Today (23 June 2009), I attended a vertical tasting of the wines of the Bazelet HaGolan winery, the wines tasted including the various reserve and regular releases of the winery's Cabernet Sauvignon from 2000-2008.
Vertical tastings always have an added value for the critic or wine lover in that it gives a chance to re-visit wines, many of which were already tasted in the past, to see "where they have gone" and, if the truth be told, to do a double-check on one's previous predictions. What I did learn at this tasting was that some of the winery's pre-2004 wines are demonstrating a somewhat longer drinking window than originally predicted.
The winery was founded in 1998 by Yo’av Levy on Moshav Kidmat Tzvi in the Golan Heights, the first facility of this winery was located in a cow shed and initial production from that vintage year was 1,800 bottles. The winery is currently producing about 55,000 bottles annually, half of those from grapes grown in its own vineyards on the Golan Heights. Until 2005 the winery released only Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The winery’s first Merlot was released from the 2006 vintage. The wines are in two series: Reserve and Bazelet Hagolan (know known sometimes as "Bronze"), the first aged in oak for about 20 months, the second for 8–10 months. Production has been kosher since the 2004 vintage.
Present at the tasting were the winery's owner and winemaker Yo'av Levy and representatives of The French-Israel Group which serves as the distributor for the winery. The tasting was held at Nineteen, the new and still running-in restaurant at the Caeseria Golf Club. My thanks especially to Yoav Levy, Arik Segal and Betty Kaen for their courtesies during the tasting.
The Reserve Series
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2007 (Barrel Tasting): Developing in barriques for 19 months at this stage, showing dark royal purple in color, full-bodied, with a perhaps too generous dose of sweet cedar wood and somewhat flabby tannins. A wine so hyper-fruity wine at this stage of its development that it gives the illusion of sweetness. Lacks the balance and structure required for more than very short-term aging. Drink from release. Tentative Score 84-86. K (Tasted twice with consistent results 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2006: Deep garnet towards royal purple, full-bodied, aromatic and with once firm tannins now integrating nicely with wood and fruits. On the nose and palate a hint of Brett but that nicely complementing blackberry, currant and citrus peel notes. On the long, lightly spicy finish a generous note of freshly ground coffee. Drink now-2011. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2005: Aged in oak casks for 20 months, full-bodied, rich, ripe, smooth, generous and well balanced with currant, berry and plum flavors coming together with near-sweet tannins and tempting smoky oak lingering nicely. On the moderately long finish a hint of bitter baking chocolate. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2004: Dark garnet toward royal-purple, full-bodied, with firm tannins in fine balance with acidity, spicy wood and fruits. On first attack, black currants and black licorice, those followed by wild berries, earthy minerals and Mediterranean herbs. From mid-palate and on, a persistent bitter note has developed that will please some and not others. Drink now–2011. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2003: Full-bodied, oak-aged for 12 months, with once firm tannins now softened and well integrated. Opens to reveal currants, berries, orange peel, Oriental spices and pepper, all leading to a near-sweet and lightly oaky finish. Drink now-2011. Score 89. (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2002: Inky-dark purple, with firm tannins and generous wood, those integrating nicely to reveal complex aromas and flavors of black currant and black cherry fruits and Mediterranean herbs. Drinking nicely but quickly moving past its peak.. Drink up. Score 87.(Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2001: Don't ask how but somehow over the years I missed tasting this 2001 release. Finally, a happy chance to catch up. Developed in oak for 12 months, intensely dark garnet, full-bodied, with tannins well integrated with spicy wood and showing a generous array of currant, wild berry and orange-flavored dark chocolate. On the long finish hints of bittersweet chocolate and earthy minerals. Fully mature but drinking beautifully and promising to hold its own for a while longer. Drink now-2011, perhaps longer. Score 90. (Tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2000: Holding nicely despite its maturity. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with once firm tannins now comfortably integrated with gentle wood influences and opeing to reveal blackcurrant, blackberry and earthy minerals. Drinking nicely but fully mature and not for further cellaring. Score 87. (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet HaGolan (Bronze)
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Medium- to full-bodied, dark garnet in color, and with a Port-like nose that call to mind premature oxidation. On the palate sur-ripe purple plum and wild berry fruits adding to a not-necessarily sensation of sweetness. Drink from release. Tentative Score 84-86. K
Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Oak-aged for 8 months, dark garnet towards royal purple, medium- to full-bodied with soft, gently caressing tannins and notes of sweet cedar wood in fine balance with blackcurrant and blackberry fruits. Opens in the glass to reveal blueberries, earthy minerals and a note of freshly roasted Mediterranean herbs. Drink now-2012. Score 87. K (Tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: My earlier tasting notes holds firmly. Medium- to full-bodied, with chunky country-style tannins and a hint of sweet cedar wood that runs throughout. Opens to show traditional Cabernet currant and blackberry fruits, those matched by hints of light earthiness and sweet herbs. Drink now. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Garnet toward royal-purple, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins nicely integrated and showing an array of currant, blackberry, vanilla and, on the long finish, minerals and a layer of toasty oak. Spoiled somewhat by a rising musky aroma that comes in from mid-palate. Drink now. Score 85. K (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: Deep garnet, medium-bodied, and reflecting its eight months in French and American barriques with smoky oak and soft tannins. Good balance and an appealing array of cherry, raspberry and currant fruits, those with a light spicy overlay that lingers nicely. Drink now. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003: Intensely deep garnet, medium to full-bodied with aromas and flavors of spicy cherries, currants, Mediterranean herbs and chocolate leading to a medium-long lightly spicy finish. Mouth-filling and generous. Drink now–2011. Score 90. (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009).
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002: Deep cherry-red toward garnet, medium to full-bodied, with concentrated currant, blackberry, spice and peppery notes. Good balance between wood and soft tannins and a moderately long finish but, reflecting what I refer to as the "2002 curse", starting to show age. Drink up. Score 87. (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001: Dark, almost inky garnet, medium- to full-bodied, and holding its own very nicely indeed. On the nose and palate blackcurrants, wild berries and appealing overtones of black olives and earthy minerals. Drinking nicely but fully mature and not for further cellaring. Drink up. Score 88. (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
Bazelet Hagolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000: Garnet, with a good deal of clearing at the rim, medium-bodied, with soft tannins integrated nicely with notes of mint, tar and currants. Somewhat past its peak and going to light hints of oxidation. Drink up. Score 86. (Re-tasted 23 Jun 2009)
And a new entry
Bazelet HaGolan, Chushnia, 2006: As far as I can figure it out "chushnia" translates to sensuality. Whatever, a limited-edition blend (all in all of 628 bottles) of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, those oak aged in new French barriques for 20 months. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied. Beware the tannins as the wine is first poured as they are almost searing, but give the wine time to open and those soften comfortably to show good balance and a mélange of red and black fruits. A hint of sweetness comes in from mid-palate and lingers on the finish. Best 2010-2014. Score 89. K (Tasted 23 Jun 2009)
As to prices within Israel for wines now being released: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – NIS 165; 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – NIS 140; 2007 Bazelet (Bronze) Cabernet Sauvignon – NIS 105; 2006 Chushnia – NIS 280. (For those outside of Israel the current exchange rate is about US$ 1.00 = NIS 4.00.