Carmel: My Annual Visit With Tasting Notes (K)

By: Daniel Rogov

more »


?By: Daniel Rogov

On Thursday, 22 January 2009 I visited Camel and, in their Rishon leTzion tasting room devoted several hours to advance and barrel tastings of white and red wines in the Appelation and Single Vineyard series, those from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages.

As might be said, “the guys at Carmel are doing very nicely indeed” and that the winery continues on what can only be thought of as on the “quality road” is apparent, that largely due to the collaboration between senior winemaker Lior Laxer, winemaker Sam Soroka who leads the way for the winery’s upper-level wines and Israel Ivtsan, a CEO wise enough to realize that his demonstrated expertise is in overall leadership and business acumen and thus who chooses to leave the winemaking in the hands of the winemakers.

Several items of news gleamed from our discussions.

1. The wines in the Selected series will no longer be mevushal. Reflecting my own feelings on this matter, one might comfortably remark: “Glory be to the kingdom of god”. New releases in this series will be making themselves to me in early March. I shall report back at that time.

2. As much as positive quality change has been seen in red wines in recent years, that change is now making itself felt as well in the whites.

3. Perhaps somewhat less momentous but of importance, the winery is moving more towards the use of 300 liter oak casks, the thought behind this being a more gentle wood influence on oak-aged wines.

Notes are presented in the order of the tasting. My thanks to Lior, Sam and Adam Montifiore for a fine tasting, professionally conducted, for their many courtesies and good company during my visit.


Appelation (Regional) Series

Carmel, Sauvignon Blanc, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2008: Made from 25 year old vines, unoaked, showing light golden straw in color, showing freshly aromatic and on the nose and palate citrus, tropical fruits and citrus peel notes. Not a complex wine but one that is lively and remarkably full of flavor and charm. As good as a cocktail party offering as with good. Drink now. Score 89. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Johannisberg Riesling, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2008: Unoaked, medium-bodied, with fine aromatics. Categorized (the law is strange) as off-dry but with a hint of sweetness so gentle that in Germany the wine would be labeled as trocken (i.e. dry), and on the palate generous green apple, grapefruit, lemon curd, minerals and a nice hint of white pepper to add to its charm. Drink now-2012. Score 91. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Gewurztraminer, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2008: An off-dry, unoaked white, made from grapes selected from the Kayoumi and Sha’al vineyards. Light gold with green tints, showing typical Gewurztraminer litchi and spicy notes, those matched nicely by notes of ripe peaches and apricots. Fine balancing acidity and a comfortably long finish. Drink now-2011, perhaps a bit longer. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Viognier, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): With 25% of the wine developed in oak, the rest in stainless steel, some of the grapes early harvested and other late harvested a ripe, creamy near full-bodied white showing concentrated citrus, pear and green apple notes, those on a background of dried apricots and, even though crisply dry, a tantalizing honeyed note. Fine balance between fruits and acidity lead to a long and delicate finish. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Cabernet Franc, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2007: A welcome back is in order, for although the winery released a Cabernet Franc varietal wine in this series from the 2003 vintage, the grapes for that wine came from the Judean Mountains. The current release, from the Netua and Alma vineyards in the Upper Galilee was developed for 10 months in oak, some new and some used. Blended with 8% of Petit Verdot and 7% Malbec, a medium- to full-bodied, deep garnet wine showing soft tannins and gentle spicy oak influences integrating nicely and opening to show red fruits and vanilla as well as a clear cigar box note. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Merlot, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2007: A dark garnet blend of 85% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, reflecting its 12 months in oak with gentle spicy wood, and still firm tannins, those starting to settle in comfortably. Filtered roughly, opens in the glass to show an appealing array of blackberry, blueberry and citrus peel, those matched by notes of Oriental spices. Full-bodied, long and generous. Drink now-2011, perhaps longer. Score 89. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2007: A blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, those developed for 12 months in 30% new oak, the balance being older, showing gentle sweet and spicy oak. With the Shiraz clearly dominant, showing full-bodied, with soft tannins and opening to reveal red and black berries, plums and a hint of saddle leather. Finishes long and spicy. Very nice indeed. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2007: Full-bodied, with silky tannins and generous but well balanced spicy and vanilla-rich wood, those parting to reveal traditional blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of grilled Mediterranean herbs. On the long finish generous fruits with a hint of near-sweet kirsch liqueur. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Carignan, Old Vines, Appellation, Zichron Ya’akov, 2007: Made from thirty year old and older vines, blended with 10% Petit Verdot, oak-aged (minimal new oak) for 14 months. Dark garnet, a fruit forward blend showing black currant, vanilla and violet notes on a background of fine tannins., Full-bodied, with abundant fruits and fine balance, needs a bit of time for the elements to come together. As Aliza Doolittle put it “loverly” but best starting in 2011. Score 91. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Petite Sirah, Old Vines, Appellation, Judean Hills, 2007: Aged for 14 months in oak, partly new, partly used, made from 35+ year old vines, a concentrated and full-bodied red, showing royal purple in color and with generous tannins in fine balance with spicy and vanilla-rich wood. On the nose and palate a fine array of red and black fruits, those complemented by notes of black pepper, olives and Mediterannean herbs. Best from 2010. Score 90. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Single Vineyard

