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Daniel Rogov

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WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:06 pm

Eleven months ago, I wrote in HaAretz (English Edition, 29 Aug 2007; Hebrew Edition, 2 Sep 2007) that "since it first opened its doors the Golan Heights Winery has stayed at the forefront of local wine leadership..." Now, about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, that seems truer than ever, the winery not only having triggered Israel's wine revolution but showing no signs whatever of tiredness, its best wines comfortably competing with many of the best of France, Italy, California and Australia.

This afternoon (Friday, 1 August) I attended a tasting to celebrate the official unveiling of the 2004 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Elrom Vineyard. If there was a bittersweet moment to today's event it was that this may be the last time that I meet Shalom Blayer in his role as the winery's CEO. When we think of and discuss wines it is most often the charm of the vineyards and the talents of the winemaker and winemaking staff that come to mind. In a sense, that is a fully justified but somewhat romanticized point of view because we tend to forget that behind those in the vineyards and in the winery must be an organizing force, one that gives direction to the winery and to the staff and whose concerns also include promotion, distribution and yes, even sales of the winery's output.

In its quarter-century, the Golan Heights Winery has had three CEO's – Shimshon Welner, Yerucham Segev and Shalom Blayer, each of whom has taken the winery along its path and each giving new directions and continuing impetus. In the case of Blayer, that input has been not only to encourage the development of single vineyard wines, to increase exports, to continue the winery's expansion on a well-thought out and fully logical basis but of elevating Yarden, Katzrin and others of the winery's series truly international brands, respected not only within Israel but in many significant places in the world. I was privileged to raise a toast to Blayer at today's tasting and, as I said there, he has done a damned good job! More than that, he has proven himself a man of intelligence, of insight and of humor and, perhaps most important, as a person of the highest ethical standards. From an entirely personal point of view, Shalom has also proven to be a warm and most pleasant human being.

To Shalom go my wishes for continued success and satisfaction in whatever new endeavor he undertakes and to Anat Levi-Rushansky, the incoming CEO of the winery, my warmest wishes for a creative and productive future in her new role. Somehow, and perhaps that is reflected in part by the tasting notes that follow, I have no real fears for the future of the Golan Heights Winery.



In addition to tasting the 2004 Elrom wine, and in order to allow a comparison, three other wines were also tasted, the 2003 Elrom and the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the 2003 and 2004 vintages. Within the past few days, I also re-tasted each of these wines blind in my own tasting room. The notes that follow are entirely from my blind tastings, using today's tasting primarily as a "yardstick" with which to check both myself and bottle consistency. I found no differences between the two sets of tasting. For these wines and others, my compliments to senior winemaker Victor Shoenfeld and his well-tasted and well-proven winemaking staff. My tasting notes for these wines follow immediately.

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom Vineyard, Yarden, 2004: Showing every bit as well,perhaps even a tad better than at barrel and advance tastings. Developed in French oak barriques for 18 months, deep garnet in color, full-bodied, with firm tannins and spicy wood integrating well with fruits and despite its youth already showing elegance and finesse. Look for layer after layer of currant, blackberry and both red and black berries, those supported beautifully by notes of cedar, sage and tar, all leading to a near-sweet fruity finish that lingers on and on. Approachable now but best 2010–2018. Score 94. K (Re-tasted 28 Jul and 1 Aug 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, 2004: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, with generous wood in fine balance with acidity and fruits. Opens to show currants and crushed berries, those yielding to cherries, ripe purple plums and dark chocolate, all on a background of spices, asphalt and earthiness. Drink now–2016. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 27 Jul and 1 Aug 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom Vineyard, Yarden, 2003: My fifth tasting of this wine and no need to take back any of the good things I have said in the past. Intensely dark ruby towards royal-purple, full-bodied, with caressing tannins and a moderate oak influence. Opens with black currants, blackberries and minerals, goes to meaty, earthy and herbal aromas and flavors, and then to spices and a long and elegant fruity finish. Firmly structured with excellent grip and complexity. Approachable now but best 2010–2020. Score 95. K (Re-tasted 27 Jul and 1 Aug 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, 2003: My earlier tasting notes hold firmly: Aged in French oak for 18 months and showing generous but gentle wood influence. Soft mouth-coating tannins support generous blackberry, back cherry and plum fruits and, on the long finish, hints of Oriental spices and a light herbal-tobacco sensation. Best 2009–2014. Score 93. K (Re-tasted 27 Jul and 1 Aug 2008)

Also included in today's tastings were the following wines:

Golan Heights Winery, Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard, Yarden, 2006: Full-bodied, opening with subtle aromas of figs, pears and apples, going on to show a generous dash of smoky, toasty oak and then blossoming forth with pineapple, citrus peel and minerals leading to a long finish that is simultaneously creamy and bright. Drink now–2013. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 1 Aug 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Noble Semillon, Botrytis, 2004: Bright, almost polished gold in color, with fine concentration and balance and developing deep honeyed botrytis-impacted spices and funkiness. On the nose and palate dried apricots, orange peel, toasty oak, and tropical fruits that come in towards the long caressing finish. Drink now–2018. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 1 Aug 2008)

And, as promised, a few surprises. Tasted or re-tasted not today but in my own tasting room earlier this week….

