Thursday, January 3, 2008

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, 2001 (Jan. 3, 2008)

Some have called this the best Merlot from Israel.

Concentrated, modern and sleek and still hasn't escaped the influences of the oak. Maybe it doesn't want to. It started out with more or less typical Merlot aromas and smoke then picked up an appealing milk chocolate overlay. So it's got its bases covered as far as the nose is concerned but the palate is a different story. Nice, sweet fruit on the attack finishing with off-putting, bitter notes (that word, "notes", can be such an abused term...) that really tried my patience by the time it eked out a sour, cranberry finish. Some might think it's going through a difficult stretch (another abused term) and will surely be flattered by its superficial richness and length but I remain doubtful, pissed off and glad I didn't buy more.

9 comments:

Ido said...

I think it was to early too drink it. It happened to me too with some Israeli wines, they are too bitter and it takes time to the fruit flavors to go out fully.
I hope you will have a chance to taste it again in 3-4 years.

2GrandCru said...

I'm not sure. The bitterness didn't feel as though it came from fruit tannins, more like barrel tannins, as far as I could tell. And it didn't feel as balanced as I remember it being, a year and a half ago.

And in general, I wouldn't bet on a long bottle life for most Israeli reds, though GHW might be an exception.

Lewis said...

I didn't like the 2001 Merlot Ortal at all at it's release, finding it over-oaked and bitter. I asked Victor about it, and he said the oak level and structure of the wine were designed for drinking "in time"; I think he menioned five years from release. Knowing Victor's track record with top level Bordelais red's I wouldn't doubt him. But I am not surprised at Chaim's criticism of the wine. We are investigating a small stock of our 2001 Merlot Reserve to see if it's worthy of re-release. The first bottle was excellent and at peak, but the second bottle was clearly over the hill, going towards caramel flavors that while still enjoyable cleary showed the wine past peak and fading from the points of fruit and liveliness. We'll open another few bottles and see what the ratio of good/past peak is in that wine. Why the bottle variation has happened is largely a mystery - both corks were in excellent - but the 2nd bottle came from a space on the outside wall of the pallet. It may have been heat damaged.

2GrandCru said...

This is just an intuitive guess but even taking into account Victor's drinking window of five years past release, I wouldn't expect a reasonably stored bottle to be this overwhlemed by bitter notes after three years. Not if it has any potential and I did think it was better last year.

Why Victor thinks oak is the answer to everything is beyond me. A few monthd ago, I tasted a Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, 1998 and it was very young an oh so closed but it was in no way oaky. And I've tasted young Pomerols and Italian Merlots as well. Reasonably mature ones as well. So I'm not as experienced as Victor but I've some experience with Merlots and I don't see an oaky 6 year old Merlot beocming any less oaky in time.

A shame, this was one Israeli red I was looking forward to.

T. said...

Begging to differ, I had both GHW 2001 single vineyards over the last week, and they are both doing very well. The Merlot is still not at peak; I doubt there are many other Israeli 2001s that are as fresh. The colour is fantastic. The nose is still quite closed. On the palate the oak is obvious but not problematic, given the balance with pure fruit and mineral showing through - it is the consistent GHW house style, like it or not. I didn't get any "bitterness" - Towards the long finish there are notes of burnt sage and marjoram which I find attractive and complemented lamb moussaka very well.

Lior said...

Hi Chaim,

Haven't tasted the Merlot yet, but I've heard wall-to-wall compliments about the 01 El-Rom cab. Did you try this one recently?

Hopefully I'll get to taste them both next month.

Lior.

Yaron Zakai said...

I gave the only El Rom Cab. 2001 I had to Austrian friends (Chef & restaurant owners), very serious wine lovers. The result - no comment. Which in their terminology means: nothing to write home about...

2GrandCru said...

T,

This is starting to remind me of the debate about the first Yatir release a few years ago on the Kosher Wine Forum :).

Lior,

I had the 2001 El-Rom sometime in 2006. I think it was more impressive albeit much much more closed. I won't open it for quite a while, I'm sure.

Lior said...

Yaron, in one word: Ouch.