Your behind-the-scenes look into Israeli Wine Direct and the re-emerging Israeli wine scene!
We’re on to Day 3! So far, we have stayed in and around the Tel Aviv area. Today, we travel north! As a special treat, our IWD Israeli Representative, Tamir Ronen, who is our eyes, ears and taste buds on the ground in Israel, joins us today!
Tamir lives in the Moshav Mei Ami, just across the road from the Arab city Umm Al-Fahm. We pick up Tamir, have a quick cup of cappuccino (Israelis love their cappuccinos), and head to meet Meir Biton from Kitron Winery, at his home in the religious communal settlement Hoshaya.
The Kitron Winery is located in Netanya however they are currently building a new gravitational winery in the Lower Galilee. A gravitational winery, or “gravity flow” is typically built on multiple tiers, each tier for a different phase in the winemaking. This allows the wine to flow naturally, which enables the wine to preserve as much color and flavor as possible, rather than pushing the wine with air and pumps. Meir studied this kind of winemaking in Burgundy and in Sonoma and it will be the first and only one of its kind in Israel.
Image from: http://blog.winecollective.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/GravityFlowProcess.jpg
We took our leave of Meir and his lovely home and headed to a meeting we were all particularly excited for because it will be a new winery for Israeli Wine Direct to represent this coming spring!
That’s right, we are proud to announce the newest member to the IWD portfolio: Kishor Winery! We are thrilled to bring you these new and excellent wines NOT only because of their outstanding quality NOT only because they are kosher and will be our 2 first KOSHER white wines but because the people and the story of Kishor is remarkable and is one we are proud to be a part of.
Kishor winery is located in the Western Galilee, nestled within beautiful rolling hills, a part of the Kishorit community, a home for a adults with special needs. Five of the members of Kishorit work permanently in the vineyards and winery, while more members come on to work during the heavy production season. All workers take part in every aspect of wine production, from grape cultivation and vineyard management to wine making, bottling, and marketing, and are managed by Richard Davis, a South African viticulturist and winemaker as well as Itay Lahat, oenologist and wine expert.
We arrived at the Visitor’s Center, a beautiful and modern building, recently finished, and were greeted by Richard Davis and Yair Una, head of marketing and sales, as well as Yaron Biran, a member of the community who works in the vineyard and winery. Yaron brings us a selection of cheeses, breads and vegetables, all grown, made and baked in Kishorit. If you get a chance to visit this magical place you MUST try the food! Perhaps the best spread of our tour!
Keep in mind that the vineyards were only planted in 2007. They harvest their first grapes only in 2010 and the permanent winery was finished only in 2013 so this is a baby winery, in its toddler years, but the wines they make are far more mature than their age! First production yielded 9,000 bottles; by 2013 they had grown to making 34,000 bottles and are seeing a future of over 55,000 bottles so their growth is exponential!
To the wine! Their vineyards are terra rosa and limestone and the unique micro-climate of the region helps them grow grapes of excellent quality. Of the grapes they grow, 7 are red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) and 3 are white (Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Riesling). They have just started to bottle the Syrah and next year will begin with the Mourvedre and Grenache.
We will carry 4 of their wines: Kerem Kishor White (blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier), Savant Viogner (100% Viognier), Kerem Kishor Red and Savant Red (both blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot).
Now the moment you (and we) have all been waiting for: the tasting! The first we try is the Kishor White 2013. It is a dry wine, well balanced, expertly made; drinkable, highly enjoyable.
Next we try their Riesling, which we don’t carry as of yet. We tasted the 2012, which was one of the last bottles from that vintage, but Richard remarked that with each year, their Rieslings are getting better and better. What we tried was still a very good Riesling. It was sweet and fruity with a nice dry finish that kept the wine from being too sugary. It had a slight petrol odor to it which sounds much more unpleasant than it actually was. The wine was excellent! Could easily last another 10+ years.
Richard indulged us next with trying their Rose. Made from 100% Merlot grapes, which are grown specifically for making this rose, it had a beautifully salmon-orange tinge to it. The wine is crisp with a good acidity and a refreshing bouquet, a result of early picking.
Next, we moved on to the reds with the Kerem Kishor Red; a dry medium-light bodied wine with a smooth, long finish that isn’t tannic. It is a wine that can be easily had now but will age well over the next 5-8 years.
Lastly, we tried the Savant Red, a similar blend to the Kerem Kishor Red, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it has a greater, almost entirely quantity of Cabernet Franc. As such, it is light and peppery with a hint of raspberries. It will be a wine that shall be greatly enjoyed by our customers, it’s that good!
After chatting for over three hours with Richard and Yair, we took our leave, elated to have tried these outstanding wines and to have met these impressive people. And excited to be bringing these wines here to the States; we hope you are, too!
The first day was a fantastic start to our trip! Unfortunately, the weather on the 2nd day put a bit of a damper but our meeting with Midbar owners Itzhak and Shelly Wolf more than made up for the unusually cold and wet Israeli winter.
We met at their beautiful apartment in Kikar Hamedina, the largest plaza in Tel Aviv with chic stores and quaint cafes. Originally, we were going to travel south to the winery in Arad to see them and vine grower, Eran Raz, but the weather prevented us from doing so. It is unfortunate because they had scheduled for that day a religious ceremony to make the winery kosher. That’s right, readers; Midbar Winery will now be producing KOSHER wines! More on that a little later but it is a very exciting announcement.
