Chateau Golan – My Annual Visit – With Tasting Notes

By: Daniel Rogov

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?By: Daniel Rogov

This early morning (Tuesday, 18 January) I made my way to the Golan Heights to visit and do tastings at Chateau Golan. Not all that long ago (7 Dec 2009), I attended a tasting of the just released 2008 white and 2007 red wines of the winery. My very positive reviews of those wines can be seen on the forum at viewtopic.php?f=29&t=28774

Today’s tasting was devoted primarily to 2009 barrel tastings, many of those as components and 2008 advance and barrel tastings. A fully modern winery located on Moshav Eliad on the Golan Heights, Chateau Golan released their first wines from the 2000 vintage under the hand of Oregon and California-trained winemaker Uri Hetz. Vineyards owned by the winery currently yield Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Carignan, Grenache, Touriga Nacional, Sauvignon Blanc, Mourvedre, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier grapes. Production is currently about 60,000 bottles annually. The winery releases wines in one series, Royal Reserve, that including the proprietary blend known as Eliad.

My thanks to Uri Hetz for his always pleasant and stimulating company as well as to Boaz and others of the winery staff for a fine tasting and their courtesies during my visit. As to coffee, Hetz’ now grinds his own and does a fine French press. He also serves some fine cheeses and a lovely pate. No score, but much appreciated.

One hint to readers: Even if you do not have the energy to read through all of the following notes, be sure not to miss the notes about the 2008 Touriga Nacional and Og wines that are near the end of the post.


Tasting the 2009 Wines

Chateau Golan, Sauvigon Blanc, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Developed partly in barriques for 4 months, the remainder in stainless steel and now blended and waiting to be bottled. Appealing deeper gold than one usually anticipates from Sauvignon Blanc, medium-bodied, with appealing citrus, apple and light grassy notes, with fine balance between fruits and acidity. Easy to drink but with enough complexity to grab our attention. Drink from release-2012. Score 90. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Geshem Blanc, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted both as components and as a tentative blend of about 40% Roussanne and 30% each Viognier and Grenache Blanc. Somewhat at variance with earlier releases of this wine because it contains less Viognier than in previous editions. No problem here though, for this round, generously but not overly alcoholic (about 14%), lightly tart wine shows appealing notes of summer fruits, citrus peel and bitter almonds, all on a background of stony minerals. Drink from release-2012, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 89-91. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Geshem Rouge, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted as a tentative blend from components, destined to be a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Aromatic, deep ruby in color, with an attractive array of raspberries, blueberries and cassis, those supported nicely by hint of freshly picked and peeled green almonds and sea water. Sits comfortably and long on the palate Drink from release-2015. Tentative Score 88-90. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Syrah, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted from a single component, that impenetrably dark garnet and so deep, full-bodied and intense that one might be tempted to think of it as monstrous. But, as well we know, monsters (e.g. Shriek) can have a loveable side and projecting this one into the future it promises to be a very fine Syrah indeed, showing forward wild berry, black cherry and vanilla notes on a tight, deep and long background. Best 2011-2016, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 90-92. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Merlot, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Not at all a blockbuster but a deep and concentrated old-world wine. Showing ruby towards garnet with red fruits on the nose and then opening in the glass to reveal plum, wild berry and licorice notes those on a lightly spicy and mineral background. Drink from release-2015. Tentative Score 89-91. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet towards royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, with fine harmony and balance. A rich, ripe wine, not at all heavy on the palate with complex currant, black cherry, spices and notes of sage. Ripe tannins integrating nicely and goig on to a long and generous finish. Best 2012-2018. Tentative Score 90-92. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Touriga Nacional, Royal Reserve 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Made from 100% Touriga Nacional, probably Portugal’s best wine grape and an integral part of many of the best vintage Ports as well as in an increasing number of dry red wines. Not a Port, not a Maderia ? in fact, not any wine that I know of from the past, but a unique and exciting creation of winemaker Uri Hetz. Aging in 400 liter oak casks for a maximum of 12 months, fortified with French Cognac to a 17.5% alcohol content, a seductive wine with generous sweetness set off comfortably by balancing acidity and an array of black cherry, cassis and dark chocolate flavors. Generous soft tannins here and a powerful sweet and peppery finish. Its delicious, its delightful, its delovely! Drink from release-2017. Tentative Score 90-92. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan Rose, Royal Reserve, 2009 (Advance Tasting): A shift in style for the winery. Until now the rose wines have been made entirely from Cabernet Franc. This year the wine contains 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Grenache, both with very short skin contact and then fermented partly in oak and partly in stainless steel before being blended. The winemaker accurately describes the color as “provocatively not pink”, being in fact an attractive faint copper hue. With a generous 14% alcohol content for a rose, a fascinating wine, medium-bodied, with notes of white peaches on the nose and a palate rich with cherry, currant and orange peel notes along with a hint of spices. And don’t be at al surprised to find a tantalizing hint of super-soft tannins here. Drink from release. Score 88. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan Rose, Royal Reserve, Version 2, 2009: An experimental wine not for release but made to explore the possibility of whether the 2010 rose release will be made, as this one, entirely from Grenache grapes. An easily approachable wine, crisply dry, with light acidity and medium-body, showing a copper towards pale peach color. Not particularly aromatic but on the nose and palate a generous array of dried berries and cherries on a background of melon, spices and minerals. Complex and delicious. Score 89. (Tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Tasting and Re-Tasting the 2008 Wines
Due to be released about one year from now

