?By: Daniel Rogov
On Thursday, 25 February, the Israeli Railroads delivered me comfortably to Beit Shemesh, from where I made my way to the Agur winery for my annual visit. Set on Moshav Agur in the Judean plains, this small winery, owned by winemaker Shuki Yashuv, has grown from releasing 1,800 bottles in the 2000 vintage to between 25,000 ? 30,000 in the 2008 and 2009 vintages. The winery has its own vineyards on the moshav and also draws on grapes from the Ella Valley, those including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Grapes from each vineyard are fermented separately, some in stainless steel vats, others in new and used barriques. The wines have been kosher since the 2007 vintage.
The winery releases four wines annually, Blanca, Rosa, Kessem and Special Reserve. Considering the large number of boutique wineries releasing 15 or more labels every year, this seems to me a wise move, allowing consumers to know with no confusion whatever precisely what is being offered. Even more important ? Agur is one of those small wineries that maintains and increases the quality of its releases on a regular basis. Those interested in further information or in making purchases can contact the winery at firstname.lastname@example.org
My thanks to Shuki for a fine tasting . My thanks also to both Shuki and his wife, the lovely Scottish- born Evelyn, not only for good company but for the fine freshly baked scones that accompanied coffee after the tasting. As often I have said, the combination of wine and good company is nearly unbeatable. To add to that scones with coffee and, although it may not raise the scores awarded to the wines by one iota, it goes a long, long way in adding sunshine to one’s day.
Agur, Special Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Dark royal purple towards garnet, a full bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, destined for 18 months in barriques. Firm and concentrated, with still gripping tannins and smoky wood settling in nicely now to reveal an array of cassis, blackberry and raspberry fruits, those on a background of spices and earthy minerals. Best from 2011. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 25 Feb 2010)
Agur, Special Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted from components, already showing the promise of being clean, dark, rich and concentrated with near sweet tannins and spicy wood parting to make way for blackcurrants and blackberries, those complemented by notes of roasted herbs and earthy minerals. Best from 2012. Tentative Score 87-89. K (Tasted 25 Feb 2010)
Agur, Blanca, 2009: A somewhat unusual but quite successful blend of 55% Viognier and 45% Johannisberg Riesling, the grapes intentionally harvested early in order to maintain a quite moderate 11.5% alcohol content. Light, bright gold, with a floral nose on which the Riesling dominates and even shows a light oily note traditional to the variety. Medium bodied and on the nose and palate fine citrus, apple and green melon fruits, sits and then lingers nicely on the palate. Has the potential for some age and as it develops in the bottle will become somewhat darker and heavier in body with the Riesling notes rising. Drinking nicely now but best from 2011-2014. NIS 72. Score 89. K (Tasted 25 Feb 2010)
Agur, Rosa, 2009: Rose wine made by the saignee method (i.e. draining of the first run juice of red grapes in order to add both color and tannins to what will be a rose wine). Almost a bronzed salmon pink, with a generous 13.5% alcohol, indeed showing tannic notes and hints of the wood in which the wine was developed. Not an aromatic wine but showing flavors of cassis, strawberries and raspberries. Off-dry with a bit of alcoholic heat on the finish. Drink now or in the next year or so. NIS 80. Score 85. (Tasted 25 Feb 2010)
Agur, Kessem, 2008: A medium- to full-bodied, garnet towards royal purple, blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (65%, 20%, 10% and 5% respectively), each variety fermented separately and then developed in oak for 6 months before final blending. Dark garnet, with surprisingly firm tannins for such short oak-aging but those yielding in the glass to allow blackberry, black cherry and currant notes to be nicely felt. On the moderately long finish a note of Oriental spices. Drink now-2012. NIS 80. Score 89. K (Re-tasted 25 Feb 2010)
Agur, Special Reserve, 2007: Showing considerably better than at barrel tastings. Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, full-bodied, with wood and tannins in fine balance with fruits and acidity. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (50%, 35%, 10% and 5% respectively). On the nose and palate black and blueberries, currants, licorice and notes of earthy minerals. The best ever from Agur but needs a bit of time to round out and for the elements to come together. Best from 2011-2015. NIS 115. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 25 Feb 2010)