Summer is almost over and holiday season is just around the corner. As you may know, the vast majority of wine purchases in Israel take place in the weeks leading up to Rosh HaShana (Jewish new years) as well as the passover holidays. Wineries of course want to ensure that when standing in front of the shelf at your local wine/beverage shop, delicatessen or supermarket, their bottle is the one you take home. Tempting specials are offered at shops across the country, many of the wine stores have representatives from the wineries offering to taste their prized vinos and the wineries often time the launch of a new vino, releasing it just before the wine shopping spree begins.
New on the Market:
The Golan Heights winery recently released a couple of new wines which would be a welcome addition on anyone’s holiday table. The second release of a very interesting wine, the Golan Heights, Yarden 2T, blend made from Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao, both traditional Portuguese grape varieties with relatively low yields. These two varieties are regaining popularity in the Douro and Dao valleys of Portugal and are used to produce Port as well as dry wines. 18 months in barriques, full bodied, on the nose and palate layers of tart berry fruits (cherries, strawberries) and purple flowers followed by notes of dark chocolate and warm spices all leading to a long finish. In my opinion, even better than the 2008 version and while enjoyable now, would be interesting to taste this one again in a few years. NIS 110
The Binyamina winery recently released several new wines from the winery’s flagship label - Avnei HaChoshen. The name refers to the precious stones which were imbedded in the chest plate worn by high priests in the days of the first and second temples. Of the new wines, my favorites were the Avnei HaChoshen, Saphire, 2009 and the Avnei HaChoshen, Yashfe, 2010, a refreshing and enjoyable white blend based on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier grapes. While in previous years, the Odem (Ruby) and Yahalom (Diamond) were my top picks in the series, this year the Saphire 2009 was the star of the tasting. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) , Merlot (40%) and the balance Shiraz. Dark ruby in color, full bodied and good structure, the wine is showing generous aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits, plums, refreshing hints of mint and pepper followed by notes of roasted coffee beans and chocolate all coming together nicely for a long finish. Approachable now but will benefit from a couple of years of cellaring. NIS 139
Ella Valley Vineyards also released a couple of new vinos, some produced by the previous winemaker Doron Rav Hon as well as the first release from new winemaker Lynn Gold. Gold was responsible for the Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 comprised of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semion for balance. Very light in color with refreshing aromas and flavors that bring to mind: sour green apples, lime, slight grassy notes and white flowers. On the palate, the wine is crisp with very good balancing acidity and pleasant sweetness. Low alcohol content also makes this a rather food friendly wine and I would suggest picking up a bottle before the summer is over – NIS 74.
Another enjoyable and surprising vino was the Ella Valley Vineyards, Merlot 2007. Surprising mainly due to the fact that the winery launched the vino some 5 years after the vintage, a practice rarely seen in Israeli wineries as shelf space is expensive and the marketing/sales teams do not always see the value in allowing the wine to develop and mature in the winery before being released. The oak fully integrated by now, a concentrated and elegant Merlot wine, with good structure and generous notes of dark berry fruits, coffee and toasted oak in the background all leading to a mouth filling finish - at NIS 99, well worth a try.
Havana Club – last but not least and just before the summer is truly behind us, Rum based cocktails are an excellent way to get through the unbearably hot summer afternoons – Mojito, Rum & Coke, Daiquiris are some of the more popular choices but there are many other combinations that work quite well together. When talking about Rum, the Caribbean Islands and of course Cuba come to mind, with the popular Havana Club brand leading the sales charts in this beautiful country. Imported to Israel by the Tempo beverage consortium, in addition to the basic Havana Club labels, Tempo also offers a premium label which is aged for 7 years in oak barrels. The oak aging results in a complex and rich alcoholic beverage with generous flavors and aromas that reminded me of aged tequila and other premium aged beverages. If you are very lucky and have the opportunity to sample the Havana Club 15 years (not sold in Israel) you are in for a real treat. Similar to a good scotch, I would recommend drinking the aged Rums straight or with a couple of ice cubes at most.