Category Archives: Israel

Tzora Vineyards Or

Have you ever done something that you later really deeply regret? There have really been rather a lot of things I’ve regretted doing. However I feel that none were so deeply as felt as the mistake I made to share my half bottle of Tzora Vineyards Or.

We did not try the Or during our visit to Tzora. Had we I think I would have bought more than just the one half bottle! I knew I would like it because I love both Gewürztraminer in all its forms and dessert wine. I only bought one of the half bottles (they were not available in full bottle) because even with a 30 kilo weight limit I knew I had to moderate my wine purchases. Especially since Tzora was our first winery of the day.

When I got back to Istanbul I had over two of my best girlfriends to help me drink the Israeli wine and eat the cheese (4 kilos!) I bought. I broke out the Or at the end. After the first sip I was mentally smacking myself. Why did I share this?! Drinking the Tzora Vineyards Or is like holding spicy liquid gold on your tongue. I had only one tiny half bottle and I shared it.

Lesson learned. Be selfish.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Despite being somewhat significantly closer to the equator than are Germany and Austrian (home to Gewürztraminer) the grape seems to flourish in Israel. The Or is part of Tzora Vineyards‘ Shoresh line. The Gewürztraminer grapes used for this wine are grown in the Judean Hills at the highest point of the winery’s Shoresh vineyard; 700 meters. Perhaps it’s the elevation that allows the Gewürztraminer to develop so well here.

Although winemaker skill is not to be ignored here either. One key to producing excellent dessert wines is to balance the sweetness level with acid. Winemaker Eran Pick MW has done that brilliantly with the Or. And if you’re wondering how anyone manages to make ice wine in a warm country like Israel… The grapes are harvested late but are then artificially frozen before crushing.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Tzora Vineyards Or 2015 Tasting Notes:

‘Or’ is French for gold and there could not be a more appropriate name for Tzora’s sweet Gewürztraminer. For one thing the color! It’s a deep, brilliant gold. The nose is full of honey, apricots, and white peaches with a slight nuttiness. On the palate…wow. The Or is thick without being cloying and again flavors of honey and apricot that are joined by Gewürztraminer’s characteristic spiciness. Ginger I think.

Tzora Vineyards Or is everything a dessert Gewürztraminer should be. It’s simultaneously sweet and spicy and familiar and exotic. Truly a treat to drink. If you can get your hands on a bottle (limited production of 1,800 bottles!) don’t share like I did. Be selfish!

A Visit to Flam Winery

Some time ago I posted a review of Flam’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Since I was able to visit the Flam Winery, located outside Jerusalem. While there I tasted wines, bought wines, and got to meet the charming founder and owner, Israel Flam.

Flam Winery

Flam Winery is a family business. Israel’s wife, two sons, and daughter are all involved in the business. They planted their vineyards in the Upper Galilee and Judean Hills. Like many Israeli wineries Flam shares a dedication to creating terroir-driven, quality wines.

They insist on low-yield harvests that are then hand harvested and sorted. Established in 1998 Flam emphasizes quality over quantity. This is especially evident in the winery’s annual production numbers. Flam continues to produce a limited amount every year; averaging 150,000 bottles.

Flam Winery

Flam makes two main lines: a classic blend and a reserve. There is also the Flam Noble however production is so limited I wasn’t able to get my hands on any. I did get to taste two of the classic blends and the three reserves. Also not on offer for the tasting was the Flam Rose (Cabernet Franc and Syrah) but since I don’t particularly like rose I was okay about that.

Flam Winery

Flam Classico Tasting Notes:

Flam Classico is a single vineyard blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. Aged 30% in American oak and 70% French oak this is a drink it soon wine. By which I mean it is not ageable.

The nose is fruity with some soft spices. It’s a medium-bodied wine with 13.5% abv. The palate is again fruity with green pepper, spice, good tannin structure, and fairly high acid. This is a food wine and would probably pair well with meat, tomato-based, and rustic dishes.

