Recanati is one of the few Israeli wineries I've tasted extensively, although it's been a while, as I've obviously been drinking few Israeli wines in recent years. I'm not sure what sparked my interest, as I was initially very much put off by the connection to the Recanati family (I'm sure Lenny is a fine guy, really, but maybe I'm still a punk at heart and the Recanatis are E.S.T.A.B.L.I.S.H.M.E.N.T.) and the label design. But I liked the first Reserves when WineRoute had them on sale in 2003 and then I was pals with former winemaker Lewis Pasco and drank with him on a few occasions. I also drank a few times with CEO Noam Jacoby, and I've been drinking with Ido Lewinsohn recently as well. So that's the personal background.
Anyway, this tasting came about as a result of some discussions on the Fat Guy forum, as well as my own notes on the 2008. The scene of the crime was a new place in Tel Aviv, Yirmiyahu 7 and all the wines, except for the dessert, were supplied by the winery. Many thanks to wine-makers Gil Shatzberg and Ido Lewinsohn, CEO Noam Jacoby, and finally, Ehud Walter who put it all together.
Special Reserve, White, 2009
A short voyage of disovery here. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier from the Upper Galilee. Floral, hints of minerals. At initial cold temperature, I can't discern discrete varietal traits, in time I get the Suvignon Blanc and Viognier but not so much the Chardonnay, which I guess is the most neutral of the three. The Viognier's florality seems to dominate at first and eventually I do get some Chardonnay on the nose and a tasty nuttiness on the finish. Better than last time, but at least initially it's still more interesting to taste than to drink, due to its complexity. Having said that, it's so very interesting and becomes tastier in time, to the point where it's actually one of the most interesting wines of the evening. I may have been over-cautious here.
The Special Reserve Reds.
Nice color, nice nose, although not very expressive or complex. Olives set the tone, I think. Palate is dry and single minded, not to say one dimensional. Hanging on for dear life.
More lively than the 03, but in a riper style. More old-school Israel. Then it passes on.
Same old song, with some rusty muskiness on the finish. It's more complex than the previous two, especially the nose, and it's pretty good for what it is (or used to be), but I think it's not in much better shape than the others. Not tonight, anyway.
Fruity, and sweetish, yet the sweetness is reined in. I don't think it's a stylistic break with the previous wines, just a younger version of them.
Still the same style. But quality-wise, an improvement. Very clean and relatively complex and I'm sure it will do well. But it just really ain't my style.
Needs time and I guess I tasted from a bottle that had been open for a long time, last time, because that wine now seems wildly different, in retrospect. Having said that, I can still recognize the savoriness that appealed to me at the time. It's much better delineated and complex than the previous versions. And I still think it's the best SR ever.
And Now For Something Completely Different...
Syrah/Viognier Reserve, 2009
Ooh, I like this even more than the SRs! So much so that I actually found it hard to return to the SR 2008. Focused meat and pepper stink on the nose. Meaty, savory tannins. Pays hommage to the North Rhone (think Cornas with the immediacy of Saint Joseph) while bringing a lot of Israel to the table (sun drenched fruit). It's a tough call between this and the Carignan: I think this has better focus and versatility, yet the Carignan lays out a course that is more interesting and, well, wilder. Both are true gems and worth a look even if you're non-Israeli.
Wild Carignan Reserve, 2009
Obviously Carignan, with characteristic (AFAIK) sweetness of the grape, yet with a meaty edge on both nose and palate. It has this sweaty tint on the nose, with underlying minerals. Lovely saline finish. If all Israeli wines were like this and the Syrah/Viognier, I'd be drinking more of them. And both wines sport lovely labels.
I kind of skirted around the question of cellaring the two of these - but don't. I mean, they'll keep for a few years but why wait, they're really groovy now.
Petit Sirah/Zinfandel Reserve, 2010
Very youthful fruit that paired well with our steaks, it has a certain coolness to it that I like. But it's nowhere as special as the other two.
As Recanati don't make dessert wines, we finished the evening off with a Sauternes brought by two of the participants.
Suduiraut, Preignac 1er Cru, 1999
Let's start with what I still love about Sauternes: that richness on the nose, with the spicy kick of the botrytis. The palate offers the same kick with an acidic backbone and a certain bitterness. Yet I'm still not re-converted.