?By: Daniel Rogov
Yesterday afternoon and evening (Thursday, 16 Oct) I attended the wine festival at Avirim in the Upper Galilee. Before commenting on the wines, a few observations about the festival itself.
First of all, Avirim is a small community of some 40+ families. Located in the rolling hills of the Galilee and with an exquisite view the one rule of the community seems to be that each house constructed must blend in comfortably and naturally to its natural environment. In that, not only the view but the community itself is peaceful and, for lack of a better word “lovely”. The various wineries displaying their fare were set each in a different home, some also offering the home made jams, the local honey and olive oil and in some cases crafts. That meant that one had to walk almost the entire circumference of the community, meeting those who lived there on the way, stopping to chat here and there and actually in some cases hunting for the wineries. All of which a lovely aesthetic and social experience. Some 900 people, locals and from Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv attended the event that at no time was crowded. I hope it will become an annual event!
Following are my tasting notes for the wines that I tasted. In addition to re-tastings of wines from artisanal wineries whose wines I have followed regularly, I made a point of visiting each of the four wineries not previously known to me. Not all of the wines I sampled could be rated as “good”. Despite that there were enough quality wines to keep the evening interesting. That the medium-sized wineries in the area (e.g. Dalton, Tabor, Galil Mountain) did not participate reflected only that each of those wineries was hosting Succoth holiday events of their own. With the level of participation and number of sophisticated drinkers present, it would not surprise me to see those wineries also with a presence next year.
Achziv, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Blended with 15% Merlot, full-bodied, firmly tannic and reflecting its 12 months in French oak with a light smoky overlay. Opens to reveal traditional black currant and blackberry fruits, those leading to a moderately long finish with an appealing hint of dark chocolate. Drink now??2011. Score 86. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Achziv, Merlot, 2006: Dark royal purple in color, an oak-aged blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, showing blackberry, chocolate and citrus peel, those somewhat marred by rough-edged tannins and a high level of acidity. Drink now. Score 84. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Sefad Winery (Tsfat)
Sefad, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2006: Blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes, aged in new barriques for 16 months, showing dusty, not-clear garnet in color, opening with a strong barnyard whiuff and going on to show a few red fruits, those alas overlaid with soggy cardboard and, rising on the finish, a most unwanted note of vegetal and animal decay. Score 55. K (Tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Safed, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Developed in oak for 9 months. Dark garnet, medium-bodied, dominated by earthy, compost pile and barnyard aromas that make it impossible to find whatever fruits may be hiding. Score 55. K (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Sefad, Merlot, Reserve, 2006: Developed in barriques for 15 months, showing dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied with generous raspberry, cherry and cassis fruits. Lacks complexity but a good quaffer. Drink now. Score 82. K
Safed, Gewurztraminer, 2007: Damp straw colored, light to medium-bodied, with stewed apricot and peach fruits but those hidden under a far too acidic and tart note. Noted on the bottle as having an 11.5% alcohol content but alcoholic on the nose and hot on the finish. Score 65. K (Re-tastred 16 Oct 2008)
Safed, Sauvignon Blanc, 2007: Acidic enough to be thought of as puckering and sour, with a strong petrol-like aroma that one cannot shake. Score 50. K (Tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Cremye, Cabernet Sauvigjnon, 2007: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were allowed to sit on their skins for at least 4 weeks and then aged in oak for 10 months but surprisingly neither ruby, garnet or purple but bright pink in color. When asked why this had happened the winemaker simply shrugged and responded “that’s the way it came out”. Whatever?..medium-bodied, with only the skimpiest of red fruits, a good deal of volatile acidity and no aroma that could be detected. Score 50. (Tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Cremye, Merlot, 2007: Like the wine reviewed above, cloudy pink in color, and with aromas and flavors that call to mind pink lemonade more than they do wine. Alas, even lemonade can be spoiled by barnyard aromas. Score 50. (Tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Stern, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Dark ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, reflecting its 16 months in French oak with soft tannins and hints of spices. Blended with 10% of Shiraz, opens to reveal red currant and raspberry fruits on a light licorice background. The light medicinal aroma that was found in the past has now vanished. Drink now. Score 86. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Stern, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Stern, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Dark garnet toward royal-purple, medium to full-bodied, with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and generous blackberry, currant and citrus peel notes supported nicely by hints of Mediterranean herbs. Lingers nicely. Drink now. Score 87. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Stern, Cabernet Franc, 2006: Made entirely from Cabernet Franc grapes, aged in new barriques for 14 months, showing dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and appealing black fruits on a lightly leathery and earthy mineral background. Drink now-2010. Score 87. (Tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Stern, Or, 2006: A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (40%, 35% and 25% respectively). Developed in French oak for 13 months, dark garnet in color, with still-firm tannins but those integrating nicely and showing appealing red fruits, spices and a hint of tobacco on the finish. Drink now. Score 87. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Stern, Rotem, 2006: The winery?s second Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (in this case 65%, 22% and 13% respectively). Deep garnet toward royal-purple in color, reflecting its 13 months in French oak with soft tannins and opening to reveal blackberry, blueberry and currant fruits, those highlighted by light earthy and herbal notes. Long and generous. Drink now. Score 88. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Na?aman, Pink Floyd, 2007: A rose wine, dark rose-petal pink with hints of orange, this light to medium-bodied blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot shows appealing berry, cherry and light cassis notes, all with an appealing spicy background and good acidity to keep it lively. Drink now. Score 86. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Na?aman, Deep Purple, 2006: Oak-aged for 13 months, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot (40%, 30%, 20% and 10% respectively). Dark royal-purple in color, medium to full-bodied with still-firm tannins needing time to integrate. Opens to reveal blackberry, purple plum and cassis fruits along with generous hints of saddle leather and earthy minerals. Drink now?2010. Score 86. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Na?aman, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, King Crimson, 2005: A medium-bodied, softly tannic, oak-aged blend of 75% Cabernet and 25% Merlot, this wine shows spicy wood, cherry and red currant aromas and flavors, those with appealing light bitter and herbal undertones. Drink now. Score 84. (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Na?aman, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Showing even better than at an earlier tasting. Dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with firm tannins and a gentle hand with spicy oak. Opens with red plum and berry notes, those yielding to currant and orange peel, and goes on to a tannic finish with appealing herbal overtones. Drink now?2010. Score 88 (Re-tasted 16 Oct 2008)
Birya, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Dark ruby toward garnet, this medium to full-bodied wine shows soft tannins and generous currant, blackberry and mint on the nose and palate. On the moderately long finish a hint of fresh herbs. Drink now?2009. Score 85. K
Birya, Merlot, 2005: Generous blackberry, purple plum and black cherry fruits on a medium-bodied, softly tannic frame. A good quaffer. Drink now. Score 85. K
Aneva, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Blended with 6% of Petit Verdot and oak aged for 6 momths. Ruby towards garnet, light- to medium-bodied, showing a light spicy wood ote and appealing berry, black cherry personality. Without complexities but an appealing straightforward quaffer. Drink now. Score 85.