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13 February 2017

Discovering Israeli wines Part 2: Sommelier 2017 in Tel Aviv

Following the first day in Israel that included visits in Tabor, Binyamina and Alexander winery (you can read the first part here) it was time to discover the whole picture of the Israeli wine industry by being part of the Sommelier 2017 wine exhibition in Tel Aviv. This is the biggest wine show in the country with approximately 50 wineries participating over a two days event. 

It was a tasting that I really enjoyed as I was fully introduced to Israeli wines, appreciating the winemakers' efforts to produce balanced and complex wines in a country with such a warm climate with extremes. And believe me this is something that I can really understand for this is a case for many mesoclimates and winemakers in Greece as well. 

Here are some notes of some of the wines that I found most interesting and stay tuned for my impressions for Part 3 on the visit in Golan Heights.

Kahanov Vineyards, Carignan 2012 
The winery produces approximately 10.000 - 20.000 bottles. The 100% Carignan shows a solid core of blueberries and black berries along chocolate notes with some Carignan wildness. Ripe but not to extremes. 90/100

Aharanoff, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Single Vineyard 2014

Mint and cassis on the nose with plush fruit, solid structure and medium full body. Alcohol is 14% abv and is well balanced by wine's extract and acid. 91/100 

Naaman, 10 years after 2014 

Naaman is a boutique winery producing just 10.000 bottles per annum. These are exciting wines with interesting packaging. Winemaking praises minimum additives inclusion and maximum transparency. 10 years after is a blend based in Cabernet Franc one of my favourite varieties, that combines high level of ripeness with spicy and herbal elements. Matured in 20% new oak. Quite exciting work for sure. 92/100

Bat Shlomo, Sauvignon Blanc 2015

50.000 bottles annual production. Entrepreneur, Elie Wurtman, partnering with the Napa Valley winemaker, Ari Erle, found the new Bat Shlomo Vineyards in 2010. They revitalise the land and fulfill Rothschild's legacy. Exciting white, fermented mostly in concrete egg for more mid palate fullness. This is very fresh and mineral at the same time and very hard to imagine that it comes from Israel. One of my best whites. 91/100

Gush Etzion, Lone Oak Cabernet Franc 2013, Judean Hills 

The winery produces 70.000 bottles per year and this Cab Franc is just delicious. Vines are planted at 900 m of altitude and the wine shows a classy richness with a fine grained palate, fruit definition and long lasting finish. One of the best reds I tried in Israel. 92/100

Tanya, Syrah 2014 

Tanya is a family winery established in 2001 by Yoram Cohen and named after his daughter (pictured below). It is located in Binyamin County, north of Jerusalem, at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. Total production is 30.000 bottles. The Syrah shows an attractive peppery spiciness with medium body and overall elegant character. 90/100

Cremisan Estate, Dabouki 2015

Located in the Cremisan Valley between the West Bank and Jerusalem, Cremisan Estate emphasizes on work with ancient grapes. They have identified 21 varieties so far and since 2008 started to vinify 4 of them. These are table grapes as far as I have understood and they are quite promising. Dabouki 2015 shows nice yellow fruit on the nose with medium high acidity and reasonable flavour with just 12% abv. Waxy in character. 89/100. A blend of Hamdani and Jandali was also quite interesting.

Seahorse winery, James Chenin Blanc 2014 

From 43 years old Chenin Blanc vines this is a ripe and full wine yet with lovely precision and with lots of work in the cellar. 91/100 

Covenant, Rose 2016

Fabulous rose from Syrah delivering raspberries along some mineral notes. Elegant yet with substance. 90/100 

Covenant, Syrah 2015 

In 2013, Jeff Morgan felt a calling to make wine in Israel. He teamed up with Israeli/American winemaker Ari Erle (pictured below) - who has also made wine in Napa Valley - to create Covenant Israel. Today Covenant is the only American winery making wine in both California and Israel. This is a big muscular Syrah in a new world approach but also athletic and balanced. Produced in 2.500 bottles has 15.4% abv well hidden. 92/100

Tura Estate, Mountain peak 2014 

Produces 80.000 bottles a year depending entirely on their own vineyards rising as high as 850 m. This is a Bordeaux blend with a 100% new oak generally well integrated though I would prefer less. Awfully young with a structured character, solid tannins and high extract. 90/100

Gat Shomron, Petit Verdot 2012

I am not generally the biggest fan of rich and oaky wines but this Petit Verdot despite having more than 16% abv is very well balanced with nice tannins and excellent oak integration. Single vineyard with spontaneous fermentation produced in 2.500 bottles. 92/100 The winery also produces a brilliant iced wine with cryoextraction method - artificially frozen to concentrate the grapes.  

Vortmann, Colombard 2015

Barrel fermented Colombard that comes from old vines. Real substance, flavour and depth of fruit. 90/100 

There were also some exciting wines by Gros, Onyx and Black Onyx 2013, Montefiore that offered very good value for money and Tishbi that produces around 800.000 bottles; I am concluding this post however with the excellent wines of Recanati that I tasted together with winemaker Kobi Arbib (pictured below). These are brilliant wines that combine excellent varietal typicity, terroir expression and unexpected elegance.

Recanati was established in 2000 in Upper Galilee producing now around 1 million bottles. 

Marawi 2015 

Ancient grape and an experiment by the winery. Semi-aromatic nose with mineral undertones. Very lively on palate with fresh natural acid, mid palate concentration due to old oak and lees stirring. Reasonably long. 91/100

Petite Sirah 2014

Old vines planted in the 80's. Pungent white and black pepper followed by a velvety palate packed with firm tannins. Needs time but has it all. 93/100 

Carignan Reserve 2015

Spicy and earthy with a strong core of plums and berries on the nose. Full bodied, layered with long lingering finish. 93/100

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