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WTN: 50+ Israeli Wines From The Yoav Yehuda Festival

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:52 pm

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday,18 Sep) I arrived at the Yoav Yehuda festival, there to start a round of tastings and re-tastings as well as to have discussions with several of the winemakers and winery owners present. Interesting to note that I found a good deal of consistency of quality with the medium-sized wineries present but with the boutique/artisanal wineries a mixture, in some cases of continued improved quality and in others continuing signs of deteriorating quality.

If there is a bit of confusing news it is that several of the smaller wineries have been using multiple labels and confusingly similar names for their wines, that making it difficult at times for potential buyers to know that they are getting. Best bet with those wineries selling primarily at the cellar door is to ask for a tasting before purchasing. Best perhaps to let my tasting notes speak for themselves.

As to bits of other news – the Nachshon and Zemora wineries are most definitely hunting for buyers; La Terra Promessa has taken on a new partner and will soon be moving to a new location, there to increase production dramatically; and several other boutique/artisanal wineries have taken on new partners in order to gain funding and a better market position.

All in all, I tasted 67 wines during the course of the evening. Following are tasting notes for most of those, those in the order in which I tasted them. Nearly all of the wines tasted for the first time at this event will be re-tasted blind in my own tasting room over the course of the next few months (that is to say, before the deadline of the 2010 edition of my Israeli wine book)

Best
Rogov



The White Wines

Kella David, Dry White, 2007: A dry blend of French Colombard and Emerald Riesling, showing a floral and spicy nose and flavors of citrus and tropical fruits. Nothing complex here but an appealing entry-level quaffer. Drink now. Score 82. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Kella David, Semi-Dry White, 2007: Semi-dry as its label states but with minimal fruit and the distinct kind of bitterness that one associates with overly roasted coffee or nuts and only minimal fruits. A blend of French Colombard and Emerald Riesling. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Tzora, Rosé, Gvat HaChalukim, 2007: Showing better than at an earlier tasting. Made from Cabernet Sauvigon grapes, pale pink with an orange tint, light- to medium-bodied. Showing berry, cherry and watermelon notes, a dry wine with a hint of sweetness that creeps in. Drink now. Score 86. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Clos de Gat, Chanson, 2007: A blended white, the composition of which sounds unlikely, but which comes together very nicely indeed. A well-crafted unoaked blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier and Chenin Blanc (about 75%, 15%, 7% and 3% respectively). Pale gold in color with orange reflections, medium-bodied, opening with minerals and citrus fruits, those opening in the glass to reveal passion fruits and ripe melon. Long, lively and thought-provoking. Drink now–2010. Score 91. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Teperberg, Emerald Riesling, Terra, 2007: Off-dry, light- to medium-bodied, showing traditional Emerald Riesling floral and tropical fruit aromas and on the palate notes of citrus and melon. A good entry-level quaffer. Drink now. Score 84. K (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Castel, "C", Chardonnay, Blanc du Castel, 2006: Showing much as at a quite recent tasting. Deep golden in color, slow to open, with aromas and flavors hidden for at least ten minutes and then showing now as in its extreme youth a somewhat generous dose of wood. On that background, notes of green apples, citrus, buttery hazelnuts, nutmeg and raisins. Full-bodied, concentrated and intense but lacking vibrancy. Drink now–2009. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Tzuba, Belmont White, HaMa'ayan, 2007: A light gold, unoaked blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon. Showing appealing pineapple and peach fruits, a fresh, round and lively wine that opens nicely on the palate. Drink now. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Tzuba, Chardonnay, Hametzuda, 2007: Showing much as at earlier tastings. Oaked for only three and a half months, this medium-bodied, light gold wine shows a light green tint and opens to reveal generous summer and tropical fruits on a background of lively acidity. On the finish an appealing hit of green apples. Drink now–2009. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)