As always with winemakers, wine importers and wine lovers alike, when you have a meeting, you must have some wine; and maybe a little something to eat, too. We started right off with their 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay, which we have never tried before. It was crisp and fruity, with a pale yellow, almost greenish color. Not as tart as the Pelter Unoaked Chardonnay that we already carry, but just as refreshing. Our customers in the States have always enjoyed the white wines we import from Israel so the hunt to find new and delicious white wines is always on!
Next we tried the Viognier; we carry the Midbar White 44 and have sold out of the Southern White, which both contain this special grape, but what we tasted was a 100% Viognier, and we loved it. It was floral and buttery, rich and full bodied yet still dry, so golden in color one would almost think it’s a sweet wine, like a Sauterne. The Viognier impressed us, the Midbar blends are all enjoyable but the single varietal wines, which Itzhak explains, he only uses the best grapes for, are truly spectacular. When you realized that the winery is still young, the quality becomes even more impressive and the promise of what to come makes it all the more exciting and enjoyable!
Since the rain hadn’t abated yet and it was our only meeting for the day, we indulged in a few more samples of wine, moving on to the reds. The first one was the Red 55, which we unfortunately don’t carry, but was remarkable. Asking Itzhak why they chose “55” in the name, he answered that they were looking to create a memorable number with no particular meaning, perhaps only a mystique, like Heinz 57. Back to the 55, it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The wine is smooth and subtle, with a light finish. The Wolfs don’t like tannin in their wine and that cannot be anymore evident than in the 55. It has a deep garnet color and the bouquet is heady with perfume.
Our last wine was the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon 800, which we do carry, but the 2012 vintage. According to Itzhak, this is exactly the wine that defines Midbar Winery, “for the good and the bad, its exactly a desert wine”. If you tasted the wine, you already know its quality. If you haven’t had it yet, do! It tastes of blackberries and pine with a soft, earthy finish.
The conversation moves to Midbar’s becoming Kosher and what that has meant for the winery. To put it simply, it was done to increase sales, once a winery grows to a certain size in Israel, it makes no sense not to go Kosher. Many people ask if that will have an effect on the quality… it will not! By becoming Kosher, the winery simply needs to be overseen by a Mashgiach, or a religious supervisor. It sounds perhaps a bit less complicated than it really is; but basically once the grapes are harvested, the entire wine production up to shipment, basically, needs to be run by these religious men in order to guarantee Kashrut. The wine maker, Meital Damry, even Itzhak and Shelly, the company’s owners, can’t taste their wine in the barrels, unless the Mashgiach is there to serve it to them! It’s a complicated process for an ancient belief but rest assured, the wine will remain as great as it ever was and with the coming years and the growing experience of those working at Midbar, it will probably get better!
We landed in Israel and immediately hit the ground running. The morning after we arrived, we had a meeting with Margalit Winery. Still groggy from jetlag, we started our trip with a brief tour of the winery with winemaker Asaf Margalit.
Margalit Winery and barrel rooms
He showed us their beautiful barrel room before taking us upstairs to a cozy tasting room. We started talk about Margalit wines, one of the biggest cult wineries in Israel. Shortly before opening the first bottle, we were joined by Yair, Asaf’s father, founder and master winemaker at Margalit. Yair could probably be the man credited with starting the boutique winery movement in Israel. A chemist in training, he holds a PhD in physical chemistry, which brought him to California U.C. Davis as a visiting research professor. It was there that his love of wines was, for a better term, cultivated. That was thirty years ago. He went on to be Tishbi Winery’s first winemaker before founding Margalit Winery in 1989. Aside from producing some of the best wines Israel has to offer, he has written not just one but two leading books in wine technology, chemistry and production. If you want to read up more on Yair and his background, read this excellent article written last summer in the Jerusalem Post HERE.
Back to our tasting. Never mind breakfast (although there was a beautiful spread of freshly cut vegetables, burekas, cheese and bread, lets have some fruit salad! Ok ok, by fruit salad, we mean wine. Who says we can’t mix business with pleasure?
Array of wines and food
We try the Merlot, which will be a new wine for us to carry this coming spring. It is a perfect Merlot, full of those quintessential cherry, tobacco and chocolaty flavors. Beautifully balanced, easy tannin & rich, this will please all of our red wine-loving customers.
Next we move on to the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cabernet Special Reserve, two of their signature wines. Many of our customers will already be familiar with the amazing quality of these wines. They are outstanding, perhaps the two wines that Margalit is best known for.
We try a few more wines, a Petit Verdot that is an in house wine only. It has that characteristically grapey, vanilla and spice flavor one expects to find in Petit Verdot, albeit very tannic, which is why they decided not to put it on the market.
Lastly, we try an experiment of the winery, a rose! Now, we carry 3 roses from 3 different superb wineries and are always excited to try more. Sure, they may be considered the fluff of wine, but when it’s hot out, there’s nothing like opening a bottle of crisp rose. Yair explains that they have made a rose that they believe to be exactly what a rose should taste like. We have to agree; it is very good. Crisp! That’s definitely the first word. It was approaching the end of fermentation so there was a slight carbonation to the wine, which made it no less enjoyable. It was fresh, lively, and springy, with grassy and strawberry notes. Will they put it on the market? Let’s hope so!
