Yatir Winery: My Annual Visit – With Tasting Notes (K)

By: Daniel Rogov

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?By: Daniel Rogov

I left Tel Aviv this morning at 07:30 to make my way to the Yatir Winery, there to do barrel tastings from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Since releasing their first wines from the 2001 vintage it has been apparent that Yatir was destined to become one of the country’s best. And so it has been and continues to be, the winery remaining one that has consistently earned five stars in my Israeli Wine Guide.

Set in a state-of-the-art winery near the archaeological digs of Tel Arad at the foot of the Judean Hills, this boutique winery draws its name from the Yatir Forest. Although the winery is owned solely by Carmel it maintains complete autonomy under the supervision of Australian-trained winemaker Eran Goldwasser. The winery, which releases wines under the Yatir Forest and Yatir labels, cultivates their own vineyards, those with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier grapes. Also currently under cultivation are Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, those at this stage destined primarily as blending agents. Current production is about 150,000 bottles annually.

Combining the experiences of today’s tasting with others of the 2009 and 2010 harvest, I conclude once again that winemakers who know how to make wine will have faced and overcome difficult vintages. More than that, I agree with Goldwasser that the better red wines of these two vintage years, although they will be approachable on release will do far better to be cellared until 2013-2014 before they attain their peak..

My thanks to winemaker Eran Goldwasser and CEO Ya’akov Ben-Dor for a fine tasting. And, because “little things mean a lot” my thanks as well for several good cups of espresso and with the final wine tasted good blue cheese and fresh baguette.

The Wines of 2010

Yatir, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Fermented in stainless steel and then transferred to primarily older oak for two months, light straw colored with a hint of a green tint and just a bare and thus tantalizing hint of the oak. Light and refined, as fresh and lively on the nose as on the palate, showing aromas and flavors of citrus, pears and apples, those along with notes of guava and minerals that arise from mid-palate on. A fine balance between ripeness and finely tuned acidity. Drink from release-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Viognier, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Unoaked, thus maintaining its fresh fruit character and crisp nature. Light- to medium-bodied, opening with floral and nutty aromas and flavors, going on to show a generous mouthful of pear, apricot and litchi fruits, all on a background that hints of spices and, on the finish, a note of litchi. Round, lively and generous. Drink from release but don’t hesitate to cellar this one until 2013, perhaps even 2014 as it should develop very nicely in the bottle. Score 91. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, a deeply extracted full-bodied wine opening slowly in the glass at this stage but then opening very nicely indeed. On the nose crushed berries, vanilla and a gentle hint of spicy cedar wood, those yielding to aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, blackberries and bitter herbs, with tannins and fruits rising on the finish. Well balanced and with structure that bodes well for development in the bottle. Best 2013-2018. Tentative Score 90-92. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Shiraz, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Intensely dark royal purple in color, full-bodied and, despite deep extraction showing soft, round tannins. Complex enough to intrigue. On first attack spicy blackberries and crushed wild berries those making way in the glass for aromas and flavors that I can describe only as those of a raspberry mousse. From mid-palate on notes of saddle leather, earthy minerals and Mediterranean herbs. Makes me want to hum the lyrics of “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme”. Long, generous and mouthfilling. Best from 2013-2020. Tentative Score 91-93. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Petit Verdot, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Deeply aromatic, almost impenetrably dark royal purple in color, full-bodied, firm and concentrated. On first attack blackcurrants and blackberries, those yielding in the glass to purple plums and raspberries, the tannins firm on first attack seeming almost to melt on the palate to a muscular roundness. On the long finish notes of cigar tobacco, eucalyptus and a fine balancing acidity. Complex and generous. Best from 2014-2020. Tentative Score 92-94. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

The Wines of 2009/All Barrel Tastings But All Final Blends

Yatir, Merlot-Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): A dark garnet, full-bodied blend of 28% Merlot, 45% Shiraz and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins and hints of spices that linger nicely from first attack to the long finish. On the nose and palate showing blackcurrants, black cherries and blackberry fruits and, from mid-palate on to the long finish appealing hints of blueberries. A muscular wine but one that shows its muscles in a quiet and dignified manner. Long, complex and generous. Best from 2013-2018. Tentative Score 90-92. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Shiraz, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): My second barrel tasting of this wine and showing development much as anticipated. Dark royal purple, full-bodied, with tannins that grip nicely together with notes of spicy cedar wood, those integrating nicely now. On first attack a meaty note to highglight red currant and raspberry fruits, those making way in the glass for notes of blackberries and figs. On the long finish notes, with fruits and tannins rising appealing hint of licorice and loam. Best 2013-2018, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 91-93. K (Re-tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Now a final blend and showing better than at an earlier barrel tasting. Blended with 10% Malbec and 5% Shiraz, showing dark garnet, with generous, softly caressing tannins and toasty oak in fine balance with fruits. On first attack blueberries and baking chocolate, those parting to make way for blackcurrant and black cherry fruits on a background of freshly picked mushrooms, vanilla and Mediterranean herbs. Long, round and generous, the elements coming together nicely. Best from 2013-2018, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Re-tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Petit Verdot, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Showing both similar and different than at an earlier barrel tasting. Super dark garnet, deeply extracted, full-bodied and with still gripping tannins that need only a bit of time to settle in. On first attack cassis, raspberries and cola aromas and flavors, those yielding to purple plums and earthy minerals. From first sip to the long finish and appealing loamy note that adds to the complexity of the wine. Best from 2013. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Re-tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir Forest, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet toward royal purple, a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec (50%, 41% and 9% respectively). Showing fine balance between firm but comfortably yielding tannins, spicy wood and fruits, an elegant wine, opening to reveal blackcurrants, crushed blackberries and eucalyptus notes. From mid-palate on hints of tobacco and a light note of earthiness that lingers nicely on the long finish. Elegance on the grand scale. Best from 2013-2018, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 92-94. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

Yatir, Fortified Red Wine, 2005: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, those allowed a short period fermentation before being fortified by the addition of grape brandy and then being allowed to develop for 18 months in older oak barrels. Deep enough in color that one might describe it as “near-black”, with a moderate level of sweetness set off nicely by balancing acidity. On the nose and palate lightly oxidized (quite intentionally) notes of sweet red and black berries, violets, prunes and a hint of coffee beans. Full-bodied, with well focused fruits and chewy tannins leading to a long finish, some will compare this to a Late Bottled Vintage Port. Not I, for this is a distinctly Mediterranean wine, as good with Stilton, Gorgonzola or other blue cheeses as with plum pudding, Christmas cake or, if it is “your thing” a good cigar. Not a “great” wine but an excellent one that certainly captures and deserves the attention. Made in a limited quantity and probably destined for release only at the Yatir Winery and at Carmel’s Center for Wine Culture at Zichron Ya’akov. Worth hunting up a bottle or more. Score 90. K (Tasted 7 Feb 2011)

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