tasted it I said eh. It’s OK, but nothing special. But at NIS 40 or so – it is definitely worth price. Off dry style. Would be very happy to drink again with some spicy Chinese food.

2017 Vitkin Riesling – The main thing that this wine has against it is it’s price tag. But if you forget about that, it’s a well made dry Riesling. Having said that – hard to recommend this over the Kayoumi – and certainly not for the NIS 100 they take for it. But again – it was a nice well made Riesling and I enjoyed it.

The following wines were OK – nothing wrong with them at all, just nothing extra special either.

2016 Château Les Riganes –  Nice red juicy berry and  tobacco. People around the table said that it tasted riper than it has previously. My undeveloped American palate thought it OK – though  nothing special. Another case where the wine has softened to the point that it may be lacking balance for some. For me it’s on the edge – but as its a QPR winner, I’d still buy and try for now.  In any event, drink up – son’t stock up….

2016 Carmel 4 Vats – t has moved from being excellent to a little past peak – so drink up.

2016 Kishor GSM – Hot on the finish but overall OK.

2017 Tulip Espero White – Was OK – but sort of fell apart at the end, but it could be that it was a bit warm. Should probably retaste.

And of course, these are the wines that are a  pass for me:

2017  Frederic David  Rosé – Both hot and sweet –  and utterly unbalanced.

2016 Bat Shlomo Chardonnay – Tasted like oaky bananas. Hard pass.

2017 Lueria Pinot Grigio  – You can’t win ’em all. tasted more like an overly oaked chard than what PG should taste like.

2017 Bat Shlomo Chardonay Special Reserve  – This was an orange wine  in name and color – but if you are used to having the real thing, you can skip this one. Also, SUPER expensive considering….

2013 Carmel Shaal Merlot  – 2013  in the SV series so far has been a disappointment  – though I haven’t had the Kayomi Shiraz yet, so there is hope….

2016 -Elyon Supreme  Cabernet Sauvignon – I can usually get behind a slightly riper profile with some smoke behind it, but this one was really not for me.

2012 La Gravelle Chinon  – No notes other than the  word  bad. Sorry.

2016 Frederic David Red  – This was a GSM blend I think from Cote du Rhône. Just goes to show you that just becasue it’s french from the right appelation, doesn’t mean it’s gonna be a winner….

2017 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – REALLY disappointed here. I usually count on this as a got to reasonably priced Cab. Just shows you how hard the 2017 vintage was. This one was sort of all over the place and that lack of balance sort of kills it for me.

2016 Tzora Judean Hills Red – WHAT? Yes. Listen – it’s not horrible – and probably could go on my OK list. But this wine was a HUGE disappointment, because when I first tasted it back in May it was KICKING!. It is a vanilla bomb right now. A far cry from what it was on release. And, lest you think this was a bad bottle, it tasted the same at the winery recently, so….

There were 2 DOA/problematic/corked bottles as well:

2016 Capsouto Cuvee Samuel   – Oxidized – bad bottle. Have had this recently elsewhere and has been very good.

2010 Château Du Rocher – Dead

I am sure my notes will differ from Raccah’s so be sure to follow him at where hopefully he will eventually post his notes. My thanks to David for instigating these tastings and to those who participated – esspecially schlepping out to Beit Shemesh.

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