Sphera 2018

Although I’ve been drinking Sphera since just about the inaugural vintage, and have written a few dozen tasting notes,this is the first post I've dedicated solely to Sphera since that first vintage. Doron Rav-Hon style is rather easy for me to encapsulate. The wines are more about clarity and depth, less overtly structured or opulent than his peers in the top tier of local white winemaking, where he obviously belongs. They always make me think of a Japanese rock garden. You have to concentrate and ease yourself into the nuances.

2018 was a great success for Sphera. I always love his Sauvignon Blanc, always my first choice in the lineup, but damn if the 2018 (tasted a few months ago) wasn't the best yet, a wine that speaks of terroir even as its vivacity and vivid tang transport you to a lush and green landscape that might not exist in our corner of the world, a wine that, true to the house style, is at once both taut and broad.

First Page, 2018

I never bought a lot of the First Page. It was always tasty, but there was always a touch of obeisance about it. I blame the Pinot Gris in the blend, but it’s been gone for a while and now the blend is Semillon, Rousanne and Chenin Blanc. Now the acidic backbone is more pronounced, and while it's not yet completely in balance with the fruit, it is just integrated enough to allow the fruit to show subtle nuances. This is no longer a second or third wine but an equal to its peers that will actually demand a couple of years to really shine. (Aug. 18, 2019)

Riesling, 2018

As much as I adore Doron's wines, I'd always approached the Riesling with a highly critical eye, as I always do local Rieslings. But the 2016 really stopped me in my tracks at three years of age, and ever since I've been looking for signs of a followup. Doron has been so consistent with his other wines, that I admit I've lost some of my critical reserve. But I'm willing to testify to my objectivity when I say that I'm sure this will turn out very amazingly well, as it already shows lovely aromatics, white peaches with a touch of wet rock, echoed on a palate that marries sweetness and salinity, culminating in a long finish driven by taut acidity. As good as my first impression was, I'm amazed by how it develops in glass, more more handily than the First Page did.(Aug. 22, 2019)

Chardonay, 2018

This isn't an obvious Israeli Chardonnay. The acidity is surprisingly high, although not enough to obscure the lithe shape, like lime juice dripping from oyster shells, which is wh the finish is so flavorsome. It doesn't have the slight pear bitterness that young Israeli Chardonnay sometimes show. Meanwhile, the nose is complex and nuanced, showing an array of fruit and mineral aromas than range through apples, pears, oranges and chalk. (Oct. 2, 2019)

White Signature, 2018

The blend of the flagship wine varies from year to year and there are no rules. It had been a varietal Chardonnay, a varietal Semillon, a blend of the two and this year it's 80% Chenin Blanc, supplemented by Chardonnay. There's a focused lushness to the fruit aromas and flavors, with nuances of cantaloupe, flowers and flint, a lithe form to the structure. Its status in the portfolio isn't due to greater complexity or weight, at least not at present, but for a greater sense of depth and presence. The formal anonymity of the blend, plus the inclusion of Chardonnay, obscures the fact that this is potentially a magnificent Chenin. (Aug. 29, 2019)

A couple from 2017:

Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

I think at this point, it's a rush of adrenaline that doesn't give you pause to note any nuances, just tropical fruit enveloped by chalk and salt, powerful and focused for all that, with a tasty aftertaste. (Sept. 30, 2019)

White Signature, 2017

Despite being a Semillon-Chardonnay blend (predominantly Semillon), this comes off quite similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, I'd even go so far as to suggest a New Zealand one, being a more exotic and opulent, nicely wrapped in chalk. Both 2017's are classy wines that make a case for a few years in the fridge. (Oct. 1, 2019)