Arie Hochberg, IWD Principal and Asaf Margalit, Winemaker
We take our leave of the Margalits. The weather appeared to be getting hazier, there was a storm forecasted, or maybe it was just the wine…
We have one more appointment scheduled for the day at Somek winery, with vintner and Zichron Yaakov native, owner of Somek Winery, Barak Dahan. In fact, Barak isn’t just a native, he is the fifth generation of his family to be living in Zichron Yaakov and the family has been tending the same vineyards all that time! In fact, the vineyard Barak still cultivates is the same land, albeit a bit more has been accumulated over the years, that Baron de Rothschild gave to his family over a century ago!
Backyard of Somek Winery
For those who know wine in Israel, the town may be familiar to you, because it came under the patronage of Baron de Rothschild in 1883, when he came to Israel to survey land for agriculture, particularly vineyards. He founded a winery in the Carmel Mountains and set up a bottling plant in Zichron Yaacov, the town was renamed in memory Rotheschild’s father, James (“Ya’acov) and in 1954, Baron de Rothschild’s remains were reinterred close to the town.
The Dahan family cultivated their land and sold the grapes to wineries for decades. Finally, ten years ago, Barak and his wife, Hila, decided to expand upon their knowledge and begin making their own wine. Hila then went on to study viticulture and oenology at the University of Adelaide, in Australia. A decade later, their winery has grown, along with their knowledge.
New barrels and wine presser; barrel room
We carry several labels by them, all of them fantastic, one of the most notable, perhaps, is their Carignan, a beautiful wine with a wonderful, round texture, firm tannins, and ripe fruits. Another wine that is perhaps less popular, though no less delicious, is the Bikat Hanadiv. In Hebrew it means “blessings of the righteous man”, Barak’s and Hila’s praise of Rothschild. It is a blended wine of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot and was so named because it is reminiscent of the famous Chateau Lafite.
Barak and Hila are have become very knowledgeable winemakers indeed, they are gaining recognition, and rightly so, for the wines they are producing. A year ago, the Jewish Daily Forward wrote a wonderful article, linked HERE, on the Dahans and their wines. Currently, they are even expanding on what they know and are starting to make new wines, one of which, a chardonnay, we were very excited to try. We sit in the newly built, lovely tasting room and sip the sample Barak has brought for us. Like the rose from Margalit, it is still undergoing fermentation, so it also has slight carbonation that will eventually dissipate. The wine will be slightly oaked, to round out the burst of citrus, and will be just as superb as his other wines.
The day is getting a bit more precarious. The chickens in Barak’s coop seem to understand that there is a storm coming. Wintertime in Israel is no joke! As we leave the winery, the gusts of wind almost force us back inside. Sad to go, Barak is so inviting and generous with his time and explanations, the conversation was endless and could have gone on longer, we take our leave, excited by all we have learned and tasted in the first day alone! What a successful start to our winery tour, the excitement would not let up, regardless of how much the weather tried to dampen it!
Arie Hochberg and Barak Dahan
Hello winos! We hope you have been having an amazing summer and drinking your fair share of wine to keep cool. This month, we’re kicking off a new series of blog posts, writing about the history of wine making in Israel. We are constantly asked about how long Israel has been producing wine and the answer may surprise you. Wine production in the Holy Land has been happening for over 5,000 years! That’s long before any Bordeaux was ever produced. In fact, the earliest wine pits were discovered in the Middle East and dated back to the Stone Age, around 8,000 BCE. Indeed, the Middle East was the center of wine production for over 2,000 years before the grape vine ever reached Europe; you can find evidence of its presence all throughout the Bible and in archeological digs all over Israel and the Middle East!
One of Isarel's oldest winemakers, Carmel Winery's emblem depicts the Joshua and Caleb returning to Moses with a grapevine so large it took both of them to carry it.
Starting with Noah and continuing on into the New Testament, wine is frequently mentioned in the Bible. It was used for religious, medicinal and social purposes and praised as a Godly gift that could be enjoyed or a dangerous intoxicant that could corrupt. The Old Testament records first viticulturist, Noah who, following the deluge, planted grapevines and tended to his vineyards. His relationship with wine, however, turned sour after a drunken night, but that is another story.
Medieval manuscript depicting Noah in his vineyard and again, making wine.
In the Book of Kings it is written that King David, had so many vineyards and such a large wine cellar that he had 2 court officials to direct them, one to oversee the vineyards and the other to be in charge of his cellar; the first recorded sommelier!
In the New Testament Gospel, the Book of John, Jesus created proved his divinity with miracles involving wine, by turning the pitchers of water at a wedding into wine. In another gospel, the Book of Luke, Jesus recounts a story where thieves attacked a traveler on the road to Jericho. A Good Samaritan healed the traveler, pouring oil and wine, a remedy commonly used in biblical times, to clean his wounds.
Detail of Wedding at Cana The Good Samaritan
by Paolo Veronese, 1571-72 by Unknown Netherlandish Master, 1537
The time of the Second Temple was when wine making was at its height however, after the Romans destroyed the Temple, the Jews dispersed and wine production in Israel stopped. During their time of success, however, the wine production flourished; its evidence can be found all throughout Israel in the excavation of its archaeological sites. Aside from oil, wine was the biggest agricultural industry in Ancient Israel. Wines made from the first harvest were the highest quality, later harvests were sweeter, while the last harvest included the skins and seeds were the lowest quality. Then, like today, grapes were picked at their ripest, towards the end of summer. The grapes were first treaded on by men or boys with bare feet, so as not to crush the seeds, which would make the wine bitter. The juice would be collected in a special treading floor that would lead to a collecting vat. The remaining skins were then squeezed in a winepress located near the vineyard to preserve the freshness of the grapes.
