Sometimes life presents an unfathomable "what the fuck" moment to a discerning wine geek. Whatever in the world caused a break between Oryah and the owners of Midbar Winery? Despite my relief that his former venture, Assif, had found a buyer and that Ya'acov had found a way to continue his work, the winery's site caused an initial feeling of disorientation. The site seemed to focus more on the owners and less on the winemaker, and in general seemed too high-techy and at odds with my perception of Ya'acov as a craftsman and person. I can't say the news of the break bowled me over my feet in surprise, but still, this is a damn shame and a blight on the reputation the winery had garnered within a relatively short time, no matter what the hell happened over there.
The buyout and label changes seemed to come just at the point where Oryah was coming into his own as a winemaker. The Midbar wines received a lot of praise and, more to the point, a lot of love. It was a good period for him, and I have to give the owners credit for letting him pursue him muse, however atypical it was in the local scheme of things. Having said that, I'm sure that, to a lot of people, the wines were Ya'acov Oryah first, and the Midbar label was only a secondary consideration.
This post is written without any knowledge of what went behind the scenes, and I don't know how important the full story is, to me, as a consumer and a blogger, except perhaps to demonstrate how frail and inviable the local industry can be. I'll continue to be a Midbar client in the short term, buying up whatever of the Ya'acov crafted vintages are still in the pipeline ,especially the jewels of his modest and all-too-human crown: the Semillon based wines.
Speaking of which. Here's the bottle I opened as a farewell toast.
Imagine what you'd get if you could transpose the flint and burnt match aromas of a mineral-laden Bourgogne white unto a fruit flavor deeply entrenched in mandarin oranges instead of the apples and pears that Chardonnay would usually bring to the table. Imagine, as well, an oilier - not necessarily fatter - palate.
That's Semillon for you, and while Ya'acov didn't invent anything new with this blend of white Bordeaux varieties, he crafted a clear and clean, seemingly straightforward wine, with enough joyful acidity, balance and structure to ensure that the fruit will continue to speak with purity and clarity as it gains complexity. In short, he let his ego take a back seat and in the end made a personal statement after all.
Best of Luck, Ya'acov. We didn't meet that many times in person, but I felt enough of a connection with your wines to consider you more than just a passing acquaintance. I will look forward to meeting your work in the future.