Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

On the Passing of Daniel Rogov

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

As many of you have undoubtedly heard recently, Daniel Rogov, the Robert Parker of Israeli wineries (kosher or otherwise), has passed away. I have read his book s for years, now, and would read his column in Ha’Aretz when I had the opportunity to do so. His passing, while not a shock, is still very sad, as Israel has lost its greatest wine champion.

In his wake a multitude of other wine writers and bloggers (and yes, occasionally the two categories do actually meet!), including yours truly, who carry on his noble work of promoting Israeli wine. While I may have my self-doubt whether anything I write could ever come up to the level, clarity and succinctness of Rogov’s contribution to wine literature, it is my aspiration to reach that level, if not in notoriety, then at least in quality and regularity of contribution.

Mr. Rogov, while I never had the opportunity to meet you, you still had an impact on my life and career as a wine blogger, a wine drinker and Israeli-phile in general. You will be sorely missed. My wine this Shabbos will be in your honor, whatever it ends up being (I have yet to make my selection!)

For those of you who have read this and other posts on my blog, I do welcome comments directly on the blog, or if you would rather send me those comments, questions, etc., you can email me directly at My goal is to educate people about not only the way a given wine smells and tastes, but also why it does that.  And if you are interested in learning more about the intricacies of the wine production process, I welcome questions, comments, concerns and do use the feedback to make choices about what I put into my future posts. But I digress.

My hope is that all of this can honor in some small way, the memory of a man, without whom Israeli wine would largely be relegated to the kosher-only market or for local consumption. And if by chance one of his family stumbles across my meager postings, my sympathies are with you and yours. Daniel Rogov was a true inspiration to me and my wine life. May HaShem comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Tabor Adama Merlot, 2008

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Merlot has a certain….reputation, thanks to films like Sideways, where Paul Giamatti‘s character goes into a rampage after being offered Merlot. Generally, most of the anti-Merlot contingent stake the claim that Merlot is an overly soft, unstructured and uninteresting wine. And they are largely correct.

Merlot is a generally soft and plummy grape which, in the right hands, can actually make a delightful and interesting wine (see wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion as classic examples of Merlot done right). However, California-style winemakers have developed a tendency to allow Merlot to overripen on the vine and thus overbalance the resulting wine on the side of fruit, at the expense of tannin, acid and overall complexity.

Now, the bright side to these wines is that they are very friendly to the neophyte in the wine world. Because these wines are so fruity and low in acid and tannin, they make for fun and easy wines to drink without forcing the drinker to delve into the wine and unlock its complexities (because it has little). The down side of this is that they make for easy wines to drink without forcing the drinker to delve into the wine and unlock its complexities (because it has little).

So, in generaly, I will recommend a Merlot when someone is interested in learning about the basics of wine and is not “ready” for the heavy-duty wines like what you see in Bordeaux or Barolo or other areas of California. Merlot is an inexpensive (usually) and basic (usually) wine that will likely appeal to anyone’s palate, regardless of their wine knowledge or lack thereof.

All that being said, these qualities of Merlot, particularly in its Californian iterations, is a double-edged sword. Because of its reputation as a mild and fruity wine without a lot of complexity, many wine geeks will turn their nose at an offering of Merlot because of the Californian practice of over-ripening the fruit so that the resulting wine is uber-fruity and soft and full-bodied (longer ripening = more sugar = more alcohol = more body). But this lack of complexity and interest-driving wine makes for a bad reputation, thus Paul Giamatti’s subsequent outburst on film.

Now to today’s subject: Tabor Adama Merlot. This is an Israeli Merlot from Tabor winery, which has often been held in high regard for its quality New World style wines. The Adama line is their mid-range line of wines, encompassing several varietals, including today’s Merlot.

This is one wine, sadly, that Paul Giamatti would again rail against. Full-bodied and relatively low in tannin and acid. The plush plummy fruits run wild without the requisite structure to keep the wine interesting and food friendly. I keep trying Merlots with the hopes of finding some truly nice ones that break this long-held trend of flabby California-style wine, but this is not one of them. Particularly disappointing is the price tag: $25-30.

