This late morning I met in Tel Aviv with Barry and Roni Saslove of the Saslove Winery in order to do a tasting of wines from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages.
Established by Barry Saslove in 1998 on Kibbutz Eyal in the Sharon region, this boutique winery has well established vineyards in the Upper Galilee planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. More recently planted vineyards with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Gewurztraminer grapes are now coming on line. The winery also has a facility in the Upper Galilee, not far from its vineyards, that primarily for receiving and fermenting grapes. The barrel room and visitors’ center remain on Kibbutz Eyal.
Current production of red wines made by the father-and-daughter team of Barry and Roni Saslove is in three series: Reserved, Adom and Aviv. The winery occasionally produces white wines as well. Production has grown steadily, from 35,000 bottles in 2002 to about 80,000 bottles in 2009 and 2010. Starting with wines from the 2010 vintage, the Saslove wines will all be kosher.
Barry Saslove has always been an advocate of the use of oak chips, blocks and staves in some of his wines. Let it be known loudly and clearly that many wineries use these but precious few are open and honest enough to admit it. From an entirely professional point of view, I have no objection at all to the use of chips, blocks or staves – that however on the condition that these be used (as Saslove does) for wines that are meant to be consumed at a relatively early age of anywhere from 2 – 4 years after release.
My thanks to Barry and Roni for the courtesy of coming to Tel Aviv to meet with me, for a fine tasting and for their very pleasant company. After our tasting we lunched at Carmella BaNachala, one of the best restaurants in the city. To see a few reactions to my meal there, see the thread at viewtopic.php?f=30&t=37657
Please note that as not infrequently occurs, several of the 2009 barrel tastings were from components and the predictions for their future direction are entirely my own.
Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserved, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Perhaps the best to date from Saslove. Full-bodied, deep garnet in color, with generous but not at all imposing oak in fine harmony with soft tannins and fruits. On first attack aromas and flavors of crushed blackberries, those parting to make way for notes of currants, black cherries and an appealing hint of bitter herbs. Long and mouth-filling, muscular but elegant. Best from 2012-2018. Score 93. (Tasted 22 Feb 2011)
Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserved, 2007 (Advance Tasting): As during barrel tastings. Youthful, with still-firm tannins and a moderate hand with spicy oak settling in nicely and showing fine balance and structure. Full-bodied, showing finesse and elegance. Traditional blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, those supported by notes of tobacco and roasted herbs. Long, generous and mouth-filling with an appealing note of bitter herbs on the finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2012-2016. Score 90.Adom
Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adom, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted from components, both full-bodied, one from the Alma Vineyard and the other from Kadita, both in the Upper Galilee. A wine that some would describe as "masculine" – that is to say, muscular, solid and even somewhat brash with still firm tannins waiting to settle down but showing balance and structure that bode well for the future. On the nose and palate red currants, plums and figs, those with notes of sweet cedar wood and espresso. Destined not for elegance but for power. Best starting in 2013. Tentative Score 88-90. (Tasted 22 Nov 2011)
Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adom, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Almost impenetrably dark garnet, showing full-bodied and round, with silky tannins and notes of spicy oak that caress gently. On the nose and palate traditional Cabernet Sauvignon blackcurrants and blackberries, those highlighted by hints of licorice and espresso coffee. Ripe, generous and long. Best from 2013-2017. Tentative Score 90-92. (Tasted 22 Feb 2011)
Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adom, 2007: Living up nicely to its barrel-tasting promise. Deep garnet in color, full-bodied, reflecting its 20 months in barriques (40% of which were new) with near-sweet tannins and notes of spicy and vanilla-rich wood, those in fine balance with fruits. On the nose and palate blackcurrants, blackberries and black cherries, those complemented by notes of mocha and unsweetened cocoa. Drink now-2016. Score 90. (Re-tasted 22 Feb 2011)
Saslove, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Adom, 2007: A super-dark garnet, full-bodied, deep royal purple blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, in which both varieties make themselves felt nicely. Developed in barriques for 20 months, its elements coming together nicely and showing opulence, the generous 14.5% alcohol never imposing. On the nose and palate a tempting array of currants, plum, blueberries and black pepper, those on a background that hints at one moment of earthy minerals, at another of saddle leather and at yet another of freshly hung tobacco. Delicious now, but with its best still in front of it. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2012-2016. Score 91. (Tasted 22 Feb 2011)
Saslove, Shiraz, Adom, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): A deeply extracted wine, deep garnet in color with a royal purple robe. Full-bodied, with generous wood and soft tannins in fine balance with fruits and acidity On the nose and palate currants, wild berries, red licorice and, on the long finish a note of crushed berries. Best 2013-2017, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 88-90.
Saslove, Shiraz, Adom, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Still early days for this wine but already showing full-bodied, with gently caressing tannins. On first attack notes of minerality underlying raspberries and cherries, those parting to make way for spicy blackberries. On the long finish notes of saddle leather and green tea. Ripe and generous. Best from 2012-2016, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 89-91. (Tasted 22 Feb 2011)Aviv
Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aviv, 2008: Deep, almost impenetrable garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, reflecting its exposure to oak with gently gripping tannins and a notes of spicy oak. On first attack raspberries, those parting to make way for red and blackcurrants and blackberries and notes of brown spices and white pepper. Simultaneously easy to drink and complex. Drink now–2014. Score 90. (Tasted 22 Feb 2011)
Saslove, Merlot, Aviv, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Dark ruby toward garnet, reflecting its six months in barriques with soft, gently gripping tannins and hints of near-sweet cedarwood. Medium- to full-bodied, with aromas and flavors of red and black cherries, cassis and generous hints of cloves and cinnamon. On the generous finish tannins and hints of milk chocolate rise nicely. Drink now–2013. Score 89. (Re-tasted 22 Feb 2011)
Saslove, Marriage, 2008: Showing very differently than at an earlier barrel tasting, the blend having shifted considerably. Based on 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, those fleshed out with 10% of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Nebbiolo, reflecting its 6 months exposure to oak with soft, gently caressing tannins. Medium- to full-bodied, with an array of spicy red and black berries, bittersweet chocolate and from mid-palate on an appealing note of eucalyptus. Drink now-2014. Score 90. (Re-tasted 22 Feb 2011)Lavan (White)
Saslove, Lavan, 2010: A half-dry blend of 45% each of Gewurztraminer and Viognier and 10% of Sauvignon Blanc. Cold fermented over a prolonged period and developed entirely in stainless steel, showing aromas and flavors of grapefruit, litchis and apricot leather. With its moderate sweetness complemented by fine balancing acidity a wine that coats the palate comfortably, the flavors lingering very nicely indeed. As good as an aperitif as with beef carpaccio, tuna tartar as with grilled or fried fillets of small fish. Most pleasant. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Feb 2011)