Gabi Sadan Photo: Jamie Goode

Gabi Sadan Photo: Jamie Goode

Wine maker dinners are becoming more popular in Israel and especially in Tel Aviv.
Shvo Winery which is fairly young, is not a winery readily available for visitors. The winery is located in the industrial area of Gush Halav in the upper Galilee. While the wines are superb, the winery does not have a visitor center.

Following the October 16′ Wine Spectator article that featured Israel on the cover, we were hired by a U.S wine distributor to show as much of the Israeli Boutique scene in 4 days of touring.

The gentleman who hired us was sitting on furniture that was clearly removed from an old truck as he tasted wines with Gabi. He loved it. When Brut Wine Bar in Tel Aviv had announced that Gabi will conduct a more traditional wine tasting at their establishment in Tel Aviv, I knew we wanted to be there.

The group of 12 tasters consisted of wine lovers,food bloggers and other industry professionals. Because Gabi Sadan is anything but ordinary, the tasting was conducted in a very non traditional manner. We started out with the Shvo Rose which both delicious and unique as it is mostly made with Barbera. We then moved on to 3 French Bourgoin wines that the wine maker chose.  Only then did we move back  and tasted 3 different vintages of Shvo Chenin Blanc and Shvo Red.

Chenin Blanc is a white variety that does have aging potential. There was a consensus around the table regarding the 2013 and 2011 vintages. They were both beautiful and complemented the food that was served next to it. The 2009 was the first Chenin harvest of this winery and while the wine was very much alive, the table was split in half between those who liked it and those who did not. Gabi said that we were tasting 1 of 2 bottles that he had left over and that he knew that this is a wine not everyone will enjoy.

Shvo Red is a blend of Grenach, Syrah , Barbera and Mourvèdre.  All three were terrific, the wine showed it most certainly has aging abilities and I would be happy drinking either of the 3 vintages that we had tasted [09′, 11′, 13′] again.
The evening was hosted by Sommelier Aviram Katz and it was a great time. Thanks Alon for setting this up!

Celebrating my wife’s birthday at a high end Asian restaurant in Tel Aviv last night, instigated this blog post. It seems that the markup on wine in Israeli restaurants is as steep as can be. Wines that we buy at the wineries for roughly 100 NIS a bottle, will often be priced at 260-280 nis at the restaurants. Although Tel Aviv aspires to be like Manhattan, we are not quite there yet, which brings us to the first and most important tip.

Outside wine in Tel Aviv restaurants is permitted! As long as you bring a vintage and label which the restaurant does not offer, the wine can be opened and poured for a cork fee [roughly 40 -60 Nis] If you cannot find the wine list online, it is perfectly acceptable to call the restaurant and ask. For our celebration, we brought 2 bottles [2015 Pinot Grigio from Lueria Winery and a 2010 Layam by Agur Winery] we offered a taste of both to our waiter. In general, being nice about bringing outside wine to a restaurant always helps. In the past, pouring some of our wine to the staff of the restaurant to taste has gotten us extra appetizers and desserts that were on the house.
Jerusalem is not Tel Aviv. Wine is the only beverage in the Bible that has its own blessing. Wine was and is used as part of Pagan rituals. The outcome is that religious Jews require Kosher wine. If you are going to a Kosher restaurant in Jerusalem , you need to bring Kosher wine , touring the Judean Hills boutique wineries with us , is an easy way to get acquainted with superb Kosher wines.

 

Roasted Pineapple @ Taizu TLV

Roasted Pineapple @ Taizu TLV

 

Asking for a taste before ordering a glass is allowed If a restaurant is selling a wine by the glass, it is allowed and acceptable to ask for a taste. At the price the restaurant charges for the wine, they can afford to allow a client to preview the wine before ordering it.

Israel is hot, cool your wine! Room temperature is a term that refers to 13th century Europe. These days North America and North Tel Aviv are hot! Wine simply tastes better when it is cool. If you have ordered a wine which is warm, ask for an ice bucket. Yes, even if this is a red wine. You will thank us later!

The vineyards of Kishor have been planted on Terra Rosa soil in the Galilee in 2007. Although this sounds like a run of the mill beginning to any winery in Israel, This is no ordinary story and certainly no ordinary winery.

The village of Kishorit is a beautiful surrounding to a community of 160 people with special needs who live and work in the village. All the members of the community participate and work in the village according to their abilities. The village owns 80 Dunam of vineyards [20 Acres] and members of the village help take care of the vineyards year round. Other fields in Kishorit that the members work in, include a therapeutic horse farm, a media center that puts out a monthly publication, cheese production, cage free farm for hens and a bakery.

The vintner and Winemaker of the village is Richard Davis who was born in South Africa and resides in Yessod Hama’la. The visitor center which opened in 2014, is beautifully built and offers great vantage point to the scenery around the winery. A generous British benefactor has made a significant contribution to the village in light of the 2nd Lebanese war, both the visitor center of the winery and the facilities within the village are impressive.

