Thanks to my friends Isaac Chavel and his charming wife Irene, I got motivated to visit, with them, 2 wineries near Arad this past Wednesday: Midbar and Yatir. It's been some years since I have visited Yatir. As everyone should know by now, winemaker Eran Goldwasser is unquestionably a master of the craft and one of the genuine, veritable, guiding lights of the Israeli Kosher wine scene. The wines he produces at Yatir are across the board superb - especially his reds which is pretty clearly where his passion resides. He was kind enough to pour, at Mr. Chavel's request, two vintages of his varietal Petite Verdot, the 2008 and 2009. The 2008 is excellent - a wine which expresses the true "violets in the nose" nature of PV without being too overtly tannic or woody which might be easy to do given any winemaker's attempt to extract PV to it's fullest and then match that with a slew of new French oak. The 2009 takes that experience to another level. Meanwhile Eran's respect and understanding of PV as something special in Israel shows also in his Ya'ar Yatir 2008. Even fuller and more profound than his PV varietal wine, it is the only Bordeaux style blend in Israel that includes 38 % PV along with 52% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Ya'ar Yatir 2008 is delicious, but I imagine will be more and more impressive over the next 5+ years.
Well I'm working backwards here, because Yatir was our afternoon visit. In the morning we stopped at Midbar winery and I caught up with Yaakov Oryah who is as ebullient as Eran is understated - what an amazing day overall. Yaakov's passion lies more in the production of his entirely unique portfolio of white wines made from grapes grown at Mitzpe Ramon, although he is also turning out unique and interesting reds from grape sources also located in the Negev. For a small winery Midbar has a wonderful tool for ultra quality white wine production - a press found normal in wineries 5-20 times Midbar's size. I should know - it was the press I purchased and used the first 5 years at Recanati - a Defraceschi which I knew based on the recommendations of friends from top notch California wineries as well as Aldo Conterno of esteemed note in Peimonte. Anyway we spent about 3 HOURS at Midbar with the highly curious, expressive, fascinating Mr Oryah. He has produced a Semillon/Sauvignon blend that takes one immediately on a voyage to Bordeaux - an even more specifically to Graves where the dry whites are the wines to drink in the summer, at the beach, or with fish. Frankly I don't know anyone who has even tried to make such a wine in Israel, let alone succeeded at it so admirably. One of the highlights at Midbar, too, was tasting two vintages of a single wine His "44" white which features Gewurtztraminer as it's main component and dominant flavor - especially in the nose. The 2011 (did I get the vintage right, Yaakov?) was delicious and floral soapy rose petalish in that special Gewurz way, and the 2012 just amped up the floral Gewurz character, and in particular the rose petal, to another level. Gewurz in too warm a climate (and lets face it, Israel is not the Haut Rhine) can be bitter and overly alcoholic, and the avoidance of either of these traits is where Yaakov's blend of 5 different varieties in the "44" takes the Gewurz into a novel direction of delicacy and finesse.
I could go on, and I will on Facebook if Isaac ever sends me over some of his no doubt breathtaking photos of the entire day. Ciao for now, got a Purim party to attend!
Life is too short to drink bad wine.