Ella Valley Vineyards:My Annual Visit With Tasting Notes (K)

By: Daniel Rogov

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?? 31.01.2009?

?By: Daniel Rogov

It has been a busy week. In addition to my at-home tastings, four meals out and several meetings, I visited six local wineries in the last few days. On Tuesday it was to Ella Valley Vineyards, Tzora and Clos de Gat and on Thursday to Saslove, Avidan and Vitkin, all for barrel, advance and re-tastings. Giving each winery it’s due (and making organization a bit easier for myself), I shall post my comments and tastings notes for each winery individually, this first post being of my visit to Ella Valley Vineyards on Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009.

My thanks to winemaker Doron Rav Hon and the staff of the winery for a warm welcome and a fine tasting. My only regret was that because timing was “tight”, I had to leave before tasting the magnificent-looking shakshouka that was being prepared. Fair enough though ? the three cups of espresso that I received were fine.

Do note please that many of the 2008 barrel tastings were made from components. One of the great challenges for the critic (as for the winemaker) ? determining from such embryonic wines that will happen from the barrel to the bottle and then further on. Also note that although several of the 2007 wines tasted are still in barrels, all tasted were final blends, those ready for bottling within several weeks.



Ella Valley Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Blended with a small quantity of Semillon, the wine oak aged in small part, showing light gold in color with lively and crisp acidity. Opens with notes of kiwis, guava and grapefruit, those supported nicely by light hints of freshly cut grass, all with just enough complexity to grab our attention. Best from release-2010. Score 88. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Unoaked Chardonnay, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Light and glistening golden straw in color, developed on its fine lees in stainless steel tanks and with no racking, a medium-bodied white. Generous lemon curd, lime and green apple notes. Crisp and tangy enough to make you smile with pleasure. Drink from release. Score 87. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): The color of golden straw after a light rain, showing medium-bodied, vibrant and full of life, with light smoky oak notes of ripe pears and lime that linger nicely on an expressive finish. Drink from release-2011. Tentative Score 88-90. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Dark cherry red, medium- to full-bodied with fine tannins and spices. A well focused wine, elegant and stylish showing wild berry, black cherry and cassis fruits, with a tantalizing bitter-herbal finish that rises on the long, generously fruity finish. Drink from release-2014. Tentative Score 90-92. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted from several components showing medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and gentle wood offset comfortably by fresh acidity. Opens to reveal red cherry, blackberry, tobacco and mineral notes, the fruits and a light nutty flavor rise on the long finish. Drink from release-2013, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 90-92. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely. Opens with a bare and tantalizing hint of freshly cut Mediterranean herbs and then goes on to generous cherry and currant fruits. Supple and generous. Drink from release-2013. Tentative Score 90-92. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Merlot, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet in color, full-bodied with still gripping tannins but already showing fine balance and structure that bode well for the future. Rich and round, a fruity red with an abundance of blackberry, raspberry and currant notes, those showing an appealing floral note. From mid-palate on to the long finish hints of citrus peel and milk chocolate. Drink from release-2014. Tentative Score 90-92. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Syrah, 2008 (Barrel Tastings): Tasted from several components, those from the Nes Harim and Nativ HaLamed Hey vineyards. Dense and muscular, with firm tannins enclosing a rich core of wild berries, blackberries and sweet cedar wood notes. Opens in the glass to reveal an appealing black cherry note that lingers nicely. Needs time to show its elegance. Best 2010-2014, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 91-93. K


Ella Valley Vineyards, Ever Red, 2007 (Advance Tasting): A medium-bodied blend, gently tannic red, this year of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Developed for 14 months in barriques, shows appealing berry, currant and black cherry fruits, those on a background of light and just spicy enough oak. Not complex but comfortable drinking and at its best with small cuts of meat. Drink from release. Score 87. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Showing much as at barrel tastings. Blended with 5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, dark royal purple, medium- to full-bodied with softly caressing tannins. Opens with a distinct veggie Cabernet Franc note, that yielding comfortably to cherry, blackberry, licorice and citrus peel on the long and generous finish. Drink from release-2013. Score 90. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Dark garnet towards royal purple, full-bodied, with firm and gripping tannins that soften in the glass to show a generous array of berry, red currant and cherry fruits, those supported nicely by figs, light cedar wood notes and hints of chocolate, all leading to a near-chewy but quietly elegant finish. Blended with 14% Merlot. Drink from release-2013. Score 89. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Merlot, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, opens with a hint of dusty wood and near-sweet tannins. A full-bodied and firm Merlot showing round and well balanced, the tannins complemented nicely by light spicy oak. On the nose and palate generous blackberry, currant,, wild berry and exotic spices complemented nicely by notes of minerals and light toasty oak. Drink from release-2013. Score 90. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Syrah, 2007 (Advance Tasting): My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Dark royal-purple, full-bodied with soft, gently gripping tannins and a generous mouthful of red plum, wild berry and boysenberry fruits, those complemented nicely by generous hints of peppery, spicy notes. Savory, intense and concentrated, but harmonious and elegant with a long spicy finish. Drink now?2012. Score 90. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Petite Sirah, 2007 (Advance Tasting): The winery’s first release of a Petite Sirah varietal wine and quite a success. Made from grapes from 10 year old vines, intensely dark royal purple in color, showing generous tannins and fine fruit concentration. On the nose and palate blackberries, raspberries and loganberry fruits, those matched nicely not notes of mint and tobacco. Firm and chewy with a long, near muscular finish. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyards Choice, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Rich and ripe, full-bodied with near-sweet tannins and a judicious hand with spicy oak. Blended with 10% Merlot and 5% Petite Sirah, opens with a nose of freshly turned damp earth and plums, those yielding in the glass to aromas and flavors of ripe currants, blueberries, dark cherries and roasted Mediterranean herbs. Long and generous. Best from 2010-2015. Score 91. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Syrah, Vineyards Choice, 2007 (Advance Tasting): The first Syrah released in the winery’s flagship series. Notably dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with fine balance between still gripping tannins and wood and just waiting patiently for all of its elements to come together. On first attack currants, wild berries and an appealing loamy note, those opening to reveal hints of bay leaves, juniper berries and mint, all leading to a long and intense finish. Needs time. Best 2010-2016, perhaps longer. Score 92.