Graphic of a winepress in Ancient Israel
From there, wild yeast was added and the juice was left to ferment for approximately three days. Once the fermentation stage was completed, the wine was strained and poured into amphorae to age. Older jars were preferred over newer ones, as they did not absorb as much of its contents. Amphorae were then sealed with stoppers, even cork, and were inscribed with the vintage, the grape, and the name of the winemaker, implying that the source of the wine was just as important in ancient times as they are today!
A Roman glass wine jug found in the Judean Moutains 2nd Century Amphorae
These discoveries are super interesting and very important and the best news is that they are happening even today! In 2013, archaeologist Eric Cline of the George Washington University and his colleagues from Tel Aviv University discovered a wine room in an ancient Canaanite palace in Kabri, Israel. The discovery was huge and will hopefully lead us to better understand the winemaking culture in ancient times! You can read more about the dig by following the link below!
It’s Time for a BBQ!
We are getting ready to fire up our grill here at Israeli Wine Direct for our Independence Day festivities. Of course, a BBQ wouldn’t be complete for us without the perfect wine list, which we’ve carefully prepared to go along with our delicious food. For this posting, we’re going to talk about the wines that will pair perfectly with the menu for July 4th so get ready for fireworks, a dip in the pool, and of course, the perfect glass of wine!
Our first course will naturally be a salad, but we’re taking it to the next level by pairing it with a delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Shvo Winery. This wine is rich in texture with the perfect balance of acidity to complement our salad. For this first course, we’ve chosen Bobby Flay’s Grilled Fennel and Orange Salad with Almonds and Mint. The warmth of the grilled fennel and richness of the almonds will mimic the wine’s smoothness while the orange and mint will bring in the zest with the wine’s acidity. This is an easy and delicious salad, a perfect way to kick off a fantastic BBQ!
2 bulbs fennel, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oranges, peeled and segmented, plus 1 orange, juiced and zested (only zest half of orange)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
Heat grill to high. Brush the fennel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until slightly charred and almost cooked through. Place fennel on a platter and scatter orange segments over the top. Whisk together the orange juice, zest, mustard, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle vinaigrette over the salad. Sprinkle with almonds and mint and serve.
Our next wine is a unique Chardonnay. Many people shy away from this grape because they dislike the buttery oakiness of the wine. Our Pelter Chardonnay is unoaked and is thus missing all of the aforementioned flavors. What it has is flavors of bright tropical fruits, perfect to offset the smokiness of grilled mushrooms and brine of seafood. We’re pairing this wine with two dishes, Grilled Lobster Paella and Portobellos Stuffed with Corn and Mushrooms.
Grilled Lobster Paella
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 pound Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/2"-thick rounds
6 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, or 2 finely chopped leeks, white and light-green parts only
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 1/2 cups short-grain rice (such as bomba, Valencia, or calasparra)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
7 cups hot seafood or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1–1 1/4-pound lobsters, halved lengthwise, claws cracked
2 cups shelled peas or frozen peas
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 halved lemons
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill. Let burn down to red-hot coals; rake to edge of grill. (For backup, start a second round of coals in a charcoal chimney on pavement nearby.) Put a 16"–18" paella pan on grill grate; heat 1/2 cup olive oil. Add 3/4 lb. Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/2"-thick rounds, and 6 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, or 2 finely chopped leeks, white and light-green parts only; cook until golden, 3–4 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon smoked paprika and 2 1/2 cups short-grain rice (such as bomba, Valencia, or calasparra); cook, stirring often, until rice is coated, 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads to 7 cups hot seafood or chicken stock. Add stock to pan and season to taste with kosher salt; stir to distribute ingredients. Let cook, undisturbed, until stock simmers and rice begins to absorb liquid, about 10 minutes. Rotate pan every 2–3 minutes to cook evenly.
Arrange 3 1-1 1/4-pound lobsters, halved lengthwise, claws cracked, over the rice. Continue cooking, rotating the pan often, as the rice swells and absorbs the stock. Add more coals from charcoal chimney to maintain even heat under the pan. Cook until the rice is almost tender and the lobster is cooked through, about 10 more minutes.
Scatter 2 cups shelled peas or frozen peas, thawed, on top. (If the liquid evaporates before the rice is tender, add more hot stock.) Cook without stirring, allowing rice to absorb all of the liquid, so that a crust (the socarrat) develops on the bottom and the edges begin to dry out and get crusty, 5–10 minutes, for a total cooking time of about 40 minutes.
Remove pan from grill. Cover with large clean kitchen towels and let rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and serve with 3 halved lemons, making sure to scrape some of the socarrat from the bottom of the pan onto each plate.
Portobellos Stuffed with Corn and Mushrooms
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons corn oil
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
5 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
8 5-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms
1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as oyster and stemmed shiitake), sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup crumbled Cotija or feta cheese
Whisk 1 cup oil, garlic, vinegar, 3 teaspoons thyme, and 2 teaspoons oregano in medium bowl to blend. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/3 cup garlic-herb oil to small bowl; reserve.
Trim and thinly slice Portobello stems; set aside. Brush both sides of Portobello caps with remaining garlic-herb oil; place caps, rounded side down, on large rimmed baking sheet. Preheat broiler. Broil Portobello caps until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from broiler. Turn caps rounded side down. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add assorted mushrooms and Portobello stems; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in reserved 1/3 cup garlic-herb oil; sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add corn; sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add cream; simmer until almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture among Portobello caps, mounding in center. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)
Preheat broiler. Broil Portobello until heated through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons each thyme and oregano.
