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Festival Favorites from Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Wine Festival is the largest and most widely attended wine festival in Israel with tens of thousands attending over four nights. Traditionally, and now it’s in its 9th year, the festival is held at Jerusalem’s revered Israel Museum during the week of Tu Ba’av , which is both Jewish “Valentine’s Day” and a celebration of the\"\"  beginning of wine grapes being harvested in Israel. Wine festivals can be a great time but a challenging forum for wine writers to critically taste wine and collect meaningful notes. 

There’s a lot of extraneous stimuli that distract from tasting and appreciating each wine which ideally should be tasted in a brightly lit and quiet room. That being said the opportunity to try over 100 wines without having to travel the country and make over 30 appointments is too tempting to ignore. Also I like to share my favorite wines from festivals, in no particular order, for those who couldn’t attend or those who were too busy having fun to take notes. There were several wines I tasted that could have easily made these lists but for the sake of brevity they didn’t and I  but I have either touted them in the past or look forward to featuring them in the future.

            There are three wineries on this list that are not certified as being kosher: Amphorae, Chillag & Pelter.  Far fewer non-kosher wineries typically attend the festival in Jerusalem than would in Tel Aviv but its important to note that the top 12 wine producers in Israel (out of about 300) produce about 94% of Israeli wine and they’re all kosher although many if not most boutique wineries (under 10,000 cases/year) often are not kosher though may become kosher as they approach 100,000 bottles a year they might seek to market their wines to a wider audience without any discernible difference to the quality of the wine.  

Whites


1) 2011 Tzuba Chardonnay

2) 2011 Dalton Alama (Chardonnay/Viognier)
3) 2011 Tishbi Gewurztraminer

4) 2008 Yarden Viognier

5) 2011 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc
6) 2011 Chillag Sauvignon Blanc
7) 2011 Amphorae Blanc de Noir
8) 2011 Odem Mountain Chardonnay
9) 2010 Yarden Chardonnay

10)2011 Pelter Unoaked Chardonnay
  

Reds


1) 2010 Yaffo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

2) 2010 Tulip “Mostly” Cabernet Franc

3) 2010 Galil Mountain Alon (Cab/Syrah/ Petit Verdot/Cab Franc)

4) 2007  Ella Valley Syrah

5) 2007 Shiloh “Shor” Cabernet Sauvignon
6) 2007 Amphorae Makura Caberent Sauvignon

7) 2009 Recanati Special Reserve (Cab, Merlot, Syrah & Peite Sirah)

8) 2009 Tishbi “Single Vineyard” Malbec
9) 2009 Katlav Wadi Katlav (Cab/Merlot/Petit Verdot)

10)2010 Psagot Edom (Cab/ Petit Verdot/Cab Franc/ Merlot)
 


I do wish there had been more Israeli Carignans and Cabernet Francs at the Festival ( I tasted only one Cab Franc at 1848 (that helped secure them on the Honorable Mentions list) as they are becoming interesting signature grapes for Israel.   As regarding to rosés and dessert wines, there’s a recent proliferation of both in the last few years in Israel. Just going back ten years, there was an international and even local perception of Israeli wines often being sweet and syrupy “kiddush” sacramental wines or bland white zinfandel like rosés. While trying to work on a reputation of making more serious and respectable dry or semi-dry table wines, rosés and dessert wines were mostly avoided by winemakers. However, as more and more Israeli wineries have had their dry wines winning international awards and have received great scores by international critics, more and more Israeli winemakers have developed the confidence to make more impressive rosés and dessert wines.   

Rosés
 
1) 2011 Domaine Ventura Rosé

2) 2011 Ella Valley Rosé

3) 2011 Binyamina “Yogev” Malbec/Carignan

4) 2011 Dalton Rosé

5) 2011 Recanati Rosé


I only wish there had been more rosés to choose from since its a perfect summer time wine for a Mediterranean evening.    
Dessert Wines

1) NV Psagot Prat ( a Port-style red)

2) NV Odem Mountain Cherry Wine

3) NV Dalton Muscat
4) NV Tzuba Late Harvest Chardonnay
5) 2006 Tishbi Barbera/Zinfandel

6) 2011 Golan Moscato

7) 2010 Binyamina Gewurztraminer Late Harvest
  NV = Non Vintage (a blend of two or more years lending to consistency and often complexity & common in dessert as well as sparkling wines)   

Honorable Mentions  
These are wineries who either just missed this list with one or more of their wines or wineries I’m looking forward to great things from in the future and for various reasons I hope to write an article about.   1848 (one of Israel’s oldest family wineries that had focused on sacramental wines is making better and better traditional wines), Kadesh Barnea (a young boutique winery located in the Negev desert),Tanya (there’s no doubt their wines will appear on future lists) , Mount Blessing ( a source of great grapes for other wineries that are making better wines year after year), Ruth & Lueria (two boutiques I’m warming up to and I look forward to tasting under less hectic circumstances)