Yarden, Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, 2004: Dark garnet towards inky black, full-bodied, with once firm tannins and generous spicy wood integrating nicely now. Opens to reveal a tempting array of blackberry, raspberry, plum and cassis fruits, those supported nicely by hints of smoky cedarwood and chocolate, all leading to a gently spicy and notably long finish. Simultaneously complex, concentrated and elegant. Best 2010–2018. Score 93. K

Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Brooding dark ruby-red, full-bodied, with near-sweet tannins and spicy oak wrapped around black currants, berries, spices and a hint of dark chocolate. Look as well for enchanting hints of citrus peel and vanilla on the long finish. Fine balance and structure bode well for the future. Best 2010–2018. Score 92. K

Katzrin, 2004 : Dark garnet towards royal-purple, with orange and violet reflections. Shows generous oak and still firm tannins, those in fine proportion and well balanced by blackberry, black currant and cherry fruits, on a background of white pepper, Mediterranean herbs and, on the long and generous finish, hints of vanilla and peppermint. Drink now–2016. Score 92. K

Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, 2001: The best Blanc de Blancs to date from the winery. Made from Chardonnay grapes by the traditional methode Champenoise, this medium-bodied sparkling wine shows just the right balance between yeasty sourdough bread, peaches, citrus and minerals. With a generous mousse and sharp, well-focused bubbles that go on and on, this crisp and sophisticated wine goes on to a long, mouth-filling finish. Drink now–2012. Score 92. K


And the perhaps ultimate surprise for the day, that possibly to answer questions that have been posed earlier but which in fairness I could not answer until now…. Indeed, keep an eye out for three Merlot single vineyard wines – those from the 2005 vintage and including wines from Odem, Sha'al and Tel Faraj Vineyards. As for tasting notes – those will have to wait until the release of my 2009 book. The only hint I will give is that these will be wines most definitely worth seeking out.

Best
Rogov
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Eli R

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Re: Golan Heights Winery - surprise or not?

by Eli R » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:17 pm

Daniel, Hi,

Indeed very interesting new wines coming out from GHW.
As for surprises, is was already partially revealed between the lines in your previous WTN from GHW:

Golan Heights Winery, Merlot, Sha'al Vineyard, Yarden, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Rich and concentrated, a powerhouse at this time waiting for its elements to come together. Already showing fine balance between still gripping tannins and wood with bold aromas and flavors of plum, currant, blackberry, licorice and spices all rising to a long tannic and mineral-rich finish. Approachable from release but best from 2009-2015. Tentative Score 90-92. (Tasted 12 Feb 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Merlot, Tel Faraj Vineyard, Yarden, 2005: Full bodied, with caressingly soft tannins and an abundance of blackberry, violet and lightly toasted oak on first attack, those opening to raspberries, mocha and sweet cedar, all building to a long and succulent finish. Best 2009-2014. Tentative Score 90-92. (Tasted 12 Feb 2008)

Looking forward for comparative tasting of the Melot 2003-2005. IMHO 2003 rules.

Any information on the recommended price and availability of the Elrom 2004?

Eli
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B Kessler

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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by B Kessler » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:38 am

Hi Daniel,

Two questions --

1. Based both on your scores and expected drinking window, what incentive should I or anyone else have to spend up to 2X or 3X on the 2004 Katzrin? Neither the scores nor the drinking windows are superior.

2. With the widening of GHW's singlevinyard series', is GHW in any way using grapes from these superior vineyards that in the past were chanelled exclusively to the Katzrin, and as a result "watering" down their premier label?

Regards,
Bill
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Stephen W

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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Stephen W » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:48 am

Katzrin 2004. was this tasting from a released wine?
I understand El Rom 2004 is not available to public so now we have the Katzrin as well?
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Yoni M

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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Yoni M » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:57 am

Hi Bill,

We recently discussed the Katzrin vs. El Rom pricing issue on another thread (and, not as recently, on the old forum). What probably helps justify the not-so-intuitive price structure of these wines is Parker's preference of the Katzrin over the El Rom (though he seems to have a soft spot for blends in general), and Rogov's (admittedly idiosyncratic) ranking of the Katzrin 2003 over the El Rom of the same vintage as Israel's best wine.

