RCC Israel # 40 – Shevat 5782

OK. This is it. THIS is the last post prior to my France posts – of which the first is 90% done. I just couldn’t let an RCC pass without a write up. Hopefully I will get all the France posts done before the next RCC. I’ll keep it brief though – as I really do want to get this stuff out, and my work schedule these days is packed, not to mention my personal life, as my daughter Yocheved got engaged last night! So very little time – but I’ll do my best.

So here it goes. This month we were hosted for the first time at the home of the Pfeffers in Katamon at their beautiful home. They were truly wonderful and gracious hosts, and I do hope we are able to hold additional RCC’s there in the future. Amram Pitterman was on chef duty  – and a big thanks to him – he was abroad the week before in Europe and was out of bidud (quarantine) with just enough time to get everything but a couple of sauces prepared. Of the dishes, my favorite was the Pulled Beef Cinnamon Bun – really inventive and delicious!

On to the wines. This month we were able to put together a few interesting parings. First, we had a number of wines from the 2011 vintage in Israel. Second, we were able to taste a number of wines from various regions across the globe from the 2014 vintage. Lastly, we had a mini-vertical of Castel Grand Vin – vintages 2010, ’11, ’12 & ’13 – all of which were in good shape and performed really well.

Here are my notes:

Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Brut, NV – No real change here from my last note; this bottle had perhaps a little bit less of that yeastiness. This continues to be THE best QPR sparkling wine around. Period.

Segal, Single Vineyard, Argaman, Dovev, 2006 (Bonus Bottle) – A few months back, we tasted the 2007 vintage of the wine, and it was the surprise of the night. This wine is the inaugural release of what became a signature wine for Segal. While very nice, the wine is not on the level of the excellent 2007. While still really in perfect shape, it never really developed those excellent tertiary notes that were present in the ’07. Instead, it remains a pleasant wine. Still, no small feat for a wine that cost about NIS 65 and is now 16 years old.  My thanks to the Mongaits for the extra bottle.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Merlot, 1997 – Having just tasted this a couple of months ago, I was very interested in seeing if all of the bottles were in as good shape. This bottle was sourced from the winery via someone who worked there a couple of years ago.  Other bottles from the same source have been in relatively good to great shape. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. As opposed to the bottle I tasted a couple of months back from the winery, this wine, while still containing all of the building blocks (acid, tannin, fruit), just tasted tired. As I mentioned previously, there is NO reason to hold on wines once they have ceased developing. Simply drink them before they decline! There is a good chance that had this bottle been drunk even 2-3 years ago, it would have been MUCH more enjoyable!

Agur, Karka, 2014 – This wine has a very interesting backstory. It is made of 100% of the grape variety Oseleta which is Italian in origin and is rare even in its country of origin. The grapes were grown by Eran Pick, MW winemaker at Tzora as an experiment that he decided to not pursue. As such, the grapes from 2014-2016 were available for use and were purchased by Shuki Yashuv of Agur winery, and this is the resulting wine. The fact that we have a kosher version of a wine that is extremely rare even in the non-kosher world is quite remarkable. This is the third time I have had this wine. The first time was actually memorable for a different reason. It was the first time I met my good friend David Raccah in person. His write up of that evening (and the wine) is here. The second time the bottle was corked – and as I had heard that the wine was sold out, I was sort of bummed that I would likely not get a chance to have it again. So when it was offered as a selection here, I was super psyched. Now while David’s notes hold true, I doubt I would give the wine an A-; it’s more of a B+. I hoped that it would have shown some development profile-wise towards some tertiary notes. It hasn’t. It has stayed the same more or less with the only reduction here being in acidity – which perhaps takes the wine out of balance a bit. But it still holds as being varietally true, as far as I can tell – in that it is super tannic and richly colored, with dark near black berry, good mineral, and some lead in the background. As mentioned, the acidity is slightly on the decline so I would drink now – but ultimately this is really a very rare wine and I am happy that we had it at an RCC!

Adir, Shiraz, Kerem Ben-Zimra, 2012 – This bottle is in drink up stage, as it has gone a bit jammy. Nice enough though, but nothing that is gonna knock your socks off. If I remember correctly, I liked this more a couple of years back – it simply is just a bit past peak.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Single Vineyard, Merlot, Odem, 2011 – Another wine that I had just tasted at that Merlot tasting. No real difference here at all in notes. As it happens, we served this wine and the following two with the Pulled Beef Cinnamon Bun, as I knew how the wine would taste and I hoped it would complement the dish. I was not wrong. I think the pairing enhanced the wine to a degree.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 – As with the bottle above, this wine presents sweet. It was sweet at release and is still sweeter now without that same level of acidity found in the Merlot to balance. With the food, it worked. Without it, it is time to drink up, as it’s not getting any better.

Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 (Bonus Bottle) – This was an extra bottle brought by Simon. This was fortuitous as it presented an opportunity to taste two CS wines from the 2011 vintage side by side – each from a top producer. This is a wine that has shown bottle variation in the past (see here and here) I will say that, while the wine was weaker than I remember, it was head and shoulders above the Yarden. In any event, at this point it is time to drink. The wine is likely just a bit past peak.

Covenant, Neshama, 2014 – At this point of the evening we moved to a trio of wines from parts of the world that are not Israel – One Boudreaux, one Rioja, and this California blend. While each of these wines is made of different varietals, they each sort of typify the region they come from, for better or worse. In the case of the Neshama, this was a slightly better showing than the last bottle we had. Having said that, it’s a big bold fruit forward Cali blend. I guess when I drink Covenant (US) wines, I sort of have the expectation that there will be a bit more refinement, a bit less of that in your face fruitiness – but again, the paring with the slider was appropriate and the wine quite enjoyable.

Clos Lavaud, Lalande-de-Pomerol, 2014 – Showing beautifully, this was the inaugural vintage of the Clos Lavaud made by famed winemaker of Domaine Roses Camille, Christophe Bardeau. It is of course Merlot based (I believe there is a small amount of CabSav in this vintage – though I could be wrong). This wine showed wonderfully with great earthiness and mushrooms on the nose, followed by blackberries and plum. In the mouth, you have a very complete package – with blackberry, forest floor, and some great mushrooms, with some nice mineral and graphite. The finish is long and elegant. The wine is medium plus bodied with nice acidity and well-integrated tannin. I think the wine is at peak now and will likely hold for another year or two. [I think that with subsequent vintages, this wine has a bit more staying power.]

Elvi Wines, Herenza, Reserva, Rioja, 2014 – This is perhaps my favorite vintage of the Herenza Reserva (part of that has to do with this now legendary wine pairing). While it has been the earliest accessible wine of the three vintages released, it still does benefit from a good 2+ hours of air (I tasted a sample before decanting). My notes though really haven’t changed from previous tastings. You should be stocking up on these while you can, 2016 should be released in the VERY near future.

Domaine Du Castel, Grand Vin, 2010 – We next moved on to our min-vertical of Castel Grand Vin. It’s not often that the stars align, and you get offers of this many vintages in order. We started with oldest and moved to youngest in this case. I was a little worried about the 2010 as the storage was a bit iffy, but this bottle was in excellent shape. Wonderful dark fruit, some pepper, and some dark cherry. On the finish, sweet tobacco and rich chocolate. This wine is at peak and really showed beautifully. My second favorite of the evening.

Domaine Du Castel, Grand Vin, 2011 – WOW! This was a blockbuster for me and my favorite of the GV’s.  The notes are similar to the 2010 with rich dark fruit and a bit of spice on the nose. In the mouth, really nice and layered with rich dark red forest fruit, black plum, some really nice earthiness, and some toasted herb getting  into that really nice tobacco and espresso finish. Really wonderful stuff. This guy has more time in the tank too, as far as I can tell. 

Domaine Du Castel, Grand Vin, 2012 – From a profile perspective, this was my least favorite of the four GV’s but was still excellent. And, on further reflection, I would say that it was likely the third best of the evening. It was a bit jammy and ripe, but overall very nice – and again it helped that it was paired with the brisket. The reason that I say it was the third best is only because I think this guy has more time in the tank than its slightly younger brother.

Domaine Du Castel, Grand Vin, 2013 – As I have noted on MANY occasions at this point, DRINK THIS WINE NOW. My notes here have not changed. I still really do like this wine, but it is in decline and sweetens up more quickly as time goes on. Do not make the mistake of holding on to this one past its prime! Enjoy it while it is still enjoyable!

Netofa, Fine Ruby, NV -. I do believe this is the new bottling (despite the back label indicating it is still from the 2017 bottling – I just think they reused those labels) – as this was as good as I remember the barrel sample. In any event, as always this was a crowd pleaser and showed as well as the Fine Ruby has ever shown. Excellent stuff – and a wine you should always have a couple of bottles of in the cellar.

My thanks again to the Pfeffers for hosting and Chodesh Tov to all! Next up – France (I promise)!

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