Making Wine Where Perfume Once Reigned

September 24, 2012

Binyamina Carignan Reserve

A review of the Binyamina Reserve Carignan 2010 and two Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.

Israel’s Binyamina Winery began life in 1952, when Hungarian winemaker Joseph Zeltzer immigrated to Israel and established the Eliaz Winery, named for his son who perished in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The winery’s facilities actually began life as a perfume factory. In 1925 Baron Benjamin de Rothschild built the factory to take advantage of the abundant jasmine that grew in the area. The surrounding village was renamed Binyamina in the Baron’s honor. The enterprise did not prosper, however, and the factory was abandoned in 1937. The abandoned building soon became a “safe house” for the Haganah until independence. Zeltzer’s plans required the intervention of then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who had a law passed that permitted the local farmers to sell him grapes rather than to the large Carmel Mizrachi winemaking cooperative. Subsequently Zeltzer released his liquors and brandies under the “Hard Nut” label to honor the PM who was known as a “hard nut to crack.”

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High Holidays – Time To Switch Sides

September 14, 2012

Boulard Calvados XO

A review of the Flam Reserve Syrah 2010 and Boulard Calvados.

As a general rule of thumb, the High Holidays are neither early nor late but always on time – even when they seem to sneak up on you. Regardless of the actual dates, in the northern latitudes the holidays are in the autumn, whose weather encourages a shift from summer wines to those better suited to this time of year. The brighter, high acid wines like roses give way to wines with earthier flavors and more complexity that compliment both the harvest season and the traditional holiday meals.

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Inhospitable Locations, Better Wine

September 10, 2012

bazelet hagolan cabernet

A review of Bazelet Hagolan Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut 90 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Although it seems somewhat counter-intuitive, the best grapes for wine frequently grow in the most inhospitable locations. This is a bit of a simplification, but basically the more stress the vines experience, the more flavorful are their grapes – so good wineries tend to seek out vineyards with well-drained, nutrient-poor conditions in the hopes of getting better quality, more flavorful grapes. These are often hillsides with a thin layer of dirt over some sort of rock such as limestone or granite. There are numerous other factors that influence grape quality and flavor, but selecting the correct sites for the vineyards is critical for a winery’s success.

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A Long Road To Winemaking

September 4, 2012

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

A review of the Agur Special Reserve 2008 and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Glenrothes, #30.68.

Shuki Yashuv, owner and winemaker of Agur Winery in Israel, followed a somewhat convoluted road into wine.

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Interest By Non-Jews In Israeli Wines Growing

August 30, 2012

International Wine Review

A review of the Saslove Aviv Marriage and the Bruichladdich Single Malt “Kosher” Cask along with a free offer from the International Wine Review.

Wine lovers across the Jewish community have long recognized Israel’s wine industry’s accomplishments, and tend to rejoice every time some nonkosher wine critic notices, too. While this cheerleading tribal affinity is both welcome and positive, it also has the perhaps less welcome side effect of contributing to the notion that Israeli wine is strictly a Jewish ethnic interest, undeserving of wine-store shelf space beyond the “kosher” section. Of late, however, there are strong signs that interest in the Israeli wine scene is growing beyond just the Jewish demographic.

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Israeli Label Yarden Shows Much Promise

August 22, 2012

Yarden Chardonnay

A review of Yarden wines from Israel’s Golan Heights Winery.

In 1972, oenologist Cornelius Ough identified the Golan Heights as an ideal location for grape growing due to its altitude, cool climate and volcanic soil. More than a decade later the award-winning Golan Heights Winery was established and it is credited with invigorating Israeli winemaking by dramatically improving the quality of the country’s wines. Its early successes led to the search for a winemaker that would build upon these accomplishments. In 1992, a young American graduate of UC Davis, Victor Schoenfeld, arrived in Israel to become its new head winemaker. It could be argued that advanced Israeli winemaking really began that year.

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A Chief Winemaker’s Ordeal

August 17, 2012

Barkan Sauvingnon Blanc

A review of the Barkan Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and White Horse Blended Scotch Whisky.

A winery’s goal is to create appealing wines on a consistent basis. They begin by establishing a benchmark and then take appropriate steps to assure that each vintage meets consumers’ expectations in terms of quality, flavor and price. There will be some variations from vintage to vintage depending upon the growing conditions, but the basic character of the wines should not vary. Improvements are welcome but backsliding will result in warehouses of unsold wine.

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“Not For The Very Young, The Vain And The Active”

August 9, 2012

InVita 2011

A review of the ElviWines InVita 2011 and some Port-based cocktail suggestions.

Spain continues to be a source of well-made wines. The country is the world’s third largest wine producer but ranks first in total acres “under vine,” with over 600 grape varietals planted over nearly 3 million acres. The most popular grapes are mostly foreign sounding – Airen, Albarino, Carinena, Garnacha, Macabeo, Monastrell, Parellada, Tempranillo, Xarel-lo – and are utilized to create red, white and sparkling wines as well as the renown fortified port and sherry wines.

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Biblical Connection

August 5, 2012

ancnoc whisky

A review of the Tzuba Metsuda 2008 and the AnCnoc 12 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Israel is dotted with locations that attest to the Holy Land’s ancient links to winemaking. One such site is at Kibbutz Tzuba located in the Judean Hills. Known as Tzova in biblical times, the village is mentioned in the book of Samuel (Book II, 23: 36) as the hometown of one of King David’s 37 mighty warriors. The area abounds with archeological evidence of a large local wine industry. Scattered about are numerous ancient wine presses along with cisterns, mikvaot and burial sites. Archeologists think winemaking persisted here until the late Second Temple period.

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