?By: Daniel Rogov
This afternoon (Thursday, 25 Mar 2010) I made my way to Kfar Vitkin, there to pay my annual visit for barrel, advance and re-tastings.
Established by Doron and Sharona Belogolovsky on Moshav Kfar Vitkin on the central Coastal Plain, this winery released its first wines from the 2002 vintage. Bordeaux-trained winemaker Assaf Paz relies on Carignan, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Viognier, French Colombard, Johannisberg Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat grapes, some from their own vineyards and others from vintners in the Jerusalem hills as well as several other parts of the country. This exciting winery, specializing in creative blends and producing several varietal wines, is currently producing about 45,000 bottles annually. The Vitkin series is of age-worthy wines, and the Israeli Journey wines are meant for relatively early drinking. The latest entry from the winery is their flagship wine “Shorashim” (Roots).
My tasting notes follow. Wines currently on the market are noted with an asterisk (*) preceding their name and with prices.
My thanks to Sharona, Doron and Assaf for a fine tasting and for their courtesies during my visit.
*Vitkin, White Journey, 2009: A blend of 55% Viognier, 35% French Colombard and 10% Gewurztraminer, the Viognier aged in new French oak, the others sur lie in stainless steel tanks. Flowery on both the nose and palate, surprisingly happily by its crisp and refreshing acidity, and opening to reveal generous ripe summer fruits. Lively and refreshing. Drink now. NIS 65. Score 88. (Re-tasted 25 Mar 2010)
Vitkin, Johannisberg Riesling, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Light, bright gold in color, with a typical floral Riesling nose and showing appealing red grapefruit, ripe peach and green apples on a spicy background. Fine acidity here along with appealing notes of Oriental spices on the background. Drink from release-2013. Score 90. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin, Johannisberg Riesling, 2008: Much as promised at an earlier tasting. Somewhere in style between the Rhine and Alsace, light gold in color, medium bodied and with finely tuned balance between fruits and acidity. On the nose and palate generous spices to add charm to white peach, grapefruit and white mulberries. Taking on an appealing light Riesling petrol note. Drink now-2012. NIS 85. Score 90. (Re-tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin, Johannisberg Riesling, 2007: Taking on a darker gold note than in its youth, still with an appealing grint tint and showing an appealing floral and petrol nose. On first attack lemon-and-lime, that followed by notes of green apples, and a note of white pepper. Delicate and elegant. Drink now-2012. Score 90. (Re-tasted 25 Mar 2010)
Vitkin, Pink Journey, 2009: A blend of about 50% Tempranillo, the balance of Syrah and Carignan.*
Off-dry, with fine balancing acidity, fresh and refreshing showing raspberries and red and black cherries on the nose and nose and palate. Rose-petal pink in color, medium-bodied and lingering nicely on the palate. Drink now or in the next year or so. NIS 65. Score 88. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin, Pinot Noir, 2008: Medium-dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied and generously aromatic, reflecting its 10 months in oak that had been previously used to develop Viognier with gently gripping tannins and light spices. Made by a double selection of the grapes ? half early harvested and half moderately late harvested, showing black cherry, spiced mushrooms and light earthy mineral overtones. On the long finish notes of near-sweet cedar and roasted nuts. Needs a bit of time to show its elegance. Enjoyable now but best from mid-2011-2015. NIS 85. Score 91. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin, Red Journey, 2008: Deep ruby towards garnet, with a rich floral and berry nose, showing medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins and equally gentle notes of spicy wood. A blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Syrah and10% Cabernet Franc, oak aged for 10 months in mostly used barrels, opening to show ripe berries and plums, going on to reveal notes of roasted herbs, black pepper and on the long finish, vanilla.. Round and generous. Drink now-2011. NIS 70. Score 88. (Re-tasted 25 Mar 2010)
Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Dark royal purple in color, full-bodied, with still firm tannins and generous wood but those settling down nicely and integrating with blackberry, currant and black cherry fruits, those supported comfortably by notes of rye, figs and cigar tobacco. Given the time it deserves this one will show long and generous. Best 2012-2018. Score 92. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2007: Showing every bit as well as at barrel tasting. Dark garnet towards royal purple, full-bodied, and with generous but silky tannins integrating beautifully. Oak aed for 15 months but showing a gentle hand with spicy oak and cigar tobacco notes. On the nose and palate blackberries, black cherry and roasted herbs, all leading to a long, stylishly aromatic finish. Drink now-2014. NIS 115. Score 92. (Re-tasted 25 Mar 2010)
Vitkin, Syrah, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): The first varietal Syrah from the winery. Aging in large, new French oak and still tightly wound and firm but already showing fine focus and balance. On the nose and palate Mediterranean herbs and minerals to support blueberries, blackberries, minerals and spices and, on the long, long finish a note of near-sweet cedar wood. Approachable early but best 2013-2019. Tentative Score 91-93. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
Vitkin, Carignan, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, full-bodied with firm tannins and spicy wood in fine proportion to fruits. On first attack, raspberries and cherries, those followed by blackberries and purple plums. On the long finish, tannins and fruits rise together. Concentrated and muscular but simultaneously gentle and elegant, showing fine potential for cellaring. Best 2012-2018. Score 91. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin, Carignan, 2007: Super-dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with gentle notes of spices and vanilla from the oak in which it aged for 15 months and tannins that are now yielding comfortably. On the nose and palate raspberries, blackberries and blueberries,those with a light peppery note that linger nicely. On the long finish tempting notes of minerals and licorice. Drink now-2013. NIS 95. Score 90. (Re-tasted 25 Mar 2010)
Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Deep, dark and mysterious but remarkably rich with notes of teak and sandalwood coming together with blackberry, cassis and huckleberry fruits. Firm tannins and already generous wood here but those in fine balance and highlighting and not at all hiding the flavors. Long and generous. Drink from release-2019. Tentative Score 91-93. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)
*Vitkin,Petite Sirah, 2007: Made from old vine grapes (30-40 years old), a super-dark garnet wine with fine balance between spicy wood, acidity and fruits. Opens with the traditional rich huckleberry, boysenberry and blackberry notes that we have come to associate with the better wines of this variety, those matched nicely by notes of minerals, dark chocolate. Once firm and somewhat chunky tannins now settling in nicely to produce a powerful but round and elegant wine. Drink now?2012, perhaps longer. NIS 115. Score 90.
Vitkin, Reinforced Red, n.v (Advance Tasting).: Primarily Petite Sirah and Carignan with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (that from the 2002 vintage), a blend made from eight different vintage years, the blend reinforced to 18% with white brandy (that is to say, unoaked brandy). Somewhere in style between a Ruby and Late Bottled Vintage Port, with a spicy overlay on plum and black cherry fruits. Well balanced and not overly sweet with an appealing dusty oak finish. Drink now-2013. Score 88. (Tasted 25 Mar 2010)