For our last glass of white (it is summer, after all!), we’re going back to Shvo vineyards, this time to enjoy their Chenin Blanc. This is a bold white wine, filled with flavors or dried fruit and minerals. This is the kind of wine that should be paired with sweat/savory food. Therefore, we’re pairing this wine with Grilled Halibut, Eggplant, and Baby Bok Choy with Korean Barbecue Sauce and Cranberry BBQ Sauce Turkey Sliders (we know it isn’t Thanksgiving but what is more American than turkey and cranberry sauce?!).
Grilled Halibut, Eggplant, and Baby Bok Choy with Korean Barbecue Sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced serrano chile with seeds
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
8 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
4 medium-size Japanese eggplants, trimmed, halved lengthwise
4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and chile; sauté until fragrant and light golden, about 3 minutes. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and 3 tablespoons water and bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes (sauce will be thin). Remove barbecue sauce from heat; whisk in sesame oil. Transfer 1/4 cup barbecue sauce to small bowl and reserve for serving.
Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Combine bok choy and eggplant halves in large bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush fish with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables and fish until vegetables are tender and slightly charred and fish is just opaque in center, turning occasionally and brushing with sauce, about 10 minutes total for vegetables and 7 minutes total for fish. Transfer vegetables and fish to plates; sprinkle with green onions. Drizzle with reserved sauce and serve.
Cranberry BBQ Sauce Turkey Sliders
Celery Apple Slaw:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 granny smith apple, cored but not peeled, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
Cranberry BBQ Sliders:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Cranberry Sauce, recipe follows
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups shredded turkey
12 sweet dinner rolls
One 1-pound bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange, zested and juiced
Cranberry BBQ Sliders:
For the sauce: Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, oil, celery, apples, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Set aside while you make the sliders.
For the sliders: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cranberry sauce, ketchup, vinegar, Dijon, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the sauce into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
Place the turkey into a large bowl and pour the sauce over the turkey, stirring to coat evenly with the sauce. To serve, spoon a 1/4 cup of the turkey onto the bottom half of the rolls, garnish with 2 tablespoons of the slaw and top with the top half of the roll.
Combine the cranberries, maple syrup cinnamon, orange zest and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Turn the burner off. Using the back of your spoon, lightly mash the cranberries to desired consistency. Chill until ready to serve.
Three glasses of wine and plenty of food in, we’re feeling pretty good! Done with the whites, we’re moving on to richer reds, hopefully it’ll be cooler outside! This round is our Pelter Cabernet/Shiraz which tastes of raspberries and cherries with a smooth, long finish. The smoothness of the Cabernet with the pepper of the Shiraz pairs perfectly with juicy lamb, a staple in Mediterranean cuisine. This Minted Lamb Burgers with Feta and Hummus is flavorful and fresh, a great compliment to your wine and BBQ!
Minted Lamb Burgers with Feta and Hummus
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup minced fresh mint
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 7- to 8-ounce block feta cheese, sliced
4 kaiser rolls, split, lightly toasted
8 onion slices
4 romaine lettuce leaves
Mix first 7 ingredients in medium bowl; shape into four 4-inch-diameter patties. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to skillet; cook until bottoms are well browned, about 3 minutes. Turn patties over and top with feta cheese. Continue cooking to desired doneness, about 3 minutes longer for medium-rare.
Place roll bottoms on plates. Top each with onion, burger, lettuce, another onion, and hummus. Press on roll tops.
We’re almost there. One more glass! For this one, we’re going all out and opening a bottle of Margalit Enigma. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend is bold and complex and it needs a dish to stand up to it. What better way to off set it than with a juicy steak to round off the meal? And to make it even more delectable, this steak comes with a whiskey (whoever says whiskey and wine don't go together is dead wrong!) butter. YUMM!
Grilled Steak with Whiskey Butter
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 shallots minced, soaked in 1 shot of Jack Daniels or other whiskey or bourbon
3 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons Jack Daniels or other whiskey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
White pepper to taste
4 cowboy steaks, bone-in rib eye steaks, or other favorite steak, about 1-inch thick
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely ground
Chopped parsley, optional
Grilling Method: Combo/Medium-High
Make Whiskey Butter:
Make Butter at least 3 hours in advance. Combine butter, shallots soaked in Jack Daniels (or other bourbon or whiskey), parsley, Worcestershire, mustard, whiskey, salt, and pepper. Mix well. On a piece of plastic wrap, drop butter in spoonfuls to form a log. Roll butter in plastic wrap and smooth out to form a round log. Refrigerate until hard and easy to slice into round, coin-shaped pieces.
Allow meat to come to room temperature about 15 minutes before grilling. Just before grilling, brush both sides of the steaks with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place steaks directly over medium-high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes, just long enough to get good grill marks. Turn steaks and sear the other side. Move steaks to indirect heat and continue cooking for about 7 more minutes for medium rare. Remove steaks from the grill, top with a pat of the whiskey butter and allow to rest at least 5 minutes but no longer than 10 before serving. Spread the melted butter all over the tops of the steaks and top each with a fresh slice of the whiskey butter and parsley, if desired.
That's it! We've grilled our hearts out and drank wine to our utmost content. Finish off your meal with a bowl of fruit salad or, if you're us, one more glass of your favorite wine!
Happy 4th of July!!