The Red Wines

Zemora, Merlot, 2005: Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and to my palate, as happens from time to time with Zemora, a vastkt different wine than earlier tasted. Dark garnet, reflecting its 21 months in oak with generous spicy wood and smoke, and somewhat chunky tannins that give the wine a distinct country-style. On the nose berry, black cherry and plum fruits. Drink now. Score 85. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Zemora, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Full-bodied, deep royal-purple in color, with somewhat chunky tannins and reflecting its 14 months in medium and heavy-toasted French oak with a generous, toasted cedar overlay. On the nose and palate opens to reveal blackberries, blueberries, cassis and vanilla. Developing a marked note of bitter herbs and the fruits fading on the finish. Drink up. Score 84. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Zemora, Blended Red, 2006: Oak-aged for 20 months, a blend of 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc that manages somehow to hide any varietal traits whatever. Medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and blueberry, blackberry and plum fruits. Smooth, soft and round, a good entry level wine. Drink now. Score 84.K (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)
Zemora, Cabernet Franc, 2006: Ruby towards garnet, medium-bodied with chunky, country-style tannins. A very quiet nose and on the palate no trace of the variety but a basic spicy, black fruit personality, that with a too-heavy green vegetable overlay. Drink up. Score 82. K (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Zemora, Chardonnay, 2004: So help me, I cannot understand why the winery chose to display this wine at the fair, as this was one I noted in my 2007 book as already in a "drink up" condition. Dark, almost bronzed gold in color, generously oaked, medium- to full bodied, with its once pleasant tropical and citrus fruits now with a distinctly stewed flavor and showing clear signs of oxidation. Score 68. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Zemora, Special Reserve, 2004: A wine that has been oft-discussed because it seems so vastly different on every tasting occasion and because the winemaker has released at least three different versions of its blend. This is my fifth go-round and I breathe a sigh of release as this tasting did match my most recent earlier one. Whatever, a dark garnet wine, medium to full-bodied, with chunky, sharp-edged tannins and showing blackberry and purple plum fruits. A distinctly country-style wine. Drink now. Score 84. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Clos de Gat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Har'el, 2006: Dark, almost inky-garnet in color, full-bodied, with tannins that are firm on first attack but yield nicely in the glass to reveal fine balance with a genteel hand, with spicy oak, good balancing acidity and fruits. Blended, Bordeaux style, with 9% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot On the nose and palate opens with raspberries, those then going to purple plums, blackberries and currants, all intertwined with a pleasing overlay of Mediterranean herbaceousness. Well crafted. Drink now–2012. Score 91. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Srigim, Cabernet Franc, 2005: A dark royal-purple, medium to full-bodied blend of 85% Cabernet Franc and 7.5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Oak-aged for 14 months, showing black fruits on an appealing earthy-mineral background. Tannins and a hint of unwanted acidity rise on the finish. Drink now. Score 84. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)
Srigim, Cabernet Franc, Barrique Premium, 2005: Dark garnet, a medium- to full-bodied blend of 85% Cabernet Franc with 7.5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Showing spices and vanilla from the oak, opening with blueberries and currants, those going to notes of purple plums, all on a background of eucalyptus and licorice. Smooth, round and moderately long. Drink now-2010. Score 86. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Srigim, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrique, 2006: Blended with 5% Cabernet Franc, dark garnet in color and reflecting its 18 months in oak with spices and smoke. Once firm tannins now integrating nicely and opening to reveal a generous black-fruit nose and on the palate blackcurrants, black cherries and mint. On the finish an appealing hint of baker's chocolate. Drink now-2010. Score 87. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Srigim, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrique, 2005: Dark royal-purple, a medium-bodied blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.5% each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aged in barriques for 14 months, showing spicy and dusty oak, firm tannins and a few blackberry and currant fruits. Somewhat alcoholic on the nose. Drink now. Score 82. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Srigim, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Reflecting its 20 months in oak with a rather heavy hand, the smoky wood dominating, and hiding the berry, black cherry fruits that struggle to make themselves felt. A distinctly country-style wine. Drink up. Score 79. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Srigim, Petit Verdot, 2005: Dark garnet towards royal-purple, medium to full-bodied, this oak-aged blend of 85% Petit Verdot and 7.5% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc shows fine balance between fruits, spicy wood and acidity. Aromatic, long and mouth-filling. Drink now. Score 86. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Yehuda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hilah HaShiraz, 2005: Blended with 12% Shiraz and oak-aged for 18 months, a dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied wine with firm tannins integrating nicely with spicy wood. Opens to show appealing black fruits on a light leathery and earthy background. Drink now-2010. Score 85. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Yehuda, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Showing much as at an earlier tasting. With chunky tannins, a generous dose of green vegetables and a few cherry-berry notes, a simple and distinctly country-style wine. Drink up. Score 76. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Yehuda, Merlot, 2005: Dark royal-purple in color, medium to full-bodied, with firm tannins that seem to not want to integrate and a few berry, cherry and cola notes. Drink up. Score 75. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Yehuda, Merlot, Soolam Ya'akov, 2005: Oak aged for 18 months, an appealing if not internationalized little Merlot. Dark ruby towards garnet, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and easy-going berry, cherry fruits. An acceptable entry-level wine. Drink now. Score 82. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Katlav, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Deep ruby towards garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with crisp acidity, firm tannins and hints of spicy cedar and sandalwood. On the nose and palate plums, red cherries and raspberries, leading to a medium-long finish. Drink now-2010. Score 86. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Katlav, Wadi Katlav, 2006: Medium- to full-bodied, dark garnet towards royal purple, and oak-aged for 18 months, this blend of Cabernet Sauvigjnon, Merlot and Shiraz (60%, 30% and 10% respectively) shows still firm tannins, those integrating nicely with spicy wood and opening to reveal blackberry, black cherry and cassis fruits, those on a background of spices and earthy minerals. Drink now-2011. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Katlav, Merlot, 2006: Showing much as at earlier tastings. Garnet towards royal-purple, medium to full-bodied, with soft tannins promising to integrate nicely with light oak. Showing dried currants and berries, those overlaid with spices and mint and a tantalizing hint of earthy bitterness. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 86. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Hans Sternbach, Nachal Hakhlil, 2006: Dark royal-purple in color, this oak-aged blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot is showing medium to full-bodied, with now soft, mouth-coating tannins opening to reveal generous red currant, red berry and Mediterranean herbs. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 84. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Hans Sternback, Cabernet Sauvignon, Janaba, Hakhlil Valley, 2006: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, oak-aged for 24 months, dark garnet towards royal-purple, full-bodied with still-firm tannins holding back the fruits somewhat,. Somewhat flat on the nose but Opens to reveal flavors of currant and blackberry fruits on a spicy and lightly herbal background. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 84. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Nachshon, Pushkin, 2006: A deep garnet, oak-aged blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium to full-bodied, with firm tannins that yield in the glass to reveal appealing aromas and flavors of blackberries, currants and spices. Develops an odd acetic aroma on in the glass. Drink now. Score 82. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008).

