These days, the Israeli wineries have to put in a lot of leg work, peddling samples and dinner invitations to every professional and amateur writer, building and maintaining images slowly and laboriously. Slowly and laboriously: because their efforts won't necessarily translate to immediate sales, what they need to do is constantly maintain a brand name that is recognized for its quality and, sometimes, quality-to-price ratio.Which is perhaps why I'm finally on the radar, which is nice - even though, to be quite honest, I don't lack for supplies in the happy and content bubble of my charmed existence. But it's an exciting feeling to talk shop and feel recognized, I must admit.
One result is the set of Galil Mountain wines I had delivered for tasting. I'm not sure how many of these I'd actually buy (and at their price point, they're destined for the restaurant trade, where they'll probably sell for a marketable 100-120 NIS), but it was easy for me to fall for their comely charms while I tasted through my loot.
Just about every textbook on Condrieu mentions the fact that two of three decades ago, Viognier was on the point of extinction, and how now many growers and winemakers in the Old and New World are trying their hands at this extravagantly flattering variety. Me, I something mutter, "aw, shucks, we were so close...", although I can sympathize with the description in Hugh Johnson's "A Life Uncorked" of his first encounter with Viognier: I can imagine how the first impression must have felt almost extraterrestrial to a palate weaned on white Burgundy and Italian and Spanish whites. Riesling and Chenin don't prepare you for Viognier's hedonistic attack, either. Gewurztraminer has a similar effect, with a different palette and methodology. Viognier plays in a different timbre, and if Gewurtz smells like a luscious wench, Viognier is the same wench after a few years in finishing school. Unfortunately, the palate rarely lives up to the aromatics, in my opinion - and I've tasted some expensive Condrieu in my time.
Well, having gone through that lengthy introduction, I must say this is a very cute specimen, especially considering the price (55 NIS).The nose displays peaches and apricots, is floral in a languid way, and hints at Asiatic cuisine, without being spicy exactly, and also at green tea. The palate is about as focused as you can get at 14.5% ABV, where the alcoholic kick gets translated to spiciness, but with better granularity than I get in Gewurtz. Others have noted and complained about the oak - me, I don't really get that, but it might be because I'm so surprised at actually liking a Viognier these days. Let's put it this way, if someone told me that some appellation in southwestern France or Spain was experimenting with the grape, I'd be real interested in finding out more about the place after I'd tasted this. And like I said, I'n not a fan of the grape. (July 30, 2012)
This is the softer, more feminine (including the name) complement to the Alon blend, in this case 45% each of Syrah and Barbera, plus 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It's suitably ripe, yet not overdone, with sour black cherries and cranberries, black pepper and violets. Its 14.5% ABV shows as a warm afterglow on the finish and that feeling of fullness, without a being in any way jammy or muscular. It's quite tasty, and due to a sanguine note on the finish, I prefer it to the Alon (both the 2009 and 2010 versions), while juicy acidity (the Barbera's contribution?) gives it enough shape for interest. Fun. At 70 NIS, this goes for the same niche as sister Golan Heights Wineries' Gamla series, but this just feels like a much more authentic specimen. (Aug. 1, 2012)
I like how this smells, and if you've ever gone through any kind of fling with the Rhone, you'd understand why. It's got that mixture of fresh currants and blackberries, with a touch of herbs and black pepper, and the overall effect is very Israeli, the way my nose understands the more restrained versions of the local paradigm. The palate is a different matter. It's cute, too, and tasty, but it's 15.5% ABV this year, and it shows as sweet, ripe fruit and not particularly structured, which makes it less useful to me. (Aug. 15, 2012)
Barbera, Yiron Vineyard, 2010
Attractive black fruit, with a distinctive smokey/peppery overlay. The alcohol (14.5% again) is concealed even better than it was in the case of the Ella, and the plump, juicy fruit is quite tasty. The oak is obvious here, even annoying, and while I feel it will integrate in time, I think a more cautious barrel regime would have made for a more distinctive statement,. At this point, a couple of steps behind the Ella - wait, I take that back. I feel the oak is more and more distracting as the wine opens. This might be the worst of the lineup, on par with the Pinot. (Aug. 26, 2012)
The bottom line is, I like the Ella a lot for drinking, the Viognier for experimenting and the Alon and the Barbera for serving to friends.