Chateau Golan: My Annual Visit (With Tasting Notes)

By: Daniel Rogov

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?By: Daniel Rogov

On Monday, 12 Jan 2009, I made my way to the southern Golan Heights, there to visit and do tastings at Chateau Golan. The day was devoted largely to barrel tastings from the 2008 vintage and advance tastings from 2007. Largely to the credit of winemaker Uri Hetz, the wines of the somewhat schizophrenic 2007 vintage are showing very nicely indeed and those of the 2008 vintage are showing with as much excitement as those of the splendid years of 2001 and 2005.

I must add that one of the special pleasures of my annual visits to Chateau Golan is in after the tasting, moving out-of-doors with Uri to a casually set table where the two of us dig into a most comfortable session of talk accompanied by a light meal of cheeses, choucouteris, bread and vegetables along with the wines of our choice. My thanks to Uri and to other of the staff of the winery for making my trip most pleasant and worthwhile.


Chateau Golan, Geshem Blanc, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Light golden straw in color, a medium-bodied and nicely aromatic blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne (58%, 37% and 5% respectively). A distinctly Mediterranean blend (you can almost feel the sunshine here), opening with an appealing floral nose and then going on to show apple, nectarine and quince fruits, all supported by fine balancing acidity. A tantalizing hint (perhaps merely an illusion) of sweetness on the long finish. Drink from release-2012. Tentative Score 90-92.

Chateau Golan, Sauvignon Blanc, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Lively gold in color, with green and orange tints, developed partly in oak and partly in stainless steel, a wine that is simultaneously lively and refreshing as well as complex and thought provoking. With traditional Sauvignon Blanc aromas and flavors (think of Jancis Robinson’s “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush”) complemented by grassy, citrus and tropical fruits, those on a background of well-tuned acidity. Long and generous. Drink from release-2011, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 90-92.

Chateau Golan, Geshem Red, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted as components of Grenache and Mourvedre, the Grenache dominating nicely and giving the still very 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 red fruits and huckleberries, all with light hints of anise and tar that come in and linger on a long and broad finish. Best 2011-2018. Tentative Score 92-94.

Chateau Golan, Geshem Red, Royal Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Plenty of alcohol here but that showing neither heat nor sweetness as it is fine balance with spicy wood, near-sweet tannins and fruits. Full-bodied, rich and deep, showing almost incense-like anise notes and then opening to reveal berry, black cherry and currant fruits. A blend of 70% Grenache with 15% each of Mourvedre and Syrah, oak aged for 13 months, with a tempting liquereuse finish. Best 2010-2015. Score 91.

Chateau Golan Syrah, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Full, round and rich, supple, generous and concentrated, even at this very early stage showing a generous range of mineral flavors to complement red berries, dark plums, tobacco and earthy-mineral notes. An intense wine, true to its variety and with the tannins already submerging to reveal the complexity of the wine. Approachable on release but best 2012-2018. Tentative Score 92-94.

Chateau Golan, Syrah, Royal Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Living fully up to barrel-tastings. A full-bodied blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, those aged for 12 months in oak and showing a generous but well balanced 14.6% alcohol content that yields an appealing hint of sweetness. Opens on the palate to reveal purple plums, wild berries and notes of both licorice and lead pencil. On the long finish, with tannins rising, an appealing note of violets. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2014. Score 91.

Chateau Golan, Merlot, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): I rather like the winemaker’s comment: “If my 2007 Merlot was a dragon, this one is a teddy bear”. Medium- to full-bodied, with generous but round, gently caressing tannins a distinctly Old World wine, opening slowly in the glass to reveal a blackberry, raspberry and floral personality. Big but gentle, with hints of chocolate and citrus peel on the long finish. One you can cuddle up to! Drink from release-2014. Tentative Score 90-92.

Chateau Golan, Merlot, Royal Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): An interesting blend of 86% Merlot, 9% Petite Sirah and 5% Syrah. Oak aged for 13 months, calling to mind the 2001 release from the winery, both being deeply extracted, muscular and intense. Generous soft tannins along with notes of near-sweet cedar wood in fine balance with blackberry, raspberry and cassis fruits, those on a background of licorice and bitter-sweet chocolate. Tannins and a note of toasty oak rise on the long finish. A powerhouse but one with grace. Best from 2010-2014. Score 90.

Chateau Golan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Young and concentrated, super-dark garnet in color, full-bodied, already showing generous alcohol, tannins and wood. Put that all together and you might have a California wine but the balance and structure are all here and do not at all hide a tempting array of black and red currants, purple plums and notes of sweet cedar wood. Needs time for the elements to come together but as those do, a lovely wine in the waiting. Best starting in 2011. Tentative Score 90-92.

Chateau Golan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Royal Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Showing every bit as well as at barrel tastings. A medium- full-bodied blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvigjnon, 7% each Cabernet Franc and Syrah and a 1% smidgeon (I always wanted to use that word in a tasting note) of Petite Sirah. Deep garnet, with gently mouth-coating tannins and reflecting its 12 months in oak with comfortably mouth-coating tannins. Opens to show appealing aromas and flavors of blackberries, blackcurrants and violets, and, on the generous finish a gentle hint of bittersweet chocolate. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2014. Score 90.

Chateau Golan, Petit Verdot, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Whether to be released as a varietal or to be used as a blending agent is not known to me at this time. I will say though that I hope this finds its way into its own label! A big wine, intense and concentrated, dark royal purple in color, plush in texture with a most appealing set of aromas and flavors, those including wild berries, blackberries, mocha, vanilla, spicy oak and Mediterranean herbs. Takes on a fine spiciness on the long finish. Tentative Score 91-93.

Chateau Golan, Eliad, Royal Reserve, 2007 (Barrel Tasting): Close to its final blend at this stage, of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot. Almost inky dark in color, a distinctly Old World wine in its elegance. On first attack blackberries and black cherries, those yielding comfortably to notes of toasty oak and bitter-sweet chocolate and, on the long finish, as we have come to know with this wine hints of olives and Mediterranean herbs. Not at all a “blockbuster” but that’s just as well for given time this one will indeed show elegance.Apoachable on release but best 2011-2016, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 90-92.

Chateau Golan, Rose, Royal Reserve, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Almost a twin to the 2007 wine. Made entirely from Cabernet Franc grapes, partly developed in stainless steel and for a short while in used barriques. Medium-bodied, with appealing red and black berries, strawberries and red currants, those on a spicy background. Plenty of good acidity here. A more than usually complex rose. Score 89.

Taken with lunch:

Chateau Golan, Cabernet Franc, Limited Edition, Royal Reserve, 2003: Showing very nicely indeed. As during its youth, dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with an appealing earthy note that runs through to highlight and not at all hide black currant, purple plum and wild berry fruits. Hints of vanilla and spicy oak still nicely in place along with a tempting hint of garrigue that is now making itself felt. Drink now or in the next year or two. Score 90.

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