?By: Daniel Rogov
Yesterday, (Monday, 15 December) found me on an early morning train to Beit Shemesh, using the railroad station as my starting point to visit three wineries ? Clos de Gat, Sea Horse and Katlav. I took it as a good omen that the Israeli railroad system screwed up royally ? for the first time in recorded history actually arriving three minutes early.
Following are my report and tasting notes from the Clos de Gat visit. My thanks to Eyal Rotem and William White of Clos de Gat for a warm receptions, a fine tasting and good discussion at the winery.
Located on Kibbutz Har?el in the Jerusalem Mountains, this joint project of the kibbutz and Australian-trained winemaker Eyal Rotem released its first wines from the 2001 vintage. The name ?Clos de Gat? is a play on words?the French clos is an enclosed vineyard surrounded by stone walls or wind-breaks, while the Hebrew gat is an antique wine press. With the exception of the Chardonnay grapes in the 2002 wine, all the grapes have come from the winery?s own vineyards, which now include Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and most recently the winery?s own Chardonnay. Production is currently about 50,000 bottle annually. The winery, listed in my 2009 book as one of the ten best in the country, releases wines in three series, the Bordeaux blend Clos de Gat, Sycra (Aramaic for “bright red”) and Har’El. From the 2003 vintage on, all the wines have been made with wild yeasts.
Following are my tasting notes, first of wines newly released to the market and then of a return to the first releases of the winery. One wine, the 2007 Chanson was re-tasted in my own tasting room this morning.
Clos de Gat, Chardonnay, 2007: Deep bright gold in color, full-bodied, reflecting its 12 months sur lie in oak with no battonage with a near creamy texture, opens with delicate honeyed green apple and pear notes, those concentrated and well focused and showing fine balance with just enough acidity to keep the wine fresh. Closes with an earthy-mineral overlay that lingers nicely. Generous, mouth-filling and almost extrvagant, the wine is approachable now but will be at its best only from 2010-2015. NIS 169. Score 93. (Tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Chanson Blanc, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Still in its infancy and developing in stainless steel. Showing light gold in color, medium-bodied, with crisp acidity to highlight citrus, pear and melon fruits. A blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier and Chenin Blanc, with generous mineral overtones that destined as in the past to remain unoaked. Refreshing and with just enough complexities. Tentative Score 89-91. (Tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Chanson Blanc, 2007: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. A well-crafted unoaked blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier and Chenin Blanc (about 75%, 15%, 7% and 3% respectively). Pale gold in color with orange reflections, medium-bodied, opening with minerals and citrus fruits, those opening in the glass to reveal passion fruits and ripe melon. Long, lively and thought-provoking. Drink now?2010. NIS 100. Score 91. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Syrah, Har’El, 2007: Dark, almost impenetrable royal purple, full-bodied, with generous soft tannins integrating nicely. Blended with 15% of Cabernet Sauvigjnon and oak aged for 16 months, a generously spicy wine opening to show wild berry, plum and black cherry fruits, those going on to reveal notes of sage, minerals and dark chocolate. Deep and complex, with a long finish on which tannins, red cherries and floral notes make themselves comfortably felt. Approachable now but best 2010-2015. NIS 145. Score 93. (Tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Har’el, 2007: A blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Deep garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied (leaning towards the full) and firmly tannic, opens with an unusual but very appealing light musky note and then goes on to well focused red currants and cherries, those supported nicely by notes of freshly turned earth and Mediterranean herbs. Supple, rich and deep, with a finish that goes on seemingly without end. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2016. NIS 130. Score 92. (Tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Merlot, Har’el, 2007: Royal purple towards black, muscular, with bold tannins and spicy oak integrating nicely. Made entirely from Merlot grapes, aged in barriques for 14 months. On first attack near-sweet plum and cocoa aromas and flavors, those yielding to notes of currant jam and licorice. A solid finish on which arise notes of citrus peel. Needs some time. Approachable by mid-2009 but best 2010-2015. NIS 130. Score 92. (Tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Ayalon Valley,2005: A Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot (63%, 30% and 7%) given a distinct Mediterranean note by touches of black olives and mint. Dark garnet, opens with a sweet red nose, that overlayed with note of spicy cedar wood. Showing soft, mouth-coating tannins, opens to revel currant, blackberries and notes of slate. On the long and generous finish look for notes of raspberries and mocha. Approachable now but best from mid-2009-2014, perhaps longer. NIS 185. Score 93. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Merlot, Sycra, 2006: Showing every bit as excellent as during barrel tastings. Full-bodied, reflecting its 20 months in new oak with generous spicy wood and equally generous but softly mouth-coating tannins, those in fine balance with fruits and acidity. Opens with currant, purple plum and mocha notes, those yielding to blackberry, citrus peel and light herbal and tobacco overtones. NIS 250. Score 93. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
The More Mature Wines
Clos de Gat, Chardonnay, 2002: Showing its age but that with great dignity, much as one would hope for with a mature Burgundy white. Deep gold, taking on a bronzed note, a deep, full-bodied wine showing pear, ripe apricot and apple fruits, those on a background of gently spicy oak and minerals, all leading to a creamy, mouth-filling sensation. Drinking beautifully but not meant for further cellaring. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 90. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Har’el, 2003: Dark garnet, full-bodied, with its tannins now showing soft and nicely integrated. Opens with a rich fruity nose that hints of tar and goes on to revel generous red berry, cherry and blackcurrant fruits all on a background of gentle oak, anise and a note of iodine. Drinking nicely now but not for longer cellaring. Drink now. Score 90. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Syrah, Ha’el, 2003: As at a recent tasting, Deep ruby colored, this blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon shows generous peppery overtones. Medium to full-bodied, with firm but nicely integrating tannins and complex plum, red berry and earthy aromas and flavors, all with a hint of leather on the finish. Drink now. Score 91. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Merlot, Har’el, 2004: Deep and dark, showing no signs of clearing at the rim, opening with a chocolate-rich nose and firm tannins, those opening to show near-sweet oak and generous currants, plums and berries. A long, mouth-filling and deeply aromatic finish that picks up notes of smoke. Drink now-2012. Score 90. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)
Clos de Gat, Ayalon Valley, 2001: A deep ruby-garnet full-bodied unfiltered blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, with generous, soft tannins that integrate beautifully, a wine that can honestly be said to reflect its terroir. Overlaying traditional Cabernet black currants are generous hints of green olives, basil, tarragon and other Mediterranean herbs. The wine shows good balance and structure, with chocolate and leather coming in on the long finish. Maturing nicely. Drink now-2011. Score 90. (Re-tasted 15 Dec 2008)