Chateau Golan, Geshem Rouge, Royal Reserve, 2008: A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre (54% 39%, 5% and 2% respectively) the Grenache dominating nicely and giving the young wine a Grand Marnier nose. Full-bodied, with ample but gently gripping tannins, opens with a distinct note of sweetened chewing tobacco, then going on to show generous currants, raspberries and huckleberries, all with light hints of anise and tar that come in and linger on a long and broad finish. Best 2011?2018. Score 92. (Re-tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Syrah, Royal Reserve, 2008: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet towards purple, full-bodied, with a floral nose and then going on to reveal generous near-sweet tannins and a tantalizing bitter almond note that runs from first attack to the long finish. A blend of 85% Syrah, 13% Mourvedre and 2% Carignan showing aromas and flavors of red and purple plums, wild berries, tobacco and earthy mineral notes. Intense and concentrated, needing only a bit more time to show its complexity and elegance. Best 2012-2018. Score 92. (Re-tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Merlot, Royal Reserve, 2008: A year ago, when tasted from the barrel, the winemaker observed: ?If my 2007 Merlot was a dragon, this one is a teddy bear.? He was correct. Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, oak aged for about 12 months, medium- to full-bodied, with soft, gently caressing tannins a distinctly Old World wine, medium dark garnet in color, with fine concentration and opening to real blackberry, raspberry cassis along with notes of chocolate coated citrus peel that rise on the long finish. Approachable and enjoyable on release but best 2012-2017. Score 91. (Re-tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Royal Reserve, 2008: Blended with 10% Merlot and 3% Syrah,oak-aged for about 12 months, living fully up to barrel-tasting predictions. Still young and concentrated, with a 14.5% alcohol content and generous gripping tannins, those needing a bit more time to allow the generous fruits here to be felt. On the nose and palate black and red currants, plums and a near-sweet cedar wood overlay, finishing with hints of green olives and Mediterranean herbs. Best from 2011-2018. Score 91. (Re-tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Eliad, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet with orange and purple reflections, full-bodied and remarkably rich on both nose and palate. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and smaller amounts of Petit Verdot and Syrah (93%, 4% and 3% respectively), showing comfortably gripping tannins and toasty oak, those in fine balance with fruits and acidity. On first attack currant and blackberry fruits, those followed by hints of baker’s chocolate and roasted herbs. As this one continues to develop look as well for notes of green olives. Long and mouth-filling. Needs a fine porterhouse steak! Approachable by 2011 but best from 2012-2018. Score 92. (Re-tasted 19 Jan 2010)

Chateau Golan, Og, Royal Reserve, 2008: Winemaker Uri Hetz has always made fine and often exciting wines but this is his first venture into a wine that shows a fully post-modern sense of humor. Let’s start with the name. Og translates from Hebrew more or less as Ogre. Og was, of course also the Amorite king of Jerusalem. He was also thought by some to be a giant who, although not invited to join Noah on the Ark, managed to hang on to that noble ship and survive for quite a few centuries. The giant, said to have lived 3,000 years, was also said to have been king of the Bashan. As to which Og this one is, Hetz will say not a word. Nor, no matter how his arm may be twisted, will he reveal to anyone (not even others at the winery) what varieties of grapes that used. Whatever, intensely dark full-bodied, firmly tannic with a black fruit nose and then on nose and palate rich, loamy aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherries and dark chocolate, all coming together as a fascinating and coherent whole. A country-style powerhouse with a distinct sense of charm and elegance. Best from 2012 and no, I won’t even venture a guess as to how long this one might cellar. Score 91. (Tasted and long pondered upon 19 Jan 2010).

Chateau Golan, Touriga Nacional, Royal Reserve, 2008: The winery’s and the country’s first venture into a wine based entirely on the Portuguese Touriga Nacional grape. Oak-aged in large barrels for about 12 months, reinforced to 17.2% alcoholic strength, a seductive wine, inky-colored, deep and intense with an abundance of fine-grained tannins and generous sweetness balanced well by natural acidity and fruits. On the nose and palate blackberry, cherry and gamey notes, those followed by hints of plums and black cherries, all with generous licorice notes that come in on the long finish. Delicious and fascinating and perhaps oddly reminds me more of a late-harvest sweet Chateauneuf than of a Port. Only 400 bottles were produced. Worth fighting to lay hands on a few bottles. Score 93. (Re-tasted 19 Jan 2010)

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