The slightly more relaxed pace of Chol Hamoed gives me the opportunity to catch up on a whole bunch of witting. One of the few wineries consistently putting out not only excellent wines but also providing excellent value is Netofa. Year after year Netofa appears on pretty much everyone’s QPR list – and this year will be no different. Way back at KFWE London, David Raccah and I arranged a joint visit with Pierre Miodownick , Netofa’s legendary winemaker to coincide with David’s planned Pesach trip to Israel. this was actually the 2nd of 4 wineries we visited together in the weeks leading up to Pesach, but as it has been on the books the longest, I figured I would finish my notes on it first.
Pierre really needs no introduction. He was of course the winemaker for Royal between 1988-2014 – making almost all of the famous French wines from that period. While he continues to make a number of French wines each year, his primary focus is his Israeli winery – Netofa, named after the village in which it is located Mitspe Netofa. While getting there is a bit of a schlep, if you make the journey, you will be rewarded with one of the nicest tasting rooms in all of Israel – and of course some of the very best wines as well.
While I hadn’t done a complete portfolio tasting with Pierre since the very end of 2017, I had tasted most of these wines at various points over the course of the last few month – but tasting them all together and against previous vintages is always a treat and gives greater perspective on the the winery as a whole.
Before I start – one thing to pay attention to – please – make sure you buy your wines from someone whose storage is up to par. The Domain White and Rosé were part of the blind tasting we had the other night – and did not show well at all. As I have had these wines multiple other times, I know its NOT the wine – which means its the storage…. With that out of the way, on to the wines!
2018 Domaine Netofa White – This wine has developed slightly since I tasted it at KFWE London – nose is much the same – cut dried grass and mineral. The mouth has developed a bit more with a mix of nice tart citrus and some stone fruit in the back. All his held in check with a healthy amount of minerality and acidity. This unoaked Chenin is a step above the 2017 – which was also great. Really excellent. this bottle and all of the wines in the Domaine series retails for about NIS 55 a bottle – making it a perennial QPR superstar.
2017 Latour Netofa White – Fully in line with other vintages, though a step behind 2016. It has actually improved greatly since the last time I had it in November – but likely could use another year to reach peak. With this oak aged version of Pierre’s Chenin currently you get the straw and the pear with some nutmeg and vanilla with medium acidity. Presents really balanced. Will be very interesting to see where this is at the end of the year.
2017 Tel Qasser White – No real change since my last few tastings. This wine is a real pleasure. A great floral nose. Orange blossom for the most part. Hay, apple and pear in the mouth. Great full body with excellent mouthfeel. This is an absolute beauty of a wine.
2016 Tel Qasser White – Real development here. This is likely because this was the first vintage and all new oak was used – this still needed a good swirl to fully open up. Beautifully floral nose. Further nutty flavor than on the initial release. I would say pecans – in addition to the apple and hay found in the ’17. I’d say of the 2, while the ’17 might be more approachable and drinking better today, the ’16 will go longer and develop further.
2018 Domaine Netofa Rosé – For the most part, this GSM based Rosé is just as I remember it from London – a strawberry monster both nose and mouth. Very nice though. Medium acidity. A little round, but it finishes nicely with some very nice citrus with a little bite. Really a wine that you can gulp down on a hot day and as mentioned – at a great price.
2018 Latour Netofa Rosado – What can I say – I love this wine. It is one of the best Rosés out there this year IMHO. This is the second release of this Tempranillo based Rosé. I know that it was divisive last year – it will be again this year as it is in the same style. More tart and slightly more balanced than the Domaine – this wine for me is the winner. Still red berry though raspberry instead of strawberry with nice lime and saline again. Now this wine is expensive and is priced at the more premium end of the Rosé spectrum – about NIS 90 or so. For me, it is the only Rosé of the season so far that I have tasted that is worth that price.
2017 Domaine Netofa Red – This wine is a GSM blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre. It has developed nicely since release – much less fruit on nose – more smoke. It certainly didn’t present as ripe as the first time I had it. great dark blue and red fruit and berry. In the mouth, more of the same with some excellent earthiness as well as some nice spice. As I have written before, this is the most “ready” on release of the Domains I have tasted until now – and again – this wine is a STEAL at NIS 55.
