Kosher Wine Recommendations #59

January 3, 2008   |   By (see 's Profile)   |   Filed Under Food & Wine 

With permission, from the newsletter of oenophile, Yossie Horwitz

The wine writers at the Wall Street Journal have a concept they call “Open that Bottle Night” (OTBN) which they invented, in their own words since: “All of us, no matter how big or small our wine collections, have that single bottle of wine we simply can never bear to open”.  What happens to all these special bottles we tend to accumulate and never want to open – they sit and sit since no occasion is worth opening them for.  Then at some point we decide that we should have opened it years ago and now it’s bad anyway, so there’s no reason to open it, which gives us an excuse to hang onto it for a few more decades.  So OTBN – which is now always the last Saturday in February – offers a great opportunity to prepare a special meal, open the bottle and savor the memories.Galil Mountain Winery Voignier
In the spirit of OTBN and at the suggestions of a number of this emails readers including GT, I have decided to attempt to arrange a special wine tasting for the readers of this email.  I am still working through some of the specifics but wanted to gauge your interest and would appreciate any thoughts and/or suggestions you may have.  I am currently thinking about a tasting for about 30 folks at a venue to be decided with appetizers and/or cheeses with a small cover charge to cover the appetizers.  The more important part would be that every participant would bring a special bottle of wine.  Please let me know sooner than later (i) if you would be interested in such a tasting; (ii) any thoughts or suggestions on this that you might have so that I can start making more concrete plans; and (iii) most importantly, which wine you would consider bringing to this event.  I think that it would be a fantastic opportunity not only to taste some special wines but also for the many readers of this email newsletter to get together and get to know more fellow oenophiles.

Personally, I would be bringing two wines to this soiree, one of which is a fabulous dessert wine which I have only tasted once and have one remaining bottle – Chateau de Fesles, Bonnezeaux, 1997 which I tasted once many years ago.  In addition to the more famous Sauternes dessert wines from France, wines from the Bonnezeaux region also produce magnificent wines when the vines are hit with the “royal rot” otherwise known as botrytis.  This superb wine from the Layon Valley is more intensely sweet than typical Sauternes but contains plenty of acidity keeping the sweetness in check and allowing it to offer wonderful notes of tropical fruits and hints of licorice.  An awesome match with some of my favorite all time foods – goose liver, fruit tarts, cheeses or Canard à l’Orange.  I will also bring a second wine I have not yet determined.

Galil Mountain Winery

This week I wanted to talk about one of my favorite wineries – Galil Mountain.  In my opinion this winery represents dollar for dollar the absolute best value for your money in wine today.  The winery’s top tier wine – the Yiron is a Bordeaux type blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and has been consistently awesome year after year and they recently added a Syrah to the Yiron line which has also been fantastic.  Their regular series Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot represent the most complex wines you can get today for $10 and I drink these wines as my “house wines” on a regular basis.  The winery is a joint venture between the Golan Heights Winery and kibbutz Yiron, the kibbutz on which the winery is physically located.  The winery is currently producing over 600,000 bottles and is hoping to break the 1,000,000 with this most recent vintage.

Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2004:  This years blend includes a small percentage of Syrah (which, as you will see from the notes below, the winery uses in various ways).  As I have noted previously, 2003 was a great vintage year in Israel and 2004 seems to have been quite a successful year as well (at least for some wineries, Galil Mountain included).  This always wonderful wine is full bodied and deep royal purple in color.  There are tantalizing and almost sweet hints of vanilla and cedar on the opening nose which deepens to black and gooseberries after a few minutes of being opened along with cherries and hints of bittersweet chocolate.  On the palate the black fruit is very evident along with luscious and caressing hints of cherries and light spices onto a long and velvety finish.  Still coming into its own but already drinkable, this wine will be at its best in six months or so and should cellar nicely for at least another 3-4 years.Galil Wines Yiron

Galil Mountain, Yiron, Syrah, 2004: The first vintage of this wine was in 2003 and it went quite quickly and was hard to find.  The 2004 seems to be more widely available although I have not yet seen it in stores here in New York.  From its various wines, Galil Mountain would seem to (i) have some great vines of Syrah; and (ii) really like the varietal as it not only produces it as a single varietal in both the highly regarded Yiron series and its regular series, it also utilizes it as a blend (interestingly, it refers to it as a Syrah in the Yiron series and Shiraz in the regular series and when blending [probably to reflect the varying terrior it represents in each case]).  Regardless, this is a wonderful wine – dark garnet colored with hints of orange at the edges this wine is very full-bodied and weighs nicely in ones mouth.  On opening the wine aromas of freshly bloomed spring flowers and juicy red fruits waft up at you and the caressing palate reaches up and grabs your attention with meaty overtones and underlying typical Syrah flavors of  fruit as well as leather and sweet cigar flavors.  The well integrated and somewhat softer tannins give this wine bold structure and grip and an overall complex and layered feeling.  A great wine which is ready to drink now and should cellar nicely, along with its companion for another 3 years or so.  Worth purchasing a few bottles and following over the next couple years and another resounding success from this winery.

Galil Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: The 2006 of this wine is already in stores (in Israel) but the stores here in New York seem to be carrying the 2005 (which, btw, was also an excellent vintage year in Israel due to a prolonged harvest of overall high quality).  A dark, almost inky black colored brooding full bodied wine with hints of cassis, smoky wood and robust but well integrated tannins as well as black cherries and plums and a nice long finish with hints of pleasantly musty earthiness.Galil Wine Merlot and Cabernet

Galil Mountain, Merlot, 2005: See my notes above on the vintage year.  Dark blood red in color and I prefer this wine over its Cabernet Sauvignon ‘cousin’ reviewed above as the flavors seem somewhat deeper and more complex.  Dark royal purple in color, this full bodied wine offers up aromas of warm and freshly picked ripe blackberries, black cherries and hints of blueberries on the nose together with more black fruit on the palate along with white pepper, herbs, bell peppers and a medium finish that somehow lingers longer than it should.

Galil Mountain, Viognier, 2006: Another new varietal from this winery and one that is popping up more and more from Israeli wineries.  A fairly heavy bodied (from the high 15% alcohol) and light honey colored wine, which only very lightly reflects the wood it was aged in and isn’t over oaked as some Israeli Viogniers tend to be.  This wine is very crisp and refreshing with melons, flowers and hints of spiciness on the nose and flavors of peaches, more melon, pears and honey on the intriguing plate – significantly less creamy than the Yarden Viognier.  Hints of spiciness and mineral flavors make this a very interesting wine and, at around $10 – a YH Best Buy.

Upcoming Interesting Wine Events

  • Galil Mountain, together with the Kosher Wine Society (run by Aron Ritter) is holding what looks to be a very interesting tasting of Galil Mountain wines (including the new “Avivim” wine) with Micha Vaadia, the (relatively) new winemaker at Galil Mountain.
  • There is an upcoming biking wine tour in Israel to benefit Shalva that sounds interesting.  Shalva’s 2008 Wines of Israel Bike A Thon will take you on a tour of a number of Israel’ wineries and includes meeting some of Israel’s wine makers and wine critics.  The program is raising money for Shalva – an Israeli organization for mentally and physically challenged children. 

Shabbat Shalom,


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