The winery currently produces 45K bottles a year, with the plan of growing to about 60K. The wine is Kosher. A special standout wine we tasted was the SAVANT RIESLING 2014 which had beautiful petrol nose and was indeed sweet. A great stop on the trail and well worth visiting!

The wines are available in the USA from Israel Wine Direct

 

photo credit Karmieli.co.il

photo credit Karmieli.co.il

When Gidi Sayada, the young and promising Wine Maker of Lueria winery told me that he currently produces 50,000 bottles a year I was a bit taken back. It seems that Lueria has only been around for a short time. This is obviously a misperception that I got over rather quickly. Yossef Sayada, Gidi’s father, had planted beautiful vineyards 18 years ago and has been sourcing excellent wine grapes to other wineries for their premium wines. The vineyards are hill sided in an elevation of 840 to 890 meters above sea level next to Moshav Safsufa which in ancient Aramaic means “a place where the fruit ripen late.” A rare occasion in Israel’s summer conditions!

The vineyards enjoy rich soil that includes Limestone, Terra Rosa and Basalt in every plot as well as the Galilee weather conditions which at this point are well known. To this day, Yossi Sayada remains the Vintner of Lueria winery.
A few years ago Chef Alon Gonen wrote the following about Lueria’s Rouge wine ‘This wine is rich in wonderful flavors of ripe fruit balanced pleasant acidity, the wine has absorbed a barrel for a year and a half and this time gave Sangiovese steadiness and sturdy body very buttery wine and a very pleasant astringency”

In our wine tasting which was held in late May 2013 at the new visitor center that Lueria Winery opened only 3 months ago, we tried the 2012 Lueria Gewürztraminer, a Semi Dry wine with nice citrus aromas, tropical smell of pineapple and very pleasant acidity.I was also very impressed with the 2011 Lueria Rosso which uses 70% Italian varieties [In the form of Barbera and Sangiovese grapes] along with 20% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon which according to Gidi tame the wine and give it a more softer taste. Speaking of Italian varieties, the Sayada family has planted Pinot Grigio in their vineyards (not a commonly used variety in Israel I wineries) that will be ready to be harvested by next year.

I was thoroughly impressed with all the wines; I tried but especially with the two above. All we can say is congratulations to Gidi Sayada as we wait patiently for his future wines.

When I was climbing the 800 meter slope of Manara to an altitude of 460 m above sea level It was like visiting a foreign European country, the view of the Hachula valley, the Golan Heights, and the white mountain top of the Hermon seem like a view one would see in Switzerland. The high ground dark soil and rocks are covered today with large fruit plantations and beautiful vineyards.

In full disclosure, Itzhak Cohen, owner and wine maker of Ramot Naftaly and my Father have known each other for over 40 years. Cohen’s family arrived to the Upper Galilee village Ramot Naftaly when he was 14 years old. The Cohen family has been involved in agriculture since then, mostly dealing with fruit and vineyard plantings. The old vineyards were able to sustain for such a long time since this village is adjacent to the Kedesh valley of the Galilee, where some of the best vineyards in Israel are located. The ideal Terroir rich Tera Rosa soil and high temperature differences between nights and days along with low precipitation combine for an ideal growing area that many wineries in Israel compete for. It was a lifelong dream of Itzhak Cohen to open his own winery. This dream took shape in 2002 when he attended Wine Master classes in Northern Israel. He was no stranger to the wine industry before then, in 1989 Cohen was the CEO of an “unknown” winery by the name of “Golan Heights Winery”. In the following year after finishing his wine studies in Israel and in Italy, Cohen already had a 1000 bottle batch of Merlot and Cabernet of his own creation.

Today Ramot Naftaly has a large state of the art winery with a beautiful visitor center. The winery was designed to receive 70 tons of grapes a year producing over fifty thousand bottles a year, but similarly to the Somek Winery, Ramot Naftaly decided to stick to quality as opposed to quantity and produce only 10K bottles a year. In a smart business move, they are providing logistical assistance to other boutique wineries in the area and by doing so using the large facilities, machinery and storage area they had built.

Multi winery bottling line at Ramot Naftaly

What makes Ramot Naftaly wine special? This is an easy question to answer, first of all the Barbera wine this winery is producing has not only received high critical acclaim and prizes in Israel, almost the entire annual production is exported to Italy. This is a big deal, Barbera is an Italian variety and the fact that the Italians are buying this wine from Israel speaks louder than words. If you are still curious, I will tell you that” Wine & Gourmet Magazine” in Israel called the 2009 Ramot Naftaly Barbera “ Unique and Impressive” and gave the wine a score of 90 in a blind tasting.

The Ramot Naftaly Duet, (blend of Cabarnet and Merlot) has won best value two years in a row at the Sommelier competition in Israel. In these times, this is certainly a category a winery can pride itself on wining. This is a terrific wine by a superb winery.