I share your sense of bewilderment, but as a consumer, I am not complaining about getting a superior wine at a much more attractive price than an "inferior" wine with a "superior" label.
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Daniel Rogov

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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:00 am

Bill, Hi....

Based both on your scores and expected drinking window, what incentive should I or anyone else have to spend up to 2X or 3X on the 2004 Katzrin? Neither the scores nor the drinking windows are superior.


I'm not about to get into the wine-selling business but from both a critical and personal point of view I would suggest two possible reasons.

(a) Had the scores varied by 4 -6 points and the drinking windows been shorter by 3 - 5 years, I would not only have asked the same question but would have probably given the Katzrin a miss at that kind of price differential. However, as I recently commented in another context, tasting notes and scores, whether mine or those of anyone else, are not written on SInai and much of the reaction that consumers will have will depend on their personal palates.

(b) Speaking as somewhat of a person who enjoys buildling his own cellar, I would suggest that knowing the history of Katzrin it would be well worth trying the wine regardless of price differential on its release to determine whether this is my style of wine or not. I think it fairly apparent that the personality of the Katzrin is different than that of the other wines being compared, the Katzrin nodding far more clearly in the direction of Bordeaux.


With the widening of GHW's single vinyard series', is GHW in any way using grapes from these superior vineyards that in the past were chanelled exclusively to the Katzrin, and as a result "watering" down their premier label?


Absolutely not. I am certainly not an "insider" at the winery but I have visited both the winery and the vineyards quite often enough over the last 25 years to know as a certainty that the expansion in single vineyard wines comes from continuous expansion and development of the vineyards and the maturation of certain vineyards that are now bearing fine grapes. I'll even let you (and thus the winery) know a secret - I have even visited those vineyards on various occasions without the company of the winemakers. More than that, I also know senior winemaker Victor Shoenfeld and others on his winemaking staff well enough to be certain that they value their integrity enough not to even consider playing such games.

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Rogov
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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:06 am

Steve, Hi...


Katzrin 2004. was this tasting from a released wine?
I understand El Rom 2004 is not available to public so now we have the Katzrin as well?



Both wines are now bottled and "ready to go" when the winemaker feels they are ready for release. In the case of the tasting notes above, both were advance tastings, carried out blind in my own tasting room just last week. I have, by the way tasted both of those before, both as barrel tastings and then immediately preceding bottling. My guess is that both will be released before the end of this calendar year. As to precisely when...."only the Shadow knows" and neither Lamont Cranston nor Victor Shoenfeld are saying at this time.

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Rogov
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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:16 am

Yoni, Hi....


... Rogov's (admittedly idiosyncratic) ranking



Idiosyncratic? Moi?

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Menachem S

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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Menachem S » Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:52 am

I will focus on a different part of this thread.

Facsinating drinking windows on the 2004 vs. 2003 CS

2004 is drinkable sooner, yet projected to cellar longer than the 2003.

Any thoughts on what that "means"?

Thanks

Daniel Rogov wrote:Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, 2004: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, with generous wood in fine balance with acidity and fruits. Opens to show currants and crushed berries, those yielding to cherries, ripe purple plums and dark chocolate, all on a background of spices, asphalt and earthiness. Drink now–2016. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 27 Jul and 1 Aug 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, 2003: My earlier tasting notes hold firmly: Aged in French oak for 18 months and showing generous but gentle wood influence. Soft mouth-coating tannins support generous blackberry, back cherry and plum fruits and, on the long finish, hints of Oriental spices and a light herbal-tobacco sensation. Best 2009–2014. Score 93. K (Re-tasted 27 Jul and 1 Aug 2008)

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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Menachem S » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:01 am

One other question - do you know yet if the winery plans on releasing a 2005 Katzrin or El Rom?

Thanks
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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Daniel Rogov » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:50 am

Menachem, Hi.....

Facsinating drinking windows on the 2004 vs. 2003 CS. 2004 is drinkable sooner, yet projected to cellar longer than the 2003.Any thoughts on what that "means"?


Vineyards and vintages have something distinctly akin to a roulette wheel in that once the wheel or the vintage start to role no-one knows preciselywhere they will stop. In other words...luck of the draw...a simple reflection of the vintage.

One other question - do you know yet if the winery plans on releasing a 2005 Katzrin or El Rom?


On seeing your question, I confirmed with the winery that neither the Katzrin or the Elrom will be released from the 2005 vintage.


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Rogov
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Re: WTN: Golan Heights Winery - New Release and News

by Menachem S » Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:18 am

Thanks - good to know

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