Israel's Good Name

Sadot Winery

In Uncategorized on September 18, 2014 at 9:54 AM

With three wineries visited and sixteen wines tasted, we continued on with our wine tour. The four of us – Joel, Les, myself and our tour guide Yakov – popped on over to Sadot Winery, nestled in Sde Ya’akov just across the road from the fascinating Bet She’arim National Park. The newest winery on our tour, this estate winery is only in its second vintage.

The picturesque vineyard at Sadot Winery

The picturesque vineyard at Sadot Winery

Meeting up with Ro’i, the winery owner, we started with a look at his vineyards, sampling from two grape varieties. Even though the grapes are hanging lush on the vine, Ro’i is waiting for the perfect sugar levels before he harvests. What defines his winery as an estate winery is the fact that all his wines are made with grapes grown on the estate, definitely giving us the full behind-the-scenes.

Fruit of the vine

Fruit of the vine

After snacking on some grapes we headed down to his workshop and his rooms. Using a clever, yet simple, concrete structure, the winery’s various stations and the new deck is all in one spot, overlooking the vineyards, a water reservoir and the distant Mount Carmel. Ro’i showed us his latest batches, one just starting the fermentation process, kept in large temperature-controlled metal casks. Using little stepladders, Les and I poked our heads into the casks to examine the crushed grapes.

Peering into the cold cask

Peering into the cold cask

Moving on to the next station, Ro’i showed us the barrel room where his vintages are aging and his freshly picked grapes were waiting. And then, to the storage room where the finished bottles are waiting. With that, we headed up to the deck and made ourselves comfortable. Ro’i brought up his four wines and several bottles of cold water – the first winery to offer such a luxury.

Enjoying some Rosé

Enjoying some Rosé

We started with the Muscat Canelli and then, after some cold water and some discussion, tried the Rosé. After more water and more discussion, Ro’i poured us some Shiraz Tempranillo. And then, finally, the Syrah. After trying the superb Syrah Reserve at Tulip Winery, I saw the potential in this younger vintage. There was that same focused feel on the middle of the tongue, just a little larger – the general consensus was that the Sadot Winery Syrah just needed a little more alone time to fully mature and pack that wonderful punch. All I know is that if I were to ever make a wine that good, I’d be singing my own praises.

Ro'i and us (photo: Yakov Feder)

Ro’i and us (photo: Yakov Feder)

Finishing up our twentieth wine of the day, we thanked Ro’i, got back into the car and had a pleasant drive back to the hotel in Tel Aviv. As we drove we discussed the wineries and the wines. Each winery stood out on their own in some way or another, and their wines were a testament of hard work and fortune here in Israel’s magnificent wine country. This wine tour has really inspired me in the field of wines and I look forward to visit more and more wineries.

Tulip Winery

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2014 at 4:20 AM

With half our wine tour over and nine wines tasted, the four of us – Joel, Les, myself and our tour guide Yakov – headed over to the Tulip Winery to taste seven of their wines. We entered the visitor centre, sat down at the bar and settled in for some serious tasting. But before we tasted the wines, Lital (customer relations manager and our guide) explained to us the importance of the winery and the local village.

Tulip Winery

Tulip Winery

Kfar Tikva (Hope Village) is where this boutique winery calls home, and it is in this village where adults with special needs can become an active part of a community. A groundbreaking endeavour, this village breathed life and hope into those less fortunate and the winery was created with similar passion – producing a “wine that loves people”. Focusing on the good, Tulip Winery was founded in 2003 to bring together the love of people and the love of wine – providing opportunity for those with special needs to realise their potential.

Wine production

Wine production

With this unique factor, the winery takes on a different air – an extra meaning in the increasingly popular wine production. With numerous wine types, producing 220,000 bottles annually, Tulip Winery is the embodiment of hope and success and we were honoured to sample from their vintages. The first wine we tried was the White Tulip, a blend of Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Next, the White Franc and then we moved over to the reds.