Now, where does this wine have merit? It is a well-known label and because of its soft, plummy qualities, is very popular among those that like very fruity wines. The label is attractive as well, making for a nice gift.

Barkan “Classic” Sauvignon Blanc, Israel 2009

June 2, 2011 Leave a comment

This week, we are still in Israel and looking at another Sauvignon Blanc. This time, Barkan‘s entry-level (the “Classic”) Sauvignon Blanc. While not the most complex and opulent wine out there, it wasn’t intended to be, and it does its job quite well.

By “entry-level” I mean that the winery intended for this wine be a basic, everyday kind of wine. There is not a lot of complexity in either the nose or the palate but  at the same time, the price reflects the quality. In reality, if you were to go to a bistro in Europe (at least in the non-kosher world), you would find a “house wine” in the form of a bulk wine, often served in a carafe, and meant to be quaffed, not necessarily savored or pondered over.

This wine in particular is definitely a “bistro wine,” as I call it. Bright and fruity, the Sauvignon Blanc is medium-bodied with lots of citrusy aromas of white grapefruit and a little papaya. The palate reflects these flavors with just a hint of minerality on the finish, which is a short one.

At $12.00 a bottle, and mevushal, this is a wine that I’ve used at several events (along with other wines in the Classic line) to a great deal of success because it is easy to drink; it is inexpensive; and it provides a bit of social lubricant which makes these events memorable (hopefully in a positive way!)

Categories: Israel Tags: ,

Yarden Syrah 2005

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

For my first wine post, I thought I’d pick one of the stars of the Israeli kosher wine world, and perhaps one of the companies that put Israeli wine (kosher or otherwise) on the map: the Golan Heights Winery. In particular, I tasted the Yarden Syrah, 2005 vintage.

Before opening, I was very concerned that I was opening a California syrah wannabe: über fruity and lots of smoky oak aging. However, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Wine uses 4 of your 5 senses: taste, touch, smell and sight. Upon visual inspection, I saw that the wine was intensely colored with a grapey shade of purple (typical of syrah) and heavily concentrated, which led me to expect a huge punch of flavor and aromas.

Like I said before, I was expecting very stereotypically California-ish qualities out of the wine (lots of fruit, peppery spice in the case of the syrah grape, and smokey oak qualities, and generally over-the-top), as many Israeli wineries are opting for this style (it sells more bottles); however, this was not the case for the Yarden Syrah.

Instead, it reminded me more of what you would get out of the Rhone Valley in France (the home of the syrah grape). In France, the best wines are more restrained. The fruity qualities are still present, but usually not overripe and in-your-face; this allows for other characteristics to come through, things that are more earthy.

In this case, the earthiness was very present, but not offensive. There was a distinctly mushroomy quality, as well as something gamey–almost reminiscent of venison.  There was oak aging on this wine with hints of butterscotch and vanilla, but it was an accent, not the primary note.

As far as the fruity qualities, there was some grapeyness going on as well as plum, but if anything, they seemed a little under ripe. And finally there was some characteristic spice going on at the end, black pepper and clove.

And now, the main event: tasting! The wine is very tannic, meaning it would go well with a dish with some fat or other richness going on. The acidic qualities complement the tannins in the wine. The black pepper and clove are more assertive on my palate than when I smelled the wine. The fruit is there, but again, it’s very restrained and the fruits are under ripe.

I enjoyed this wine thoroughly, and would heartily recommend it to others. One word of warning, though: IT NEEDS FOOD! I ate a roast chicken breast with this wine and it didn’t go well together. If I were to do this again, I’d pair it with a steak or lamb chop. Maybe a beef bourguignon. You’ll want to have something that is rich and has a good amount of fat to counter the acid and tannins in the wine.

This wine goes for around $25 – $30 in most wine stores, but I have seen it on sale for as little as $20. In any case, if you need a wine for a gift that will impress, or if you’re doing a nicer dinner party, this is an excellent bottle to buy!