File Under Israel, Flagship Wines

Chateau Golan, Geshem, 2014

You all know who the number one winery in the Golan Heights is, don't you? Even if GHW managed to cut down the ABV in their reds to 14%, even 13%, I'm sure this 15% ballerina would out dance them all. And that's not even what's really great about this GSM blend, it's just something I wanted to say first and get out of the way. Geshem's great gift is this: you really need to put your whole face into the glass and spend an evening sniffing it. Those earthy, herbal aromas will sway you and conjure all types of associations. Mine is strawberries and truffles. Or Grenache in the Langhe. Whatever, stick the Geshem in a blind tasting and see what happens. The palate, for all its alcohol, is incredibly light and feels almost Pinot like, the flavors asserting themselves slowly rather than bludgeoning. I'd call it magic, except someone actually worked his ass off to grow and craft it. (Feb. 18, 2020)

Gvaot, Pinot Noir, Gofna, 2017

Pinot Noir is just about my favorite red grape, but I rarely love what's done with it in Israel. But this is wonderful. The nose alone numbs my troubles, with that haunting, autumnal forest rot that is Pinot's stamp in Burgundy, transformed into something all its own by a hint of mint. On to the palate. Although the tannins are not particularly hard, despite the wine's youth, they still cloak the fruit with a herbal bitterness that still needs to integrate. The body is lithe enough that I don't mind that, though, and I enjoy it the same as I enjoy a young Bourgogne - and if you ask me, this is the kind of Pinot where the fruit will not only gain complexity but fill up its frame as the tannins integrate and allow the fruit more room to express itself.  (Feb. 19, 2020)

Feldstein, Ishtar, 2014

This is Avi's Cabernet Franc and its berry fruit is adorned by earth and lead pencil, just as any student of the grape would expect. Students of the Loire should note that the earthy notes here are of parched land with dry herbs and fungi and the tannins are sweeter than what they're used to. A complex depiction of the grape that also expresses our sun-drenched land. It feels fully developed but I bet it won't even start to fade for a few years.(Feb. 11, 2020).

Vitkin, Shorashim, 2011

On the one hand, this Carignan-Petite Sirah-Syrah-Petit Verdot-Colombard blend is the best and most impressive wine I've tasted from Vitkin. On the other, I personally prefer the less expensive Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc wines, which are varietally correct and yet allow enough room for local and personal variations. But my immediate reaction when I first sniffed it was, "this is really very good, very complex". I'm sure most would react the same. It's the typical reaction when encountering a wine that was extremely well put together. The tannins are still drying, even surly, and the palate is not quite as complex and expansive as the nose, but the acidity is lively, for Israel anyway, and supports the fruit quite handsomely. Assaf Paz and the rest of the Vitkin team should be rightly proud. I think the reason I prefer those other wines I mentioned is that they're more expressive and more-ish whereas the 2011 still presents a hurdle. (Feb. 14, 2020)

Tzora, Misty Hills, 2012

When I started out, the Misty Hills was probably just at the edge of the top ten Israeli flagship wines, both in actuality and perception. I'm talking about the 1999-2001 vintages. Today I'd say it's in the top three, and if you wanted to give it the number one spot, few would argue that it is not a legitimate candidate. The nose feels dense with black/red fruit, rocks and pine sap. The fruit is broad and ripe, yet still lashed by firm tannins. At seven plus years post vintage, it still hasn't progressed nearly as far as a three year old Shoresh red. If it matures with neither the tannins nor the sweetness of the fruit becoming too prominent at the expense of the other, it will be the wine of the vintage. (Feb. 15, 2020)