2019 Jerusalem Wine Festival at the Israel Museum

Wow. A year has passed and you can pretty much read last year’s description of this festival and know exactly what you are in for. I’m not going to re-write that post in full but I will summarize, rant and give the highlights – all in short order.

Excellent weather? Check. Nice venue? Check. Kosher food options? Check (nothing great there – but at least you can soak up the alcohol if you wanted). Good music and overall vibe? Check. Sounds great, right? Well not really. What was missing? WINERIES! It seemed like there were even less than last year and many of them were pouring only the absolute lowest end stuff (I’ll get to the exceptions later) – or worse, pulling that “under the table” crap. (End summary – begin rant) Honestly – I don’t get it. Either you want the public to taste your wines – or you don’t. I don’t beg for wine – I drink plenty. I do not need anyone to to do me a favor by giving me the supreme honor of tasting another overpriced, over-oaked, over-hyped masterpiece. Oh – you say your wine actually lives up to it’s hype and price tag? Then why aren’t you sharing that wine…. If there is no significant ROI from a marketing perspective, then don’t come. I would rather that then this crap. Perhaps then with the dwindling wineries, the organizers will realize that something has to change. This year, the price of a ticket rose to NIS 95 – which puts it in line with Sommelier – but Sommlier is MASSIVE in comparison. I mean, this is a joke. I got there at 7:15 – by 8:10 I had tasted through all of the whites. By 9:30 I was done (and my ride out wasn’t scheduled until 11pm!!!!!) Compare that to Sommelier where it could take 2 days to thoroughly get through ALL of the booths and wines. On the plus side (for me at least) I guess perhaps people realized this is NOT a value. The place was relatively empty. Maybe people got finally wised up and realized that there are other better cheaper alternatives to what is being presented here – from a wine perspective. That is this festival’s only hope. Because in Israel, the only way vendors change is when they feel it in their wallets. (End rant.)

So why do I go? Well I rarely get to breezily drink wine in an unassuming, non-pretentious wine snob fashion with my wife Michal and our friends from my neighborhood. And every year someone organizes a bus to and from and that makes this appealing as a social night out for me – and on that count, this event works. See above – it has everything you would want to make this a pleasant evening out with friends, so if you go in with zero expectations on the wine front, you are going to come out OK. And finishing early meant I just sat (stood really) and chilled for a couple of hours. which was nice.

Anyhow on to the wines. What were the highlights/discoveries for me? On the white front there were actually a number of very acceptable wines. I really liked the GHW Yarden ’16 Viogner and ’17 Gewurtz. Both 5 Stones whites – the 2018 DvG and Nobility – were nice. Har Odem’s whites were also good – the 2017 Yaar Odem blend of Chardonnay and Viogier and the Volcanic varietal Viognier. The 2017 Matar Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc was nice as usual. The 2017 Recanati Mediterranean Blend White was good too. as was the 2018 Tulip White Gewurtz-SB Blend. But of course – the absolute best white was a no=brainer. The recently released 2011 Yarden Blanc de Blancs is KILLER. Better than the 2010 even at this early stage. Beautiful creamy mousse, great acidity but actually not overboard (which it tends to be sometimes is when it is this young). The yeasty notes have yet to develop of course – but it’s only been out for a short time. I loved it.

In terms of reds, I was sorely disappointed on almost all fronts – but there were a couple of highlights. Carmel was back this year and was pouring the 2012 Kayoumi Shiraz which has developed really nicely and is now pretty approachable. They also were serving their 96 point Carmel Mediterranean. This was my first time tasting. The wine IS very nice. Is it 96 point nice? No way. But an absolute solid bottle that is worth picking up. Totally balanced – great profile. Good stuff and the best red of the night hands down. There were a few others but really very little to rave about. A couple of interesting discoveries – the Har Odem 2018 Yaar Odem blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Syrah was interesting and was OK for NIS 55. Also on the low end but OK was Jerusalem Wineries 2017 Geshem blend of PS & PV. Neither of those is a QPR star – I certainly would take the Domaine Netofa Red or Vitkin Israeli Journey Red instead of wither of these at that price point – but they were there and drinkable and provided fair value – so OK. More interesting though, Bravdo has a sort of second winery – I think it’s the next generation of Bravdos using their parent’s facilities at Karmei Yosef. The winery name is Neta and both the white and red were young bright and nice. Worth checking out for something new and nice.

What was the BEST discovery for me personally though? Pelter’s Pink Lady Gin – Batch #3. Yeah, yeah – it’s not wine and that should say something about this whole festival. But I’m a gin fan and this really is an excellent gin. While they do not grow the juniper locally, I think they do grow their own Pink Lady apples. Excellent aromatics there. Great in the mouth too with a nice weightiness to it. Only thing missing for me was a twist of lemon to cut it or or a splash of tonic. Also it’s certified Kasher L’Pesach (Kosher for Passover) by the OK – and is by far the best spirit in that often quality-challenged category. But bravo – absolutely worth checking out if you are into gin. Certainly for me, the biggest surprise of the night.

That about wraps it up. Here’s hoping to a better festival next year.

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