A review of the Ella Valley EverRed 2007 and the Mint Julep.
By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week May 4, 2011
There are few wineries with a longer pedigree than the Ella Valley Vineyards. When Danny Valero, the winery’s general manager, began preparing the area for modern grape cultivation, a site of ancient winemaking dating from the Second Temple period was discovered. According to the biblical account, the Ella Valley is also where David fought Goliath. For Valero, however, the location was not just about history or the Bible.
In the late 1990s, Valero, who learned about wine cultivation in Napa Valley, Calif., roamed the Israeli countryside testing soils and evaluating local climates to identify a suitable location for a new winemaking project. As science, history and panoramic views converged, Valero found what he considered the perfect location for this wine venture. When the Second Temple-period wine press and settlement remnants were unearthed there, linking Ella Valley Vineyards to Israel’s winemaking tradition, the find confirmed Valero’s belief that the project was sound. It currently grows nine varietals including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet Franc, chardonnay and muscat from three estate-owned vineyards. Each location is at a different altitude and has unique growing conditions that are appropriately matched to a specific varietal. The results are award-winning, flavorful wines.
The Ella Valley EverRed 2007 ($24), a blend of 60 percent merlot and 40 percent cabernet sauvignon, is barrel-aged for 14 months. An easy-drinking medium-bodied effort with dark fruit and currant aromas that progress into slightly spicy dark cherry, raspberry and blackberry notes in the balanced finish. Available at Schneiders of Capitol Hill (D.C.), Kosher Mart (Rockville) and at various online retailers.
Great wine like this, of course, is always good year-round. As the weather warms, however, not all spirits seem to slake the thirst in the same way – at least, that is the conventional wisdom. According to the booze industry, the darker, heavier spirits – called “brown spirits” in the trade – like bourbon and Scotch, do not tend to sell as well as the temperature creeps higher. The hotter it is, the less dark the alcohol should be – apparently. Alcohol trade statistics aside, however, we are not so convinced.
As the Kentucky Derby is just around the corner (May 6-7), we thought it a good excuse to extol the virtues of the Mint Julep cocktail. This bourbon whiskey-based concoction is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and is one of the greatest hot-weather cocktails of all time. Little more than a mix of bourbon whiskey, mint, ice, sugar, and water, this beverage becomes enchanting, seductive ambrosia when done right: The tang of the mint perfectly balances out the sweetness of the bourbon, and the drink maintains a cool, sweet and refreshing zing from start to finish. Seems simple enough, right? And yet cocktail aficionados – a polite phrase for pedant alcoholics – generally disagree about every aspect of the Mint Julep other than that it has mint and bourbon. As in all other cocktail matters, let your own taste be your guide. Use whatever bourbon you like; our favorite for cocktails is Maker’s Mark. Drink it leisurely. Repeat as necessary until total relaxation ensues. L’Chaim!