March 26, 2013

Clos de Gat - one of Israel's best wineries

Today, I want to write about my visit to Clos de Gat - a small winery in Israel, and one of the finest in the country.
In January, I visited this tranquil place, nestled in the Judean Hills, and tasted some wines with Sharon Geva, a knowledgeable and equally tranquil host, who wears many hats at the boutique winery. I've tasted a lot over the years, but I can't think of any other winery I've visited, where every wine was impeccable.
New plantings at Clos de Gat
 The genius behind Clos de Gat is Eyal Rotem, owner, viticulturist and winemaker. Between his careful vineyard planting and management, and winemaking ability, acquired through an obvious natural gift, experience and training, he has consistently created internationally recognized, award winning wines. Amazingly, a lot of this seems to have happened by stealth marketing. Clos de Gat isn't open to the public, tastings are by appointment and the winery was a little tricky to find. According to Sharon, Eyal is happy if his wines are enjoyed, and hopes that they speak for themselves.
They certainly do!
Careful research has led to a selection of different grape varieties being grown - those that do best in the terroir of thin topsoil on a limestone base. Among the varieties grown are Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvedre. Petit Verdot and Muscat. Low yields lead to high quality fruit. Natural yeasts are used in the fermentation process. The winery was in pristine condition when I visited, all wrapped up and carefully cleaned for the winter months; the barrels were top notch. Clos de Gat also has its own bottling facility - a key factor in managing the maturation process.
Many wineries have to rely on the availability of limited transportable bottling units, meaning that they have a little less control of the winery processes. Another small detail which speaks to the quest for quality is the use of real tinfoil bottle enclosures, rather than the more commonly used aluminum.
There are three winery series - Clos de Gat, Har'el and Sycra, the latter being a flaghip wine, produced only in perfect years.
At this point, there are two Clos de Gat wines  in the LCBO, about 100 of each in a few stores throughout the province. The 2009 Chardonnay is Burgundian in style and the 2007 Ayalon Valley is a delicious blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot. They are wonderful and, astonishingly, the LCBO price is only about 20% more than at the winery. I mentioned them in a previous story .

Sharon hopes that more of the range will find its way into Ontario in future releases, as do I! Specifically, we might see the Chanson Rouge - a wonderful barrel fermented blend of mainly Syrah, with Merlot and Mourvedre. If we see this in the near future, my guess is that it will be about $28.
Meanwhile, if you live in Israel, or travel and find Clos de Gat wines, treat yourself. You won't be disappointed!

While there, I tasted the following.

2011 Clos de Gat Chanson Blanc 

A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 20% Semillon and 20% Viognier, so amazingly good, it brought tears to my eyes. Now that might seem a little dramatic, but it was delicious, refreshing and perfectly balanced, and it set the tone for what was to come.

2010 Clos de Gat Chardonnay

A year younger than that in the LCBO, and perfectly elegant. This very well made wine is barrel fermented in French oak, aged on the lees for 12 months and bottled unfiltered. This is one of the nicest Chardonnays I've tasted, refreshing, and with excellent balance between fruit and toasty, gentle oak.

2010 Clos de Gat Chanson Rouge

As mentioned above, this was delicious and balanced, with lovely berry fruit, good acidity,  mouthwatering palate and great flavours.

GrapeScot thought

I keep talking about balance with Clos de Gat wines - that perfect harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, tannins, weight, texture, aromas, flavours and aftertaste (missing in so many wines), is ever present in the products of this winery. When a wine is well balanced, it seems unnecessary to break it down into many parts, other than the basics to identify potential food pairings. The wine is just - good!

2008 Clos de Gat Ayalon Valley

A year younger than that in the LCBO. Here we go again - a lovely wine, aged for 20 months in new French oak barrels, racked about every 5 months and bottled without fining or filtering. Rich, complex and elegant and a perfect match for casseroles, (I'm thinking lamb shanks), roast meats,  grilled meats (if BBQ season ever arrives in Ottawa!) and Mediterranean fare.

2009 Sycra

This is a single vineyard, and therefore small batch, 100% Syrah, and a flagship product, only produced when conditions are perfect.  The 2007 Sycra was one of the highest rated Israeli wines in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. This was a well structured, excellent example of Syrah, showing good ageability. Among the many big food pairings which would complement this wine, the winery suggests spit-roasted wild boar. Bring it on!
Clos de Gat vines awaiting spring
In summary - bravo Clos de Gat!
This is the last of my Israeli wine posts - for now. You can check out other Israeli winery posts (Amphorae, Tabor, Tzuba and more) by clicking on the links on the side panel. Next up - South African wines.
Steenberg Vineyards, Constantia, South Africa
Check back soon.