Lital sharing some white wine

Lital sharing some white wine

The first of the reds was the Espero with its very appealing label. Following that was the Mostly Cabernet Franc, with a little bit of Merlot blended in. Despite that we visited after closing, Lital took the time to enjoy the wines with us and it was at this winery that I really voiced my thoughts on bouquet and taste. The strong aroma of blackberries, the hint of peach or pear – and what was that, lychee? I really had a marvelous time discussing the wines with Lital and Yaakov, with Joel and Les chiming in.

Talking with Lital

Talking with Lital

We then tasted the reserve wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve and the Syrah Reserve. I was quite impressed with the Syrah Reserve and according to the winery’s website it is considered to be one of the three best Syrahs in Israel. After being aged 18 months in French oak barrels, the flavour was rich and clean. I gave my taste note as “focused on the centre of the tongue” and there really was a difference between this and the previous reds which filled the mouth.

Tulip wines

Tulip wines

We finished off with their flagship wine, the Black Tulip. A blend of four grapes and aged 24 to 30 months in French oak barrels, this was a superb wine. Even the modern art label had a story: an art contest with the name “Don’t Label Me!” where the winner was used for the flagship wine’s label. The actual artwork is framed and hanging on the wall in the visitor centre.

Black Tulip artwork

Black Tulip artwork

After tasting seven wines, we talked some more, a bottle was purchased and we headed out, thanking our wonderful guide for the wonderful experience over and over. In my words, the tasting wasn’t: “Here, what do you think?”  It was: “Here, what do we think?”. All in all, my favourite winery of the wine tour. Next: Sadot Winery

Jezreel Valley Winery

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2014 at 4:45 AM

Continuing on with our wine tour, the four of us – Joel, Les, myself and our tour guide Yakov – drove over to the second stop, the Jezreel Valley Winery. Established in 2011, Jezreel Valley Winery is an Israeli start-up boutique winery, located in Kibbutz Hanaton. We entered the winery, met Ma’ayan our guide and started with a small tour of the wine-making process.

Ma'ayan explaining the machinery

Ma’ayan explaining the machinery (photo: Yakov Feder)

Just outside the visitor centre room is the labeling and packaging station and then beyond it outside is the initial grape receiving area. We were told that on the previous day one of the grape harvests came in and the winery was abuzz in production, separating and preparing the grapes for fermentation. Growing exponentially with each year, and with the help of some new machinery, the boutique winery is on its way into becoming a real powerhouse in the boutique wine industry.

Yehuda Nahar (co-founder) at the labeler

Yehuda Nahar (co-founder) at the labeler

Our next stop was the barrel room where French oak barrels filled with aging wine, stacked five-high, lined the sides. Recycling some used barrels from larger wineries for their reds – beneficial in keeping oak tastes down – we spotted some familiar names in the Jezreel Valley barrel room. Returning to the visitor centre room, we sat down to try some wines – first up, the Chardonnay. When the bottles came out, one thing that really impressed me was the design of the labels – a nice blend of rustic and modern, and a cute usage of the Hebrew punctuation on the English letters.

Jezreel Valley's barrel room

Jezreel Valley’s barrel room

Following up with the Rosé, my favourite from Jezreel Valley, this was a wonderfully chilled, beautifully coloured wine with strong fruit aromas and tastes. Our third and final taster, the Redblend, a blend of Carignan, Argaman and Syrah grapes. It was with this wine that I noticed something interesting. I didn’t detect this in the initial sniffing, but when just a few drops remained, a wood smell began to develop. It got stronger and stronger, which I had assumed was due to my constant swirling – “opening the wine”. When I asked Yehuda, the co-founder, he suggested it was the wine warming up, releasing the wood aroma. Whatever the answer is, this prompted me to “up my game” in reading the wines via their bouquet.

Ma'ayan pouring the Rose

Ma’ayan pouring the Rose

Thanking Ma’ayan and Yehuda, we head out for our next stop: Tulip Winery

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