7 Solid Wines For Sukkot
When it comes to thinking about kosher wines for specific Jewish festive holidays, such as Sukkos, I invariably find myself looking to the Israeli wine scene for inspiration. This is only natural, of course – Israel is the Jewish State, after all. Further, Israel produces a terrific volume of kosher wines (roughly 50 million bottles annually), and while the Israeli lake of kosher passable plonk is both wide and deep at times, some Israeli wine is not only very good indeed, but truly exceptional. So this week, my thoughts turn to Israel’s north, to the Yarden wines of the suitably much vaunted Golan Heights Winery (GHW).
As ought to be widely known by now, it was in 1983 that the GHW began producing Bordeaux varietal wines and soon sparked the first quality wine “revolution” in Israel, roughly 100 years after the wine industry was reborn in the holy land.
The GHW Winery’s accomplishment was not merely the creation of dry table wines that finally reached an internationally acceptable standard, but also the establishment of a perception of “quality Israeli” wine as a real thing in itself. This new aspirational category yoked the rest of the Israeli wine industry to the thankfully endless pursuit of quality table wine production. Between the producers making better wine, and consumers slowly wanting to drink quality, the industry changed. The GHW essentially forced the rest of the industry to re-orientate towards quality and excellence, and to at least try to compete. The net effect was positive all around, and the Israeli wine industry has improved by leaps and bounds ever since. Ever the trail-blazer, in another “first” the GHW was named “New World Winery of the Year” in 2012 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, one of the leading wine consumer publications. The wine industry awards and accolades are ongoing. So without further ado, here are a just few choice options:
Golan Heights Winery, Mount Hermon, Red, 2016 ($11.99, though often found for less): This pleasant medium-bodied blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot is, as always, fresh, flavorful, and fruit forward, with ripe red and black fruits (cherry, raspberry, currant, blackberry), and just enough of an herbal backdrop note to vaguely anchor it Israel’s Galil. Makes for a nice everyday table wine.
Heights Winery, Gilgal, Sangiovese, 2014 ($14.99): As with past vintages, this is a solid, value-driven, uncomplicated red with just enough going on to stay engaging, offering dried floral notes, ripe almost crunchy berry fruits, tart cherries, some blackcurrant, a little oaky vanilla, and a dollop of tobacco. Overall yummy and should make for a dependable crowd-pleaser.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard, 2014 ($20.99): This is a creamy, nicely mouth-filling effort with green apple, pear, citrus, and vanilla notes, and the tiniest hints of honey and smoke, with a bit more spice and citrus notes on the round finish.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blanc, 2009 ($30.99): With delicate but enticing aromas and flavors of toasted brioche, baked apple, citrus zest, and tropical fruits, this is crisp, brisk, effervescent, balanced, and refreshing. A fun and flavorful bubbly!
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Malbec, 2014 ($32.99): This full-bodied, supple wine has light tannins but good concentration, with fresh, ripe, bright, sweet berry fruit notes, some plum, and subtle hints of tobacco, violets, and tea. Drinking well now, but should keep and improve with age over the near term.
Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2014 ($31.99): This delicious, supple almost beefy, deep, medium to full bodied red blend—56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah, and, 5% Petit Verdot—is seriously good, with enough complexity and elegance to command sustained attention. This is munificent with aromas and flavors of plum, black cherry, dark chocolate, dried herbs, against a general background of vanilla and oak, with nicely integrated generous but not overpowering tannins, and a subtle but distinctive earthy quality. Nice finish too.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 ($32.99): This latest vintage is a solid entry—better than the 2012, though not quite as good as the 2013—and another fine example of the flagship quality Israeli Cabernet from GHW that first put Israel on the “quality” map back in the 1980s. Rich, beefy, and creamy, with notes of ripe and juicy blackberry, cherry, plum, herbs, cocoa, some anise and a little mint, all bounded by still integrating, grippy tannins, and noticeable but not over-the-top oak influence. Drinking very well now, but should reward additional cellaring. A serious wine that craves some serious flesh. L’Chaim!