Nachshon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ayalon, 2003: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this deep garnet wine was aged first for 25 months in new barriques and then for an additional 12 months in old ones. Medium to full-bodied, and showing near-sweet tannins and hints of sweet cedarwood complemented nicely by spicy berry and currant fruits. Drink now. Score 87. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Flam, Classico, 2006: Aged in French and American oak for 6 months, this full-bodied, softly tannic blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot shows an appealing array of lightly spicy black currant, raspberry and black cherry fruits on a background of Mediterranean herbs. Moderately long and quite generous. Drink now–2010. Score 90. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Agur, Kessem, 2006: In the past a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend but this time with the addition of Petite Verdot (50%, 30% and 20% respectively). Aged in barriques for 12 months, with soft, gently caressing tannins and an appealing overlay of spices, opens to reveal blackberry, black currant and purple plum fruits, those supported nicely by hints of earthy-minerals. Drink now-2011. Score 87. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Agur Special Reserve, 2006: A medium to full-bodied blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, with firm tannins and generously spicy wood integrating nicely to show appealing blackberry, black cherry and sweet herbs on the nose and palate. Long and generous. Drink now-2011. Score 88. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Ella Valley Vineyards, Merlot, 2004: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Blended with 5% of Cabernet Sauvignon, deep royal-purple towards garnet in color, a firm but round and well-balanced wine showing black cherry, black currant and spicy cedarwood, all coming to a long, smooth, round finish on which the fruits rise nicely. Drink now–2011. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

