‘To Gladden the Heart’ in Tough Times
New Passover wines from Israel
New Passover wines from Israel
Given the socially isolated Passover most of us will be having, my mind went to the Psalmist, who prescribed a little additional wine “to gladden the heart.” So take this humble column as an opportunity both to take your mind off the coronavirus pandemic and to take stock of some new Israeli wines in the American market. With Israel in full lockdown, it’s also an opportunity to show a little solidarity with the Jewish state.
The biggest new development this season is the U.S. launch last month of Tabernacle Winery, a family-owned kosher Israeli boutique wine venture; its wines are being imported by Allied Importers. Based in Moshav Tzuriel, in the Upper Galilee, the Tabernacle Winery is the passion project of owners Kenny Rozenberg and Daryl Hagler, both of Monsey, N.Y. The two bought a winery, hired winemaker Yossi Eizikovitch, formerly of the Metzuda Winery, as well as winemaking consultant Itai Lahat and Ari Tannenbaum, a Cornell University-trained viticulturalist. Tabernacle’s first vintage was 2017. Here are some options to seek out:
Tabernacle Winery, Reserve, Levite, 2017 ($29.95, mevushal; Skyview Wines and Spirits): This pretty 60/40 blend of Merlot and Syrah is soft and round with cherry, berry fruits, subtle chocolate, and a little vanilla; makes for a lovely little slurp.
Tabernacle Winery, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 ($29.95, mevushal; Skyview Wines and Spirits): A tad thin, though the fruit and overall balance is very pleasing, and with just enough depth to keep it interesting; appealing finish too.
Tabernacle Winery, Betzalel Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 ($63.95, mevushal; Skyview Wines and Spirits): young, plump and juicy, with dark berry and stone fruits, and tannins and acidy that craves a bit of flesh; mighty tasty now, but seems to have enough going-on to potentially mellow out to something “more” with additional near-term maturation in bottle — with ample charms now though.
Tabernacle Winery, Betzalel Ketoret, 2017 ($63.95, mevushal; Skyview Wines and Spirits): Young, but showing some real promise — heft, depth, smooth yet distinct tannins, nice acidity, the red berry fruit notes are a little overripe in the usual Israeli way, but not to its detriment; has a very nice tobacco leaf and eucalyptus-like underlay; deftly oaked; overall enough balance and restraint to keep it interesting and very appealing. Delicious now but will improve with a little age.
Here are some other standout options for new Israeli wines:
Tabor, Adama, Roussanne 2019 ($16.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): Offering poise and depth, this tasty herbal and grassy, citrusy beauty offers additional tropical fruit teases, minerals, and refreshing balancing acidity.
1848 Winery, Second Generation, Gewurztraminer, 2018 ($20.89): While not especially complex, this appealing aromatic, semi-sweet number offers floral notes of lychee, citrus and peach; nicely refreshing.
Teperberg Inspire Farmitage 2018 ($25, Beacon Wines and Spirits): This is a wonderfully appealing, fruity, easy-drinking, and nicely balanced blend of dabouki (55 percent), sauvignon blanc (25 percent) and Gewürztraminer (20 percent). Tasty and refreshing.
Netofa, Latour, White, 2018 ($26.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): Wow! A fabulously yummy oak-aged chenin blanc offering a nose of straw, pear, vanilla and a little nutmeg, and continuing through the palate with additional earthiness, braced by lovely salinity. Beautifully balanced, making for a very fine sip, or indeed a healthy, rewarding slurp.
Vitkin, Collector’s Edition, Grenache Blanc, 2017 ($37.49): An awesome dry white wine composed of 85 percent grenache blanc from Mount Meron in the Upper Gallilee and 15 percent roussanne from the Judean Hills for a little extra backbone. This is aromatic, structured, complex, refreshing and utterly delicious with citrus, pear, guava and assorted ripe and under-ripe stone-fruit notes and some lovely spice. Finish has an appealing nuttiness, too.
Or Haganuz Amuka light 2019 ($19.99): A light, clean, tasty and even refreshing quaffing cab — nothing complex, but well balanced and very food friendly. Would make a fine workday house-wine, and also a great non-taxing, low-alcohol (9 percent) Seder wine option.
Binyamina, Marselan, Reserve, 2016 ($19.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): Nicely balanced; exhibiting yummy aromas and flavors of dark cherry-berry fruits, coffee bean, thyme, and a little dark chocolate. This is an interesting and diverting wine.
Jezreel Valley, Nahalal, 2018 ($26.96, mevushal; Skyview Wines and Spirits): This fun and tasty 60/40 blend of shiraz and carignan packs a bit of an appealingly sporting wallop, and like a Ramones record it engages the senses suddenly and full-on, but very pleasingly — if a tad inelegantly. This gets the job done; should pair brilliantly with rich and flavorful Israeli fare.
Lewis Pasco, Pasco Project BDX 2018 ($24.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): This delicious, fruit-forward yet layered and complex Bordeaux-type blend of cabernet sauvignon (51 percent), merlot (34 percent), cabernet franc (6 percent), petit verdot (5 percent), petit sirah (4 percent) is balanced, refreshing, and rewarding. Lovely.
Matar, Stratus, 2017 ($27.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): This 100 percent shiraz grown in Galilee is big and complex with aromas and flavors of black cherry, black currant, cocoa, whole and cracked black pepper, juniper and some lovely eucalyptus; earthy and herbal, but runs a tad hot on the finish. Overall rich and tasty.
Zion, Armon, Special Reserve, Merlot, 2013 ($36): Rich, earthy, and fruity, with enjoyable notes of blackberry, raspberry, black currant, and, plumb, along with vanilla, cocoa, herbs, spices, and a little subtle tobacco leaf. Surprisingly good.
Jezreel Valley, Alfa, Special Reserve, 2017 ($34.95, mevushal; Skyview Wines and Spirits): Punchily aromatic 70/30 blend of Shiraz and Cab, though a bit overwhelmingly fruity on the palate right out of the gate — overripe dark and red berry fruits (in the Israeli way, not as a flaw); nice and engaging finish, with acidity and tannins teasing the palate to eat more. With air, the palate improves and becomes less bombastic — this is an honest and straightforward wine to accompany food, not gussied up for ogling. Overall, a very enjoyable, deftly produced, juicy, Israeli red for grilled/skewered meats, or maybe also American grilled fare; nice!
Covenant Israel, Blue C, Adom, 2017 ($40): A very happy, vibrant 60/40 blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon, this is rich and satisfying with tasty dark berry and plumb notes, nicely penned in by toasted oak, balancing acidity and lithe tannins. Beautiful.
Tulip, Espero, 2016 ($33.95, Skyview Wines and Spirit): Another winning red blend — syrah (55 percent), merlot (30 percent), cabernet franc (15 percent) with notes of cherry, blackberry, plum, coffee, pepper, leather, smoke and oak. Very enjoyable.
Psagot, Peak, 2016 ($44.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): A big, almost brooding, complex, and most enjoyable blend of 47 percent syrah, 39 percent petite sirah and 14 percent mourvedre; nose is full of black fruits and chocolate with vibrant flavors of blackberry, cranberry, anise, espresso, vanilla, smoked meat, black pepper and something distinctly nutty; big, with smooth tannins, minerality and flavor. Lovely.
Dalton, Galilo, 2017 ($59.99, mevushal; Suhag Wines and Liquors): This is big, striking, yet restrained blend of cab (60 percent), shiraz (30 percent), grenache (10 percent) with notes of cherry, plumb, black currants, dark chocolate, subtle Mediterranean herbs, and a little vanilla; ebullient nose, yet finely composed and elegant on the palate, with a wonderfully long finish.
Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin, 2017 ($69.95, Skyview Wines and Spirits): Consistently good from vintage to vintage, this is still a bit young, but already deep, extracted, rich, and full, leading with aromas and flavors of toasty oak, ripe-to-overripe fruits — cherry, blackberry and red currant with licorice, a little green pepper, and spice. Tannins are comparatively ungainly, but less noticeably so with suitable food. Remains uncertain if maturation in bottle will eventually better integrate the various elements, but either way it’s a serious and seriously good wine.
Stay safe and l’chaim!