From here on to two mini-verticals, one of Chardonnay and one of Cabernet Franc.


Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, 2007: Developed partly in barriques, partly in stainless steel for 11 months, a medium-bodied, crisply freshly and aromatic wine. Freshly dampened golden-straw in color, showing a gentle hand with the wood, with the nose and palate opening with hints of honey, flaky pastry and minerals, and goes on to show yellow plum and citrus blossoms. Well structured, long and elegant. As the wine develops in bottles look for a gentle honeyed and creamy hint that will creep in. Drink now-2011. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Ella Valley Vineyards, Unoaked Chardonnay, 2007: Light gold in color, medium-bodied, with crisp acidity to support appealing tropical and citrus fruits, those on a background of light, near-flinty minerals and finishing with a hint of white pepper. Calls to mind Petit Chablis. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 88. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, 2006: My most recent tasting note holds firmly. Medium to full-bodied, light golden in color and with flavors and aromas that play on the palate, shifting from grapefruit and nectarines to pineapples and lemon peel and finally to orange curd, all on a crisp mineral-rich background. Vibrant and lively with a long, lightly oaky and lemon blossom finish. Drinking beautifully. Drink now. Score 91. K

Ellla Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Vineyards Choice, 2005: Developed in oak for 11 months and now showing the complexity and richness it promised earlier on. Light gold in color, with an array of pineapple, citrus and ripe pear fruits, those on a near-creamy background on which generous hints of minerals. Long and elegant. Drink now-2011. Score 92. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, 2005: Medium- to full-bodied, as fruit forward and aromatic now as in its youth but its green apple, pear and summer fruits and still showing minerals and yeasty white bread but now starting to show a note of caramel. Drinking nicely but not for much further cellaring. Drink up. Score 89. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, 2003: When I last tasted this wine (May 2007) I suggested drinking up for even though the wine was still drinking nicely it seemed to be showing signs of “splitting at its seams”. Whether I was wrong or whether the wine is now simply singing its swan song is not known but the wine was certainly a positive surprise at this tasting, drinking fresh and lively, showing generous apple, fig and nutty flavors and aromas, those matched nicely by light notes of yeasty white bread and toasty oak. Lovely but don’t gamble and if you have any left on hand, drink up. Score 90. K

Cabernet Franc

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2006: Blended with 3% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, dark, dark-garnet in color, medium to full-bodied, deeply aromatic and showing a generous array of blackberry, black cherry and currant notes. Long, round, rich and mouth-filling. Drink now?2012. Score 92. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2005: Blended with 12% of Merlot, oak-aged for 15 months, this dark garnet, medium to full-bodied wine shows appealing vegetal aromas on first attack, those parting to reveal gently spicy cedarwood, raspberries, blackberries, red currants and generous hints of herbaceousness and white chocolate that come in on the long, well-balanced finish. Drink now?2011. Score 91. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2004: The last time I tasted this wine it was in a dumb period. That has now passed and the wine is showing very nicely indeed. Intensely dark royal purple, opens with a somewhat funky and loamy nose but that passes quickly and reveals a medium- to full-bodied wine, on the showing appealing red fruits, those supported nicely by notes of vanilla and cinnamon. From mid-palate on notes of cigar box and traditional Cabernet Franc veggie notes. Long and generous. Drink now-2011. Score 91. K

Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2003: My last tasting note holds firmly. Blended with 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon, this almost impenetrably dark garnet, oak-aged, full-bodied red shows firm tannins and generous wood influence, those balanced nicely by a generous array of black fruits, coffee, white chocolate and tobacco, all leading to a long leathery finish. Drink now. Score 91. K

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