Carmel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Upper Galilee, 2006: Super-dark garnet in color, with a traditional Cabernet nose, a long, round and concentrated wine, medium- to full-bodied with generous but gently mouth-coating tannins, opening to show currant, wild berry, chocolate and espresso coffee notes. Deep, round, nearly chewy and with a deep fruit finish. Best 2010-2014. Score 91. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Upper Galilee, 2007: Oak-aged for 15 months, a distinctive full-bodied Cabernet, showing cherry, raspberry and red currant fruits on a background of freshly turned earth and tobacco, all leading to a finish that goes on seemingly without end. Well focused and with excellent integration between fruits, tannins and wood. If this had been a fully blind tasting I would have taken an oath that this was an Australian Molly dooker. Drink now-2015. Score 93. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Shiraz, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Upper Galilee, 2007: Almost impenetrably dark garnet in color, a big, bold and expressive wine, showing generous black cherry, red plum and raspberry fruits, those on a background of Oriental spices. Concentrated and generous, opening in layers on the palate and then lingering long and comfortably on the palate. Well crafted. Drink now-2015. Score 92. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Limited Edition, Upper Galilee, 2007: Full bodied and concentrated but not at all bombastic, developed in Burgundy sized barrels (45% of which new), a beautiful baby, already showing fine balance and structure that bode well for the future. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc (57%, 31%, 5% and 2% respectively) showing a generous array of blackcurrant, blackberry and dark plum fruits, those supported by gentle notes of spicy oak and fresh acidity. Needs time for all of the elements to come together. Approachable on release but best 2011-2018. Score 93. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

Carmel, Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest, Sha’al Vineyard, Golan, 2008: Generously sweet but with fine balancing acidity, a rich dessert wine, with honey and floral notes to highlight notes of litchi, lemon curd and spices. Complex, long and rich, delicious and complex enough not to accompany dessert but as dessert. If you do choose to serve this one with food, please, please, only with fruit tartes or fruit based mousses. Drink now-2016, perhaps longer. Score 92. K (Tasted 22 Jan 2009)

At the end of our tasting, because Adam Montifiore was not going to let me “get away” without tasting it, the recently released Carmel brandy.

Carmel, Brandy, 100, n.v.: By far the best brandy ever produced in Israel. Made from French Colombard flushed out with Chenin Blanc and Emerald Riesling. With 75% of the brandy distilled in a pot still and 25% in a continuous still, the brandy later aged in French oak. Relying on brandies some of which were 8 years old, some 13 years and some 23-25 years old, a deep, dense brandy, showing almost topaz-amber colored, showing green and gold tints. On the nose and palate walnuts and dried fruits, those with overlays of spices, vanilla and cinnamon rising from mid-palate and then lingering long and comfortably on the palate. Calls to mind that excellent Torres 20 brandy of Spain. As Ms. Doolittle put it so nicely: “Loverly”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *