A review of the Segal’s Special Reserve Chardonnay 2009 and the Glenmorangie Artein Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 28, 2012
Israel’s Segal Winery has its roots in the early 20th century when Yankel Hirsh Segal and his brothers Elhanan and Yehezkel established the country’s first distillery in Tel Aviv’s German Colony. Their early successes lead the regional colonial authorities to ask them to set up similar enterprises in Damascus and Beirut. In the 1950s, the Segals changed their focus to winemaking, initially calling their winery “Ashkelon” before changing it to the family name. Until the Golan Heights Winery launched Israel’s quality wine revolution in the 1980s, Segal’s was considered a high-end producer.
The winery languished for a while in the 1980s, producing cheap, bulk wines. By the mid-1990s, however, the family had turned things around dramatically and the Segal Winery became pioneers in cultivating grape vines in the Upper Galilee. During this time, to denote the improvement in overall quality, the winery was renamed Segal’s (“Shel Segal” in Hebrew). Then, in 2001, the Segal Winery was purchased by Barkan Wines, which was itself later bought by the Israeli beer-maker Tempo Industries.
Throughout this consolidation, the new management decided not to mess with a good thing or retool a solid brand name and instead allowed Segal’s to continue as an independent operation. Because of this, Segal’s has been a consistently superior producer of both value-priced and premium kosher wines. Perhaps best known for its blended wines called “Fusion,” Segal’s has expanded into single varietal and single-vineyard expressions along with an unfiltered series from prime sites in the Upper Galilee and elsewhere in the country. They currently release 1.5 million bottles annually under the direction of Avi Feldstein, a poet and writer who began as a tour guide at the winery, eventually working his way through various positions to become the head winemaker.
Segal’s mid-range “special reserve” wines are worth the search. Created in a medium-bodied, buttery style reminiscent of California Chards is the Segal’s Special Reserve Chardonnay 2009 ($13). It opens with tropical fruit and lemon aromas that progress smoothly into apple, vanilla and orange flavors with some toasty oak and stone fruits in the finish. Pair this with baked chicken, poached salmon or veal.
Spirits-wise, we decided to continue with the wine theme, but without shifting too far from familiar territory and so have decided to review the new Glenmorangie Artein single malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $80). The Artein is a special wine-cask finish, and is the latest in Glenmorangie’s limited release “Private Edition” range of single malt Scotch whiskies. The whisky itself is roughly two parts 15-year-old Glenmorangie and one part 21-year-old Glenmorangie, that has been fully matured in used American white oak barrels, and then blended together and given additional maturation or “finishing” in used European oak casks that had previously held the “Super Tuscan” Sassicaia wine from the famed Italian producer Tenuta San Guido.
On first approach, the whisky offers delicate aromas of red berries, green apples, candied pear, orange zest and marmalade, vanilla and sweet grains, followed by mouth-coating, intense flavors of orange (fruit, zest and liqueur), dark stone fruits, soft caramel, biscuit, and spice, finishing in a lovely, short but warming blend of cherries, citrus, cocoa and marzipan-coated cake. It is an excellent if somewhat unusual expression of Glenmorangie, and an all-around fantastic Scotch whisky.
Given the wine “finish,” although we’ve commented on the kosher aspects of this process before, we thought we ought to at least mention the issue again. The use of casks that had previously held nonkosher wine is an obvious red flag for the kashrus industry. One of these days, we will write about this issue in greater depth, but for now, suffice it to note that while there are widely respected Orthodox rabbinic authorities who are lenient here, including the esteemed Kashruth Authority of the London Beth Din (KLBD), most American-based national kashrus authorities (the OU, the Star-K, the CRC, etc.), feel that the explicit use of barrels that were previously used to produce nonkosher wines renders the whisky problematic and not recommended for kosher consumers. Obviously, we hold by the former authorities, such as the KLBD (who rely upon the responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein).
Those concerned should seek guidance from their local rabbinic authority. To everyone else, L’Chaim!