?By: Daniel Rogov
Under the supervision of senior winemaker Sasson Ben-Aharon and winemaker Assaf Paz, the Binyamina winery is now the fourth largest in the country and produces about 2.6 million bottles annually from a large variety of grapes, those from vineyards in nearly every part of the country. More important, the wines make quantitative and qualitative leaps in quality on a regular basis.
Among the top-level series released are those in the Avni Hachoshen series (English-language labels use the title ?The Chosen?). In Hebrew, Avnei Hachoshen refers to the precious stones that adorned the vests of the high priests in the days of the Temple. For those not familiar with the Hebrew language, the different stones in the series are: Sapir = Sapphire; Odem = Ruby; Yashfeh = Jasper; Tarshish = Aquamarine; Shoham = Onyx; Leshem = Opal; and Ya?alom= Diamond. The 2008 wines reviewed below have recently been released as a group. Happily, I have tasted each of these wines on two or more occasions.
Binyamina, Odem, Avnei Hachoshen, 2008: Blended with a 4% of Viognier and oak aged for 16 monhs, partly in 225 liter barriques and partly in 300 liter barrels, dark garnet, a big full-bodied wine, rich and tannic with generous but not at all overpowering oak. On the nose and palate a fine array of raspberries, plums and chocolate and, from mid-palate, rising notes of saddle leather and dark chocolate, all lingering nicely. Drink now?2016. Score 91. K
Binyamina, Chardonnay, Shoham, Avnei Hachoshen 2008: From grapes harvested in the Jerusalem hills, Developed partly in 225 liter barriques and partly in 300 liter barrels. Light golden in color, combining earthy and flinty minerals that complement citrus, white peach and melon aromas and flavors. Promising elegance. Drink now. Score 89. K
Binyamina, Yashfeh, Avnei Hachoshen, 2008: Oak-aged in French barriques, a blend off 40% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Viognier. Medium-bodied, with fine balancing acidity and a long, lively finish, crisply dry with mineral-rich citrus flavors that linger nicely. Drink now. Score 89. K
Binyamina, Sapir, Avnei Hachoshen, 2008: A blend of of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Shiraz and 20% Merlot. Oak aged for 15 months, dark garnet toward royal purple, a full-bodied and intense wine with soft tannins and a gentle layer of near-sweet cedarwood. Muscular and ripe but all in fine balance. On the nose and palate blackberries, cassis and blueberries, those yielding to notes of black cherries and espresso coffee. Long and generous with tannins and fruits rising on the finish. Drink now?2015. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Tarshish, Avnei Hachoshen, 2008: Cabernet Sauvignon from two Golan Heights vineyards (Tel Fares and Kidmat Tzvi). Oak aged for 16 months in French barriques, dark garnet toward youthful royal purple, full-bodied and with fine balance between still-gripping tannins, smoky oak and fruits. On the nose and palate traditional Cabernet aromas and flavors of blackcurrants and blackberries, those complemented nicely by notes of minted chocolate. Drink now?2016. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Ya’alom, Avnei Hachoshen, 2008: A blend this year of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah and 10% Petit Verdot. Aged in new French oak for 20 months, rich with purple plums and spicy cedar and oak, showing generous tannins and generous wood in fine balance with fruits and needing a bit of time to integrate at this stage, but showing fine promise for the future. On the nose and palate currants, wild berries and plums, those on a background of cedarwood and oak resin, the last turning to a note of tar on the long finish. Drink now?2018. Score 91. K