January 18, 2013

Carol's picks for Israeli wines at the LCBO

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I'm in Israel at the moment and that I am thoroughly enamoured with Israeli wines. So I'm going to stick my neck out and recommend some that are on the shelves in limited quantities in a handful of stores. I mentioned in a  previous post that there are about 50 on the LCBO books, but further delving into the online inventory system, showed that many are unavailable in Ottawa, sold out everywhere in Ontario, or represent the entry level wines from the wineries in question. But there are still a few that I invite you to try.
It was about 24C here today, and a quick look at Environment Canada's website is showing -17C in Ottawa - ouch! So, perhaps a nice glass of red wine is just the thing.
Every story needs a few photos, so I'll insert various random and unrelated photos as I go.

Israel produces over 30M bottles of wine a year, and a number of wineries have won top awards and been recognized at lofty levels by Decanter World Wine Awards, Wine Spectator Magazine, and wine experts like Robert Parker and Hugh Johnson. 30M bottles is not a huge amount by global standards. As my next port of call is South Africa, I checked in with the wosa website - Wines of South Africa, and the 2012 production level is estimated at 872M litres.
Nevertheless, in no particular order, here are some recommendations.

Yarden Mount Hermon Red $18.10

About 200 in Ontario, 11 at Rideau and King Edward. Yarden is the flagship label of Golan Heights Winery, one of Israel's most acclaimed wineries. This wine is generally made from Bordeaux grape varieties grown in the Golan Heights. I've tasted many Yarden wines over here and none have disappointed. Last night I had a Yarden Chardonnay from the Odem Organic Vineyard and it was outstanding, as was the fish at Eadra Restaurant on Herzl Street, Rehovot - just in case you're in the neighbourhood.

Shiloh Chardonnay 2010 $23.95

Four stores in Ottawa have some stock. This winery is located in the Judean Hills, a source of some very good Chardonnay.

Clos de Gat Chardonnay 2009 $47.95

Available at Rideau and King Edward and Carleton Place. Not in everyone's price bracket, but the late Israeli wine critic, Daniel Rogov, likened this to a Burgundian Montrachet. Located in the foothills of the Judean Hills, Clos de Gat is regarded as one of Israel's top wineries. Of the 33 Montrachet's in the online system, only one was less than this price.

Recanati Reserve Merlot 2007 $28.95

Available at Bank and Walkley and Carleton Place. A full bodied wine, ready for drinking now. From the best vineyards of this central coast winery.

Galil Mountain Shiraz $17.95

Rideau and King Edward. From a well respected winery and one of the biggest producers in the country. This is from the entry level series. If you like it, request and keep your eyes open for the flagship series - Yiron, Meron and Avivim

Clos de Gat Ayalon Valley 2007 $47.95

Rideau and King Edward, Stittsville and Carleton Place. Made from Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and awarded 94 by the aforementioned Daniel Rogov.

Margalit Enigma 2006 $98

Only 18 left in Thornhill, but I wanted to mention this Bordeaux blend, from one of the top rated wineries in Israel.

Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 $75

48 available online, ready for drinking now and highly rated by Daniel Rogov. Grapes sourced from vineyards in the Upper Galilee.

Other wineries to explore

Labels alone don't guarantee good wines, as most wineries have entry level, mid level and high end wines.  The differences reflect vineyard quality, vinification techniques, aging procedures and much more. I've certainly enjoyed wines from Castel, Yatir, Chateau Golan, Tzora, Teperberg, Somek, Tulip, Pelter, Hans Sternbach, Dalton, as well as the others I've mentioned in recent posts.

Hans Sternbach Winery

Located in the Judean Hills, this has to be one of the tiniest wineries in Israel, and one that we stumbled upon, only because of the previously mentioned bunch of grapes sign. Special mention has to be made of the 2009 Janaba Reserve, an elegant  Cab Sauv Cab Franc blend, with definite age-ability, from a  tiny sub-valley within the estate.

Dalton Winery

Dalton is located in the Galilee, with vineyards at an elevation of 870m. The winery produces a wide range of varietals and blends and we tasted a number of them - on Christmas Day, as it happens. There were some great value, tasty whites - chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and chard/viognier. There are a number of Dalton wines in the LCBO, but the reds didn't really speak to me until the high end Reserve Series wines, none of which are currently available in Ontario. A 2010 Merlot reserve was showing good aging potential, the 2008 Cab Sauv had a lovely nose with eucalyptus, mint and blackcurrants, good balance and a nice, underwhelming 13.5% alcohol. The Shiraz reserve 2010, at 16% alcohol was too big a wine for my taste. All of these were in the $30 level at the winery. We didn't taste the flagship Matatia Cab/Merlot blend, priced around $90 at the winery.

Jeep Riding in the Jerusalem Hills

Nothing to do with wine, but that's what I'm doing tomorrow. Stay tuned!