La Terra Promessa, 2006: A very pleasant country-style wine, ruby towards garnet in color, medium-bodied with soft tannins and showing appealing wild berry, tobacco, black pepper and forest floor notes. Nothing complex here but a nice little quaffer. Drink now-2009. Score 85. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

La Terra Promessa, 2006: Garnet towards royal purple, reflecting spicy wood and vanilla along with soft tannins and a generous array of currant, wild berry and citrus peel, those supported nicely by hints of licorice. Drink now-2010. Score 86. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Teperberg, Sangiovese, Silver, 2007: True to Sangiovese traits, showing a medium-dark garnet towards ruby, medium-bodied, with spice, anise and cedar notes highlighting currant and wild berry fruits. Not overly complex but flavorful and rich. Drink now. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Teperberg, Melbec, Terra, 2007: Terra, Malbec, 2007: Nicely focused, with black cherry, currant and cocoa notes along with hints of sweet toast and vanilla. Medium-bodied, with soft tannins, most assuredly not an Argentinean Malbec but a very pleasant Mediterranean version. Drink now–2010. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Nachshon, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Shani, 2005: Oak aged for 24 months, this medium- to full bodied blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows chunky, country-style tannins and a few red and black fruits. One dimensional and short. Drink up. Score 82. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Nachson, Alpha, 2006: A lightly-oaked blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, showing soft tannins and a simple but appealing wild berry and black cherry personality. Soft and round, a good entry-level wine. Drink now. Score 84. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Nachshon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, oak-aged for 18 months, showing medium- to full-bodied. Nothing complex here but a soft, round and generous little wine with an appealing berry, black cherry personality. Drink now. Score 85. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Sea Horse, Gaudi. 2007: A blend this year of 60% Carignan and 20% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Medium- to full-bodied, with gentle spicy oak and comfortably gripping tannins. Developed in barriques for 6 months, opens to reveal red and black currants, those going on to generous wild berry and peppery notes. Soft, round, generous and moderately long. Drink now-2011. Score 89. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Sea Horse, Take Two, 2006: This oak-aged blend of Primitivo, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah shows deep and dark, with fine intensity and generous firm tannins backing up plum, cherry and chocolate aromas and flavors, those on a medium to full-bodied frame, all leading to a long fruity finish. Drink now–2010. Score 88. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Sea Horse, Lennon, Tete de Cuvee, 2006: Think of this as a more intellectual version of the regular 2006 Lennon release, this one equally soft and round, with somewhat more gripping tannins and a good hand with spicy oak, that also imparting a note of vanilla to the wine. On the palate purple plums, red and black berries, hints of Oriental spices and Mediterranean herbs, all leading to a long and generous finish. Score 90. (Tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Ben Hanna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shalem, 2005: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot (80%, 15% and 5% respectively), aged in French oak barriques for 21 months and showing soft, round and aromatic. On the nose and palate raspberry and red currant fruits on a background of herbs and mint. Long and generous. Drink now–2011. Score 89. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

Ben Hanna, Mediterraneo, 2005: Deep, brooding garnet in color, full-bodied, with still firm tannins and generous spicy wood waiting to settle down, but showing fine balance and simply needing a bit of time. A blend of Grenache, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc (50%, 33%, 12% and 5% respectively), aged in French oak for 22 months, opening to show a generous mouthful of black cherry, dried raspberries, eucalyptus and cinnamon. Drink now–2011. Score 91. (Re-tasted 18 Sep 2008)

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