Blush, pink, rosé, there are many ways to describe this particular kind of wine, which actually ranges all shades of pink, depending on which grape or grapes are blended into the wine. The paler salmon coloring usually comes from Pinot Noir, Carignan and Zinfandel and tastes of mint, grapefruit and strawberries. Deeper pink rosés, made from Merlot, Grenache and Sangiovese taste of sweet cherries, raspberries and blood oranges while the darkest rosés, made from Cabernet or Tempranillo, will taste jammy and of blackberries. Aside from fruit, rosés will also have herbal notes, especially if they are Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon, or Syrah based. So whether you want a sweet white Zinfandel or a savory French-style blend, this wine has every flavor on the spectrum to please every customer!
Vinification: An organic rosé
Palate: On the nose, lovely fresh strawberries without a hint of candy. On the palate, gushing with acidity, a bit of prickly pear and lots of ripe red fruits on the mouth. It's not syrupy and feels full bodied but not heavy on the tongue. Enjoy it alone as a summer refresher or with pizza, pasta, veggies and other flavorful dishes.
Spring is here and summer is right around the corner! With this nice weather comes a desire to enjoy some of the finer points in life. It’s time to starting opening some nice, cool, refreshing white wines and this posting is going to be all about the different varieties.
The most commonly used white grape, Chardonnay is grown all over the world and used in all kinds of wines. It is sometimes blended and is sometimes a single varietal, it is even the main grape in making sparkling wines. Originating in Burgundy, France its growth has become global over the course of the past century and is now a standard grape grown by old and new vineyards alike. The flavor of the grape is very neutral, usually a crisp apple and tropical fruit flavor, and is easily influenced by flavor additions such as terroir or barreling in oak. This means that the grape can be easily blended with bolder ones to create a subtle yet interesting new wine.
Chardonnay’s mildness is often altered by the winemaker, who will occasionally manipulate the grape through terroir, or influencing the characteristics of the grape through its surrounding terrain. Techniques such as pruning its extensive leaf canopy ensures that the grape receives the most nutrients and growing many clusters of vines forces the plants to send most of their energy to the grapes, producing greater amount of flavor.
People often describe Chardonnay as tasting “buttery” and “oaky”, neither of which are natural distinctions of the grape. In fact, the buttery flavor comes from a particular kind of fermentation called Malolactic fermentation, and is a result of the diacetyl byproduct. Its oaky flavor is the result of barreling the wine in oak barrels prior to bottling. Oak permits some amount of evaporation and oxidization to occur, however not enough to ruin the wine. Instead, it concentrates the flavor of the wine, compounding the aromas and flavors, producing notes of caramel and toffee. The smokiness of the wine comes from charring or “toasting” the inside of the barrel. Many winemakers produce their chardonnays this way, however fermenting and aging in stainless steel tanks, such as those from Chablis, is also popular and produces a livelier, more fruity and citrusy Chardonnay than its oak brethren.
A perfect example of an un-oaked wine, left to show off the wine’s rich minerality, summer fruits, kiwis, pineapple and peaches. This is a medium-bodied wine, with well-balanced acidity, showing a generous share of elegance. People who tend to cringe at the buttery flavor of Chardonnay will love this wine and people who prefer the typical oakiness will be surprised to discover the versatility of Chardonnay!
The parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc is the opposite of Chardonnay. While Chardonnay’s grape is mild and the wine is either buttery of fruity, Sauvignon Blanc is dry, grassy with mineral tonalities. Also known as Fumé Blanc, this wine is the Sancerre and Bordeaux response to Burgundy’s Chardonnay. Like Chardonnay, it is grown all over the world and like Chardonnay, the treatment of the wine affects its overall flavor. Leaving the skins with the wine longer during fermentation produces a sharpness to the wine while early removal keeps the wine fruity. Like Chardonnay, it might undergo Malolactic fermentation to make the wine more buttery though in New World winemaking this is usually not done as the intense flavor of the grape is generally preferred.
Sauvignon Blanc, though mineral in flavor, is still used to make some of the sweetest dessert wine. Sauternes from the Sauternais region in Bordeaux, France is a delicious, sweet dessert wine made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes. Typically tasting of honey and peaches, the Sauvignon Blanc grape helps the wine maintain its citrus quality to offset the sweetness.
A clear, light golden color, Assaf's Sauvignon Blanc is “soft” and round, a very mellow white wine with an elegant, full taste with a touch of delicate melon, citrus, grapefruit, and pineapple along with the slight “sting” that characterizes the Sauvignon Blanc. Its acidity balances with a lingering, intricate finish.
Pelter Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is produced from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The grapes are handpicked in the Upper Galilee at the Vineyard of the Wind, Merom Golan. It smells and tastes of honeysuckle, lime and tangerine with a long, acidic and dry finish.
Another 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is harvested in the early mornings to maximize is sweetness. It is pressed gently and in whole clusters in a traditional Champagne style and fermented using natural, indigenous yeast in tanks and in French oak barrels. It is very aromatic of pears and melons, with surprising volume, rich texture and great natural acidity.
This is a white wine with a light golden color, medium body and a firm acidic structure. Its aromas and flavors of lime, lemon peel, guava, exotic spices, kiwi, nectarines, and minerals complement its acidic finish. The Semillon allows the wine to cellar well and develop a special complexity.
The quieter, slightly less popular cousin of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc is typically light-bodied and somewhat sweeter than the previously described grapes. Harvesting the Chenin Blanc grape is slightly more interactive than other grapes. For example, in the Loire valley, harvesting usually happens over the course of four to six weeks, removing small clusters of grapes from each vine in succession. This technique is known as tries. Other Chenin Blanc specialties include allowing some of the grape clusters to over-ripen and begin to shrivel and rot. This is called noble rot and will make a wine of unique flavors and sweetness.
