HaRoeh Winery is located on Moshav Kfar HaRoeh and is a stones through from both Vitkin and Recanati wineries just north of Netanya. It is run by winemaker Ehud Kave and is sort of at this point a large garagiste or ultra-boutique winery. The winery was started in 2010 an produced a single barrel of Merlot with fruit sourced from Dalton, upping to 2 barrels in 2011. Neither of those releases had any sulphites added to the wine which made them relatively short lived products. From the 2012 vintage, sulphites have been added, but the winery still only uses wild yeast and makes no adjustments/corrections to the wine. With the 2012 vintage production doubled again to about 4 barrels and in addition to the 2 barrels of Merlot, a barrel of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignion were added. In 2013 production was upped again to 6 barrels and Syrah was added and so on things have progressed until today where the winery has the current lineup:
Merlot – Petite Sirah,Upper Galilee ,2017 – NIS 79
Cabernet – Merlot ,Dishon & Dalton, 2016 – NIS 89
Chardonnay(unoaked), Esh Kodesh, 2018 – NIS 99
Marselan ,Dalton ,2016 – NIS 140
Petit Verdot – Petite Sirah ,Kfar Shamay & Dalton, 2016 – NIS 120
Petite Sirah ,Kfar Shamay, 2017 – NIS 140
Of the above I was provided samples to taste of the Chardonnay, Merlot-Petite Syrah, and Single Vineyard Marselan. Notes will follow below.
Ultimately, the biggest problem boutique wineries have is creating value with such small scale. In years where you have excellent vintages in France and Spain – you can get absolutely top tier wine from all but the classed french growths and ultra-premium Napa Cabs for the same price or less than what many boutique wines cost. It becomes VERY hard to justify their purchase in all but he rarest of circumstance.
(One way the wineries try to provide value is by creating wine-clubs where members sign up in advance for subscriptions. Wines, usually of the winery’s choice, are then provided at regular intervals at reduced prices. This gives the winery the ability for guaranteed cash flow in exchange for reduced profit. While this can be OK, because the consumer has no control of which wines are received, you sometimes get stuck with wine that is simply not to your taste.)
Here, it looks like Mr. Kave has tried to price himself with some sort of awareness to the market around him. The wines range from NIS 79 and max out at NIS 140. Having said that, at the upper end I still find these wines hard to justify. At NIS 140 for a bottle of Marselan, it better be killer (spoiler – it’s OK, but not excellent). Still, these wines are well made with quality fruit and should be enjoyable to most – and the prices are at least within reason.
Chardonnay , Esh Kodesh Vineyards , 2018 – I really, really liked this Chard. It’s nice and well made. No tropics at all – all green apple and mineral and even a touch of earthiness. It went through malolactic fermentation in stell and that gave it some nice body – though it did not end up with the sometimes overly buttery notes you sometimes get from malo in oak. Medium acidity. Really nicely balanced. Well done. And at NIS 99, while it’s not cheap, you are getting pretty fair value. Nice!
Merlot – Petite Sirah,Upper Galilee ,2017 (sample was a half bottle) – When I first poured this wine the nose was really ripe. On first pour the mouth was INCREDIBLY round and all you got was ripe red fruit. Really one note. Almost no acidity. With a good hour of air, the wine became much more balanced and the acid showed itself. Still not a lot of depth here – and riper than I would like. But as an every day wine – perhaps to enjoy with a burger, not bad. But here is where you start getting into QPR issues. at NIS 79 a bottle I really would expect more. Now, a micro-boutique winery is going to have profit margin issues at the lower end, as I described above – so I understand why it’s priced where it is, but as a customer, I really shouldn’t care about that and so for me, I would likely ultimately pass on this.
Marselan ,Singe Vineyard, Dalton ,2016 – Marselan has been gaining traction here as it is thought to be well suited to the Mediterranean climate here in Israel. It is relatively young cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It is found in a number of blends and there are even a few varietal bottlings. Binyamina has made one for a while, though I usually don’t care for it. Recanati has had success with it’s Marselan, and that is one that is really vintage dependent. I thought the 2012 was killer and the 2013 not too far behind, but the 2014 was a pass. But those are from much larger wineries selling at much lower price points. If I wanted to compare apples to apples price and winery size-wise, I would likely have to compare it to Kobi Arbiv’s Mia Luce Whole Cluster Marselan which has had 2 releases 2016 and 2017, with the 2017 being the better of the 2 IMHO. There are actually some shared characteristics here. Both are sort of floral on the nose and both have an overall red berry profile. The difference is, this one is MUCH more fruit forward than the Mia Luce. That’s not a dig – it’s just a different style. Body was medium. There was some nice structure here with the acid and tannin all playing nicely. Bottle held nicely overnight into the second day as well. As I have no track record with this wine I really don’t know how it will age or develop. And that’s where we again get into a problem for me. It’s hard to recommend a NIS 140 bottle without any guarantee that it’ll hold for 5 years after vintage or gain any further complexity. Might it? Absolutely! But it is very hard to predict with a very limited track record in general . Still, I enjoyed the wine for what it was – and I didn’t pay for it.
So a little bit of a mixed bag, but enough there to me want to try the rest of the lineup when the opportunity rises – and if the Chard was easily accessible, I would be buying some for sure.
I’d like to thank the winemaker, Ehud Kave for dropping off these wines for me to taste. As these wines are hard to find with VERY limited production on some of them, you can email him at email@example.com for info on where to purchase or to buy directly.