A review of the Mony Reserve Syrah 2009 and look at a new product: Scotch in a Can.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week July 25, 2012
The Mony Winery is an unlikely producer of kosher wines. The winery is located at the Dir Rafat Monastery in the foothills of the Jerusalem Mountains, part of the much vaunted Judean Hills wine region (the mountain range that divides the Sharon Coastal Plain to the west and the Jordan Rift Valley to the east). Mony is nestled on a peak overlooking the Soreq Valley, opposite Beit Shemesh, its vineyards and olive trees start at the winery and descend the slopes towards the valley.
Besides the beauty of the area, the Dir Rafat Monastery is known for its ceiling adorned with the word “peace” painted in 340 languages. Originally the Christian monks made wines and olive oil on site, but over a decade ago the operations changed hands. The Mony Winery was formally established in 2000 by Shakib Artoul, a Christian Arab from the Arab village of Maghar in the Upper Galilee.
Artoul, an olive merchant, moved to the Judean Hills area in the 1980s in search of olive groves and fell in love with the region. Artoul began by managing the wine and olive production for the monastery, before taking over operations completely. After thorough investigations into the local terroir, Artoul leased the land around the Dir Rafat Monastery and planted 600 dunams (more than 148 acres) with olive trees and a further 650 dunams (more than 160 acres) with grape vines.
The wine and olive oil business was named after Artoul’s eldest son, Dr. Mony Artoul, who tragically died young of a heart condition in 1995. The winery was formally established in 2000, with modern equipment and bottling line. Artoul’s sons, Nur, Zahi and Ghassan moved to the area to work the vineyards and olive trees, with Nur, the eldest surviving son, becoming the winemaker in 2002. Mony went to full kosher production, wine and olive oil, in 2005.
In an effort to build on its growing success, in 2009 Mony recruited the skilled ex-pat Canadian winemaker, Sam Soroka. With wine stints in Canada, Australia, California and France, Soroka moved to Israel in 2003 to work for the Carmel Winery’s boutique winery and was responsible for a number of award-winning wines during his tenure.
Mony has a large portfolio including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and other varietals with an annual production of 250,000 bottles under the Reserve, Sunny Farms and Mony labels. It also produces honey and a terrific olive oil.
Winemaker Soroka has modernized Mony’s approach, beginning with a thorough cleaning of the place and the purchase of newer equipment. The result is a steady improvement of the wines and the expectation that Mony will soon fulfill the promise of its location and history. From Soroka’s first vintage try the flavorful Mony Reserve Syrah 2009 ($20) a spicy, red berry and dark currant offering with plums, vanilla and a nuanced earthiness in the finish.
Spirits-wise we thought we’d consider a most unusual product that caught our attention: Scotch in a can. Now, now, snigger all ye wish, but this is a real product, with real Scotch whisky. Two whiskies in fact: a 3-year-old Scotch blended whisky and a 3-year-old single grain Scotch whisky (which simply means it is Scotch whisky distilled from a fermented mash of one or more grains at a single distillery), both are canned at 40 percent abv in 12 ounce cans (which is equivalent to around 8 shots). The cans feature a patent-pending resealable latex cap that fits snugly over the can. These whiskies retail for around $5 each. A bargain! Well, sort of.
As packaging goes, the can is an obvious step in the evolution of whisky products, though not necessarily an obvious success. On the plus-side, cans are cheaper, lighter, more environmentally friendly and nicely compact. On the down side, 12 ounces is a dangerously easy and familiar delivery system for a product that is more than four times stronger than a super strong beer. Aesthetically, of course, a can leaves something to be desired. Best to think of it, we suggest, as an aluminum hip-flask.
The product was dreamed up by Scottish Spirits, a Panama-based company with a base in Glasgow. The motive here seems to be something along the lines of Scotch for the pool party, barbecue, tailgating set. One can should work for three or four folks. Obviously, should someone just chug it, they will likely pass out and possibly die (12 ounces of hard booze should not be consumed in such a fashion).
So how does it taste? Well, more or less like one might expect a cheap, canned whisky to taste:
Scottish Spirits, 3-year-old single grain Scotch whisky (40 percent abv; $5) and Scottish Spirits, 3 year old blended Scotch whisky (40 percent abv; $5): smooth and without burn, offering a little soft, mild sweetness and some mild fizz, with slight traces of typical Scotch flavors. For the price and novelty of it, it’s certainly worth a try. It will definitely make for a cheaper basic Scotch for over-iced, watered down party drink applications (caterers take note).
Not brilliant whisky, but not terrible; not at all. L’Chaim!