Flam Winery

Flam Merlot Reserve 2015 Tasting Notes:

One interesting thing I learned at Flam is that Israeli wine laws require that single-varietal wines have to be 85% that wine to be labeled as such. So Flam’s Merlot is not 100% Merlot, it’s at least 85% Merlot. I was naturally prepared to not like this, because Merlot.

After 12 months in French oak, the Flam Merlot Reserve had a nose of spices, violets, and red fruits. The tannins were slightly sharp but some bottle time would make this really elegant. The wine was fruit-driven with soft spices and a slightly sweet finish. All in all not bad for a Merlot. But not exciting enough to get me to buy any.

I did walk away from the visit with a few bottles: another Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the Syrah Reserve (which surprised me), and the Flam Blanc. Reviews on the latter two soon!

Psagot Peak Blend 2014

My first night in Jerusalem I was too tired to do more than stumble to the Mahane Yehuda to grab provisions. Luckily the mahane had several wine stores! So with a list of wine recommendations in hand I made friends at a wine shop and picked up a bottle of Psagot Peak.

Mahane Yehude

While Psagot Peak was not on my friend’s list of recommendations I was enticed by the label and the gold medallion stuck on the bottle. I’m a total magpie so my eyes went straight to the Psagot bottles and really never left.

Psagot Winery is located very near Jerusalem. Yaakov Berg founded the winery in 2003 and since then it has grown rapidly from 3,000 bottles in its first vintage to over 200,000 now. All the wines they make are kosher and many are award winners.

Mahane Yehude

From there I found the Basher Fromagerie. Also known as the greatest place on earth. They were closing up so I just grabbed a couple cheeses and headed back to my AirBnB. However two days later I was back. I must have spent three or four hours in there during which time I bought about four very nice bottles of wine and about four kilos of cheese. Everyone was so lovely. They put a glass of wine in my hand and I tasted and bought cheese like I’d never had any before. Then they made me the best sandwich I’ve ever had, set me up in their little balcony, and brought me more wine. At the end I just handed over my credit card and told them I didn’t want to know what the damage was.

Sadly a few weeks later I saw it on my credit card statement. Eesh. Totally worth it though.

All that to say that my first night in Jerusalem I spent relaxing with beautiful wine and cheese. Really a pretty great first night!

Psagot Peak

Psagot Peak 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Psagot Peak is a fairly high alcohol wine at 14% abv a blend of 42% Syrah, 16% Mourvedre, and 42% Petite Sirah. Drinking this back in my AirBnB definitely made me rethink future packing strategy, I always travel with a corkscrew but now I think I’ll start also packing an aerator. Without proper breathing the first sip of the Psagot Peak was a little bitter and harsh. After it had a chance to open up though: lovely.

The nose was very fruity; lots of black fruits like berries and currants. On the palate the tannins were velvety and long. The flavors were again of fruit but with some spice, and smoked meat/game.

Add to the wine some of the double cream brie I bought at STORE and it was a good first night in Jerusalem!

Visiting Tzora Vineyards

Thanks to a car-having friend I had the opportunity to visit three wineries during my recent too short trip to Israel. Tzora Vineyards was not only my first winery visit in Israel, it was also my first kibbutz. As we went straight to the winery, I had a pretty limited experience on the kibbutz. Luckily and most importantly I had more time at the winery itself.

Tzora Vineyards

Tzora Vineyards grapes have plots in several places in the Judean Hills on man made terraces. Limestone soils, cold winters, summer mists, and diurnal temperature variations create a perfect environment for growing quality grapes.

Those quality grapes are used in Tzora’s three different wine styles: the flagship Misty Hills, single vineyard Shoresh red, blanc, and Or (dessert), and regional blend Judean Hills red and blanc. All of which are kosher.

Unfortunately the day we visited Tzora Vineyards did not have any of their white wines in stock. We did however get to taste several of the 2014-2015 reds including their flagship Misty Hills.

Tzora Vineyards

Tzora Vineyards 2014 Misty Hills Tasting Notes:

Misty Hills is Tzora’s flagship wine. It is a big (15% abv) and fruity wine made with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Syrah. The palate had lots of black fruits, predominantly ripe blackberries, some pepper, and spice with firm tannins and a medium finish.

While there were some nice flavors on the palate the 2014 Misty Hills is definitely young. To me it seems like it could use some more time in the bottle to fully develop. More bottle time would soften the tannins and most of all show off more of the oak.

Tzora Vineyards

Much as I wanted to plunk down my card and buy one of everything I had to consider my travel weight allowance. While I bought extra weight there’s still a limit to how many wines you can pack and still be within 30 kilos! (That’s about 10 bottles more or less.)

I did buy a bottle of the 2015 Shoresh (red) and one of the 2015 Or. In addition I picked up a gorgeous book: The Wine Route of Israel. Happily all three items made it back to Istanbul with me. Therefore look for tasting notes on the Shoresh and Or, coming soon!

Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

In addition to the bottle of Garage de Papa Rouge LT brought me on her way back from Israel she gave me a bottle of 2013 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Of the two, for me, the Flam was the star.

Flam Cabernet Sauvignon

The Flam winery was established in 1998 and is truly a family business. Israel Flam is one of Israel’s wine pioneers and worked in leading wineries before beginning this venture. The sons Gilad (CEO) and Golan (winemaker), daughter Gefen (brand manager), and matriarch Kami (CFO) are all deeply involved.

The winery is located in the Judean Hills around Jerusalem and managed like a European estate winery. The family’s passion for wine and excellence is obvious in their wines; as I discovered in the 2013 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon.

Flam Cabernet Sauvignon

Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 Tasting Notes:

In the glass the Flam Cabernet Sauvignon is a dense, dark purple. The nose is quite fruit-forward with a lot of red fruits. We (I shared this with my friend K) also detected green pepper, maybe jalepeño, sweet tobacco, and clove. The palate is balanced with silky tannins and a long finish. I found it to be even fruitier than the nose. It drinks really well now but could bottle age for a number of more years and fully develop some of the oak aromas.

This paired beautifully with strong hard cheese (I had Parmesan) and truffled almonds.

Since drinking this I had the opportunity to go to Israel. Part of my trip included a trip to the Flam winery! Look for that to be posted soon!

Lewinsohn’s 2014 Garage de Papa Rouge

Last fall a friend visited me on her way back from Ramallah. She brought me the gift of a couple bottles of Israeli wine including Lewinsohn‘s 2014 Garage de Papa Rouge. It was my first Israeli wine and now I need to get my hands on more.

Grown in the historical Upper Galilee and the Jerusalem Hills, the 2014 Garage de Papa is a blend of 60% Petit Sirah, 20% Marselan, and 20% Carignan and aged 18 months in French oak. From Lewinsohn’s tasting notes on this vintage: “Half of the Petite Sirah grapes were fermented with their stalks (as “vendange entière” or “whole bunch” fermentation). Skin contact is limited to the duration of fermentation extracting the purest expression of the carefully chosen fruit.”

2014 Garage de Papa

2014 Garage de Papa Rouge Tasting Notes:

In the glass the Garage de Papa was a bright, garnet red with purple highlights. The nose was really beautiful showing off both the quality of the grapes and the effect of the oak. It was full of red fruits, black pepper, greens like bell pepper and arugula, clove, and herbs.

The palate felt rather less developed than the nose. It seems like the 2014 could possibly use some more bottle time before it reaches it peak. Despite that, soft tannins, a long finish and flavors of tart fruits, and black and green bell pepper made for a very nice (and at 14% abv slightly dangerous!) drinking experience.

I’m somewhat horrified to admit that M and I drank this kosher wine with pork. Speck risotto to be precise. They went really well together. So while you might not choose to be as irreverent as we were I believe Lewinsohn’s 2014 Garage de Papa would pair well with other risottos, hearty, rich dishes, and salty foods and cheese.