Chenin Blanc has not traveled as far or extensively as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc has. However, it has taken root in South Africa, where it is blended with Semillon and Vigonier to create a wine similar though lighter and slightly sweeter than a Chardonnay. It is also made into sparkling wine or Crémant Loire, making this grape one of the most versatile grapes out there.
Assaf Chenin Blanc, a clear wine of a light golden color, mingles the characteristic taste of delicate tropical fruit with the aroma of jasmine. It achieves just the right balance of fresh acidity and fruit flavors. The slow fermentation process preserves this characteristic blend of taste and aroma.
This 100% Chenin Blanc hand harvest early in the morning and, like the Shvo Sauvignon Blanc, is pressed gently and in its whole cluster then fermented with natural, indigenous yeast in French oak barrels for 12 months then in tanks for an additional 6 months. This is a unique Chenin with a nose of sour cherry, dried fruit and minerals. It is full bodied and rich with a beautiful balance and nice acidity.
We’re back! It’s been a while since our last blog posting and we’ve missed you all! To kick off our new, revamped blog, we decided to bring you examples of our different kind of wines. Each week, we will highlight a different varietal, explaining the aromas and flavors of each grape. We will discuss the appellation, oenology and viticulture, the growing and harvesting, as well as the individual vintners. This week, we’re bringing to you our Cabernet Sauvignon wines. It is one of the most recognized and frequently used grapes and is grown all over the world from established European winemakers to New World explorers.
To start off, here’s a bit of history about the Cabernet grape. Despite its popularity, Cabernet Sauvignon is a relatively recent grape, the first production of it being in the 17th century in the southwest France, when winemakers crossbred the Cabernet Franc grape with that of the Sauvignon Blanc. The result was a hardy grape, able to withstand harsh temperatures and grow at many different elevations, has thick skin and produces a high yield with the proper vine-trimming and maintenance.
No matter where you grow the Cabernet grape, be it at high or low altitude, limestone gravel or rich terra rossa soil, the wine consistently maintains a distinct “Cabernet” quality of full-body, high tannins, and an apparent acidity. The notes of the wine may vary depending on the temperature of the region. In cooler regions, the wine will taste of blackberries, mint, and cedar, sometimes even vegetable-y. In warmer climates, the wine will become denser, more fruity or “jammy”. All of these qualities are found in our wineries, which range from the cool, mountainous regions of the north to the arid desert of the south.
In 1990, the Kedem family planted vineyards in and around their home at Moshav Kidmat Tsvi to establish the Assaf Winery. Production of wine started in 1997. In 2011, they produced about 43,000 bottles of award-winning wines. They grow seven different types of grapes from dark Cabernets to blushing Zinfandels. Assaf Kedem, the Vintner and master Winemaker, personally tends to every vineyard. The winery is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art equipment including an on-site laboratory that provides inspection services for the Assaf Winery and other boutique wineries in the area. The barrel room contains more than 150 barrels where the wine ages, matures, and takes on its wonderful taste and fragrance
Assaf Cabernet Sauvignon Silver
This wine is unfiltered or “unfined”, meaning it maintains the cloudy appearance typically filtered out to create a clear color consumers tend to prefer. Filtering is also done to remove unstable tannins, which may undesirably alter the flavor of the wine with time. However, wine such as this are becoming more popular as they are considered more “natural”. It has a deep, dark burgundy color with a lush, complex taste of black cherries, forest berries, tobacco, eucalyptus, and a hint of mint. Its slight acidity is balanced with a rich, long-lasting, pleasant aftertaste.
Assaf Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
The wine is aged for 18 months in oak barrels and bottled, like the Silver, without undergoing filtration. Assaf's leading brand is a blend of two varieties of grape grown in two different vineyards. Vineyard Gimel brings the scent of eucalyptus and berries. Vineyard Bet, provides a delicate infusion of aromatic spices. The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve mingles the characteristic hints of blackberry, cherry, and eucalyptus with subtle overtones of mint and berries.
Assaf with his wines
At the Kitron winery all stays in the family. Meir Biton and his wife and 8 children run all aspects of the business.
The winery is in transition, with a new gravitational winery being built in the Lower Galilee. A gravitational winery uses gravity-flow, a system where pumps and conveyors in transporting the grapes into the fermentation tank is replaced by constructing a multilevel facility, typically on a hill, that allow the grapes to flow naturally downward with platforms at each step for crushing, fermentation, barreling then bottling. This is a gentler and some say, purer way of winemaking.
Kitron Cabernet Sauvignon
This powerful but well balanced wine is characterized by dark berries and smoked vanilla aromas. The palate is round and flattering with hints of jam and mocha.
IWD principles, Agnes, Meir, Arie with Winemaker, Meir (second from left)
Margalit Winery is a family owned winery founded in 1989. The owners and winemakers of Margalit Winery, Yair Margalit and his son Asaf Margalit, have a special interest in Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet-Franc) and therefore the winery focuses on producing those red wines.
After many years of experimentation in quality wine making using various varieties, and distributing the wines amongst friends, Margalit Winery was launched in 1991 with its first Cabernet Sauvignon (1989 vintage). The public interest in the new winery grew quickly in the next few years, probably because of two reasons: it was the first boutique winery in Israel and secondly, because of the wine’s quality and uniqueness. Initially, the winery was established in a small village near the town of Rehovot. In 1994 the winery moved to its current location not far from the Mediterranean shore, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. The production grew gradually from 80 cases in 1989 vintage, to the current annual production of about 1,600 cases. A portion of the wine produced, is sold at the winery directly to private customers in three weekends during March/April each year. The customers are invited to taste and buy the new release. The rest of the wine is distributed to fine restaurants and wine shops in Israel and abroad.
Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine has a deep garnet toward inky black remarkably concentrated and intense, still firmly tannic but with fine balance and structure yet still offers a generous mouthful of currant, cherry, blackberry and plums. It is big, broad and intense but is yielding on the palate to show grace and elegance and closes with a hint of espresso coffee for a super long finish. Named by Israeli food & wine critic Daniel Rogov as one of the best Israeli wines he tasted!
Yair and Assaf sampling their wines
Located near Gedera, at 58 meters above the Mediterranean Sea, which is just 30 miles away, on an unassuming plot of sand and gravel are vineyards that aim to challenge those grown in France, Spain and Napa. “And how come the wine is so good?” Zeev Smilansky, the winemaker says, “We don’t really know. Perhaps because of the special rootstock – ‘Saltcreek’, particularly suitable for sandy soils, being resistant to nematodes. Or perhaps because of the small gravely hill nearby. Or perhaps because the vineyard is hardly being watered – in spite of the evil summers in this region – since its roots go down five, perhaps even ten meters deep. Or perhaps because of the way we work it – or perhaps because of love – or maybe just luck. This way or another, this little vineyard – ¾ of an acre Cabernet Sauvignon, ¾ Merlot, and ¾ Shiraz – produces prime fruit, creating wines that we can be proud of, year after year, in spite of the theories. We do all the work ourselves, planting, trellising, training, pruning, and irrigation, weeding, harvesting, crushing, fermenting, aging, bottling, and even the design of the bottles and labels – all done by our family members.”
Meishar Vinyard 730
The flagship of Meishar Winery, not made each year. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, medium to dark garnet in the glass, aromas of toasted spices, characteristic licorice and cedar aromas. In the mouth exceptional spices, red berries, pepper, and wet forest floor. Exceptionally powerful and balanced. Ready to drink now but will definitely mature well until 2020 at least.
Our principals, Arie and Mayer with Winemaker Zeev
Pelter Winery, situated in the Golan Heights of northern Israel, was established by Tal Pelter in 2005. In 2001, Tal returned from oenology studies in Western Australia where he was influenced by the local approach to winemaking and the Australian character of the wines. Wine is part of the fabric of everyday life in Australia - an affordable and accessible source of enjoyment. Tal wanted to introduce this approach to the Israeli market as well as to create high quality, premium wines. The Golan Region is characterized by: cold dry climate, day/night temperature differentials, basalt soil, high altitude, and high levels of sun radiation. Together these factors create slow, long ripening, a variety of taste depths and high quality grapes. These advantages were enhanced by the open spaces so rare in Israel, and the Golan Heights was selected as the ideal location for both the business and the family. All stages of production are handled by members of the family – from selection of grapes, barrels and blends, to bottling, marketing and distribution. These collaborative efforts produced some 80,000 bottles in 2008, while preserving the winery’s rustic, intimate character.
Pelter T-Series Cabernet Sauvignon
The grapes were harvested from the Vineyard of the Wind, Merom Golan. The wine matured for 20 months in French Oak barrels. Characterized by tastes of wild blackberries and a touch of chocolate and mint. A long and rich finish.
Ramot Naftaly Winery
The winery was established in 2003, is located in the Upper Galilee in Moshav Ramot Naftaly from which it derives its name and produces about 10,000 bottles per year and plan to grow. The wines are kosher since the 2009 vintage.
Yitzhak Cohen is a very proud winemaker who started as a farmer and administrator of agriculture cooperatives of the region to winemaking by experimenting and learning winemaking in Israel. His excellent skills and high quality wine is an evidence to the high level winemaking knowhow advanced in Israel today. Yitzhak’s dream is to see the Kedesh Valley turn into the most important Appellation of the Israeli wine industry.
The winery’s vineyards are situated in Kedesh Valley, between Moshav Ramot Naftaly and Moshav Dishon. The vineyards are located at the southern edge of Kedesh Valley, an area surrounded by a high mountainous range that serves as protection from the wind. The rows of vines are planted in deep Terra Rosa soil on moderate slopes, and enjoy the natural drainage, the morning mist and the soft sunrays even in the hottest months of summer.
Boutique winery owners, some of whom also complete the role of vigneron, constantly look for distinctive conditions that will differentiate them from other wineries and growing areas. Everyone grows and produces the traditional leading wine varieties, yet the uniqueness and distinctiveness in wineries is in the development of the grapes, which varies depending on the area of growth. The Ramot Naftaly winery’s production vision is to develop, grow and manufacture wines from different varieties that are suited to the Galilee. They grow six grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Barbera.
Ramot Naftaly Cabernet Sauvignon
The unique location of the vineyard is highly beneficial in the wine-making process. The rich and fertile soil and special climate conditions of the Kedesh Valley give the grapes their color, flavor that transfer their characteristics to this rich flavor and bouquet wine.
Ramot Naftaly Cabernet Sauvignon Special Edition
Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. The wine is a clear-pale Bordeaux with a full aroma of red and purple fruit as well as some greenery. This wine is full-bodied and rounded, with soft tanins complete with ripe, juicy black fruit with a layer of sweet spices on the finish.