Syrah, Petite Sirah & Carignan, Oh My!!! more »

David Rhodes
One of the most prized invitations by many Israeli wine insiders (at least this one)  is the annual tasting at the Levinsohn Winery in Hod HaSharon.
Located at winemaker Ido Levensohn's parents' house adjacent to the Garage de Papa that adorns their labels, this 7,000 bottle winery might be small in size but it's great in stature.

Besides steering this family boutique winery, Ido has been serving for several years as an integral part of the wine making team of the 1 million bottle Recanati Winery in Emeq Hefer and additionally (if he didn't have enough on his plate) more recently as the academic dean of the Ariel University's wine making certificate program while pursuing the evasive title of Master of Wine.

The two Garage de Papa wines (one white: Blanc and one red: Rouge) would have gained Ido accolades on their own and are often lauded as two of the best Israeli wines on many lists in their respective categories. As Ido hones his skills these wines seem to just get better each vintage and one has to wonder what limits they'll reach.

2013 Lewinsohn "Garage de Papa Blanc" (13% Alc.) 150 NIS 94 pts

The Blanc has been 100% Chardonnay grapes from its inception though Ido is open to it evolving to including other grapes,he has no current plans to mess with success. His time travelling and working in cooler climes like Burgundy and Tasmania could have only contributed to his affection for the world's most ubiquitous of white grapes as his time in Italy's Tuscany and France's Languedoc lent him experience dealing with the Mediterranean's influence on both white and red varietals . This Chardonnay, sourced from Upper Galilee grapes, is an example of that varietal that even an ABC'er ("Anything But Chardonnay") could even embrace. Avoiding a secondary malolactic fermentation that would trade a fuller body and creaminess for fruitier notes,  this 10 month French oak aged (20% new barrels) Chardonnay retains its fruitiness and crisp acidity while being aged on sur lees (on the spent yeast ) which adds a fuller smoother mouth feel and a bit of complexity it is more reminiscent of a Burgundy Chablis than a Chard from Napa or Australia.  Notes of white grapefruit or even greener pomelo, stone fruits, pear, key lime, white pepper, ginger, pineapple, melon and a slight spiciness akin to clove lingers through from start to a pleasantly long lasting finish.

    My ideal food pairing for this white would be the best white fish sashimi I could find or Sea Bass fried in butter with almonds though I imagine fans of shrimp scampi or raw oysters would be equally satisfied. 

2011 Lewinsohn "Garage de Papa Rouge" (14% Alc.)165 NIS  95 pts

The Garage de Papa Rouge has been a blend of Syrah, Carignan and Petite Sirah since 2009 after Ido's earlier experimentation with other single varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) and blends and future releases (2012,2013 and 2014) are set to repeat the blend of three powerhouse red varietals.  The 2011 is 50% Syrah, 25% Carignan and 25% Petite Sirah though each vintage can change depending on Ido's vision of what role available grapes might play and depending how they develop in vineyards ranging from the Upper Galilee, Ella Valley in the Judean foothills and the Lower Galilee.

 This big and bold red is not the kind of red that Pinot Noir fans would lean towards so any wishes for the entire line up of Lewinsohn to be a Burgundy bound incarnation will be dispelled by the Rouge and it has more leanings to reds of Southern France and Ido has previously called the Rouge a Mediterranean style blend. Can you say entire line-up with just two wines? Well I just did and many other smaller wineries should take notice that they might be better served making fewer wines and focusing on making them better instead of offering 5 or more wines.

Aged in 30% new French oak (the same Burgundy barrels as the white) for 15 months, the three red varietals easily hold their own versus the oak and their tannins and that of the oak are smooth and well integrated. This red is VERY slow to open at this stage and if one wants to drink it now, they need to be very patient or have enough fore thought to decant it generously to enjoy it at its fullest. I'd like experiment with decanting it for hours or days and over the 4 hours tasting it I started to experience its full potential towards the end of that time with notes of black plums, blueberries, creamy black raspberries, black cherries, anise, wild game meatiness, tobacco and cedar. It took me a lot of swirling and slurping to get this wine to open up but open it did and when it did it had wave after wave of layered intense flavors.

My ideal food pairing for this wine would be a rack of lamb ribs or a venison steak.

The Rouge would be a great wine to buy by the case and I suggest opening a bottle every few years to witness how it matures and how the fruit and tannins marry and produce what I expect will be simply a magical wine.

Either of these two wines are the kind that can get you to stand up and take notice. At their prices of 150 NIS or more they will not attract many casual drinkers, who might buy 6 bottles for the price of just one Lewinsohn but connoisseurs who often pay much more for Burgundy or Napa wines might find these wines a steal at even twice the price.

David Rhodes, "the Israeli wine guy" is a California trained sommelier who has worked for wineries and restaurants in Israel and the Unites States and has written hundreds of articles about Israeli wine since 2008 and can be contacted at



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Photos by Israel Preker


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