2017 Latour Netofa Red – Like the rest of the 2017 reds from Netofa – this wine is FAR less austere and presents as more ready than the 2016. That’s not say there is no aging potential – there is, I just don’t know how much more it will develop as it seems fairly open and ready. Dark fruit ripe fruit, warm spice some earth and a touch of roasted meat with a hint of earthiness already showing. This wine will likely be fully ready next year – which is crazy – as the 2012’s are currently the Latours that I am drinking at home!! Also at NIS 75-80 – this wine is ANOTHER QPR superstar – especially as its really already approachable!
2017 Tel Qasser Red – If I had to pick a single wine that didn’t really speak to me during this tasting, this was it. The Tel Qasser is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. It showed VERY ripe on the nose and in the mouth. Now with the 2016, this blew off. This is not my experience with the 2017 at this point. Red berries with some nice tobacco and herbs. Ultimately, this may yet develop and shift, but for now it’s bit too much for me.
2016 Netofa Dor Tempranillo – I have written about this wine a number of times already. I might be biased as I really do LOVE tempranillo. But it’s
incredible. Let’s get one thing straight – this is not a Rioja tempranillo. This is a unique style – perhaps the definitive Israeli style of the varietal. Far more muscular and rich. Nose is all meat and some smoke with something mineral underneath. Mouth is layers and layers of dark fruit, meat, herbs and a rich chocolate and mineral concentrated finish. The wine is perfectly balanced with excellent acid and beautiful tannin – really a wonderful wine. Perhaps my favorite Netofa wine ever.
2010 Netofa Tinto – 60% Touriga Nacional 40% Tempranillo. This was the first vintage of the now discontinued Tinto. Besides being very slightly oxidized, this wine was in really great shape. This might be the first time I am tasting a ’10 – I can’t find any of my notes that reference anything earlier than the ’11. Amazing that from the get go, the Tinto finish – which was really love it or hate it – sort of like bitter baker’s chocolate with green tobacco. I love it – but clearly I was in the minority. Th 2016 was the last vintage for the Tinto….
2010 Netofa LBV Port Style Wine – I think Pierre said that we were drinking the last bottle of the 2010 LBV. It is now done. there has been a little change here in that this wine my be slipping ever so slightly past peak. Still super, super enjoyable and better than most other wines in this style will ever be. Why do I say slightly over? I sort of tasted a more pronounced raisin than I had in the past. But that could be. I could also just be comparing it retroactively to the 2012 which I will describe in a minute. Still, I think its a touch over. But if you have some you are still in for a treat with some EXCELLENT dark chocolate and figs and tons of dark rich ripe fruit. unfolding. A wonderful wine
2012 Netofa LBV Port Style Wine – not yet officially released, but the wine is finished and should be released officially in a couple of months. I happen to like it even MORE than the 2010 – especially with where the 2010 is holding right now (I’m not a raisin fan). This wine like its predecessor is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo and was aged for 48 months in oak. The nose here is similar to what the 2010 was on release – and in a word, intoxicating. Crazy red and black fruit, figs and tons of chocolate. In the mouth, there are subtleties that I think are starting to fade in the 2010 – specifically the dark berry and fig notes. Of course you also have the endless dark chocolate. Really – this is another huge win.
Now – onto a couple of other Netofa tidbits.
- In a year from now we should be seeing the release of the worlds first 10 Year Old Tawny Port-styled wine. I for one am super excited to see how the 2010 Port will show as the 2010 Netofa Tawny. IN fact the only thing I’m not excited about is what I expect to be the price….
- There will likely be 2018 Mourvedre based wine (with a touch of Syrah) that will join the Tel Qasser line (perhaps be caled MourSyr).
- I am told that an announcement regarding US distribution will be coming right after Pesach – so there is a good chance that many of the wines listed above will finally be available to wine lovers in America.
My very special thanks to Pierre Miodownick who is always so generous with both his time and his wines – and to the rest of the folks at Netofa for hosting us. And of course to my buddy DR – who made the drive and even the tasting far more interesting and fun than they would have been if I had done them solo.