Home > Israel > Alexander "Sandro" Cab-Merlot, Israel, 2007

Alexander "Sandro" Cab-Merlot, Israel, 2007


This was my first experience with the Alexander winery (a new import to the US), and I can easily foresee this winery operating on the same level as Domaine du Castel and Yatir, if it isn’t already. (This is one of two wines I’ve sampled from Alexander). The style of the wine, as is Castel and Yatir, is decidedly French, meaning that the fruity qualities of the wine are secondary and the more earthy and vegetal qualities of the wine are more dominant.

Be forewarned! If you’re used to the style of wine from Baron Herzog, Teal Lake, Golan, Gamla, etc. this is a very different type of wine! Aside from the switch from fruity to earthy-dominant flavors, there’s also the oak issue. While this wine is indeed oak aged, there’s little, if any, new oak used to age the wine. If you use new oak, the oak influence is going to be stronger.

Some would say “if you’re going to do it, you may as well really do it!” But let’s put things in perspective. At the seder, you’re supposed to have a “bitter herb,” which many have interpreted to be a horseradish-based mixture (with some vinegar, etc.), but you can have too much at once and it’ll blow out your palate for the rest of the seder (or at least the Hillel sandwich!). The same with the oak influence on wine. I appreciate the extra layers of complexity and tannin that oak can lend to a wine, but if you use too much oak (especially new oak) or let the wine age too long in the barrels, you end up masking the true flavors of the wine. So oak is good–in moderation.

Strong oak influences are popular among novice wine drinkers because the heavily-oaked wines tend to be easier to drink and more palate-friendly and straight-forward. By using older oak barrels and using just a small amount of aging, the grapes’ natural characteristics come out and often these qualities are not as popular among those who are new to the wine world, or are used to the California/Australia style of wine. It’s not a judgment of taste but rather the reality of the development of the wine drinker’s palate.

To put it in another perspective, as we develop our tastes for food, from babies to children to young adults to mature adults, certain foods fall in and out of favor with our palates. Good luck trying to tell a 5 year old that artichokes are a delicious food, and you’ll have just as much luck convincing someone in their 30’s that Wacky Mac (TM) is the epitome of gastronomy!

Now that I’ve finished my aside, let’s get back to the wine itself. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (the two classic dominant grapes of Bordeaux). When I sampled this wine, it had been opened the night before, so approximately 18 hours had transpired between opening the bottle and my tasting of the wine.  So you could open this wine the first night of Passover and serve it for the 2nd seder and be in good shape!

On the nose, truffle mushrooms and green pepper were immediately apparent. On further inspection I also found aromas of old tanned leather and dried tobacco. There were some dried cherry notes but they were very much secondary; I had to work hard to find the fruit on the nose.

The fruity flavors were more easily found on the palate but still not the primary characteristics. The truffle followed through on the taste as the dominant flavor with some vanilla and butterscotch (classic signs of oak aging!). The tannin was certainly there but it was well-integrated, showing a wine that has aged well and is in its prime for consumption. The acid was there but very subtly weaved throughout.

This wine BEGS for food. From a classic grilled steak to a beef with mushroom sauce, pair this wine with red meat, please. You don’t do this wine justice just drinking on its own. If there ever were a wine that would go well with a cigar, this is the one. If you had to drink this wine on its own, I would approach it the same way I would a good single malt: have small sips over an extended period of time. This is the wine to ruminate over. But so worth it.

So how much does this wine cost, you ask? $31 at your local wine shop. In case you hadn’t noticed it already, I kinda like this wine a little. And by a little, I mean a lot. Get this wine. There isn’t much of it out there.

The other wine I tried from Alexander is one that is not even available on the American market, and definitely worthy of its own post, if for no other reason than to understand the way this wine is produced (it’s a truly mind boggling process!).

L’Chayim!

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Categories: Israel
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