?By: Daniel Rogov
An early flight yesterday morning (Thursday, 15 April) from Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airport took me to Rosh Pina, from there to make my way to the Galil Mountain Winery, there for advance tastings, re-tastings and barrel tastings.
Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, with its physically beautiful state-of-the-art winery located on Kibbutz Yiron in the Upper Galilee, this joint venture between the Golan Heights Winery and the kibbutz has vineyards located in some of the best wine-growing areas of the Upper Galilee, including Yiron, Meron, Misgav Am, Yiftach and Malkiya. Winemaker Micha Vaadia produces distinctly terroir-based wines in two series. The first labels are Yiron and Meron. The second label, Galil Mountain, contains varietal releases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Production from the 2000 vintage was about 300,000 bottles. Since then the winery has grown to an output of approximately 1,000,000 bottles annually.
The winery continues to move in good directions, providing high quality wines at fine value for money. If there was somewhat of a surprise for me it is that many of the wines I tasted are showing a 15% alcohol content. Despite this, because the wines show fine overall balance and structure those are far from “blockbusters” and continue to show the elegance for which the wines are becoming noted.
My thanks to senior winemaker Micha Vaadia, winemaker Boaz Mizrachi Adam, and CEO Ronit Badler for hosting me and for their courtesies during my visit. Please note that in the tasting notes that follow, some of the barrel tastings were made from components and the projected final blends are mie entirely.
Galil Mountain, Ros?, 2009: Light- to medium-bodied, rose-petal to light strawberry pink in color, with strawberry, raspberry and even a note of blueberries all with fine balancing acidity. Crisp and refreshing, a fun wine to drink. Drink now. Score 88. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Avivim, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted from components of Chardonnay and Viognier both developing sur lie and still waiting for blending, showing fine potential. Medium-bodied, golden straw in color, with fine acidity set off by a tantalizing hint of green, and showing pear, citrus, melon and floral notes. Easy to drink but with plenty of complexity to grab the attention. Drink from release. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Avivim, 2008: Oak-aged on its lees for 9 months, a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Viognier, deep fruit and light herbs on the deeply aromatic nose, medium- to full-bodied with fine concentration and acidity to keep it lively. Aromas and flavors of pears, honeydew melon and citrus, all coming together as a long, coherent and charming whole. Drink now-2011. Score 90. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Pinot Noir, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Developng in Gamba made barriques, dark ruby in color, medium bodied, gently tannic, showing a lovely fruit-rich nose and equally tempting flavors. On the nose and palate red and black berries, black cherries and cassis, those reflecting a gentle hand with spicy wood. Already showing hints of stony minerals. Pinot Noir true to its variety an happily reflecting its Galilean roots. As the wine develops look for notes of sweet cedar. Approachable and enjoyable on release but best 2012-2016. Tentative Score 90-92. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Showing better than at a pre-release tasting. A blend of 58% Shiraz and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in American oak for ten months. Deep garnet toward royal purple, with generous but soft and gently mouth-coating tannins and fine concentration. A generous 15% alcohol content but that matched nicely by wood and fruits and showing fine structure. Opens to reveal a medium- to full-bodied wine with plum, berry and cassis notes on a lightly spicy smoked-meat background. Drink now?2012. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Meron, 2006: An unusual but highly successful blend of 78% Syrah and 11% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Deep ruby towards garnet, a full-bodied, softly tannic blend of 78% Syrah and 11% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot most assuredly representing the terroir of the Upper Galilee. Opens with earthy and Mediterranean herbal notes, those going on to reveal a rich array of blackberries, cassis, cranberries and Mediterranean. On the long finish notes of what at one moment seems to be spearmint at another eucalyptus. Long and generous, reflecting its 16 months in French oak with a tantalizing note of white pepper. Drink now-2016. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Meron, 2007: Oak aged for 10 months, a dark garnet blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot (81%, 10% and 9% respectively). Full-bodied and concentrated, with a generous 15% alcohol content but simultaneously soft and round, with gentle notes of spicy cedar wood, opens to show generous cassis, blackberries and red plums, those supported nicely by notes of grilled herbs and earthy-minerals. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2016. Score 91. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2006: Dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with soft tannins and gentle spicy and vanilla notes from the oak in which it age, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah (58%, 37% and 5% respectively). Showing fine balance and structure. On first attack raspberries on a lightly spicy background, those yielding to currants, blackberries and purple plums. Round, long and elegant. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from mid 2011-2016. Score 91. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah coming together as a full-bodied wine, with alcohol, wood and acidity in fine balance with fruits and spices. On first attack notes of blueberries and minerals, those parting to make way for wild berries, black currants and plums, all on a tantalizing background of leather and dark chocolate. Long and elegant. Approachable now but best 2012-2017. Score 92. K (Tasted 15 Apr 2010)
Special Barrel Tastings
From here it was on to a fascinating set of “special” barrel tastings, my notes for those to be held for an article I want to prepare for one of the professional journals but with a few clues here:
Syrah, 2008 ? from a new black at the Malkia vineyard, probably destined for blending into the Meron wine. Gorgeous red fruits, fine balancing acidity and deeply aromatic.
Syrah, 2009 ? three samples, each from a different vineyard, all lovely and each reflecting the traits of a sense of place. In one, black fruits and roasted herbs; in another, darker fruits, more spicy and with fresh herbs; in another a distinct note of garrigue.
Merlot, 2008 and 2009 from the Yiron vineyard, thus reflecting the difference not between terroir but of different vintage years. The 2008 dark, impenetrable, with black fruit and licorice; the 2009 black and red fruits along with hints of mint. At this stage both showing hints of sawdust on the nose.
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 ? one from the more mature Yiron vineyard, one from a very young vineyard ? the first showing traditional Cabernet body, fruits, spices and aromas, the second lighter in body, generously fruity with overlays of earthy minerals.
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009: from the same vineyards as above, the first deeper, more concentrated and reflecting its oak gently; the second with the oak still dominating, both with fine fruits and waiting to come together
Petit Verdot, 2008 and 2009, one each from a young vineyard, the other from the Yiftach vineyard, the Yiftach wines in both cases showing darker, more intense, more tannic and with a fine array of black fruits, and the wines from the younger vineyard showing more acidic and less intense but still with fine fruits and notes of spices.