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Passover Wines, 2018: Yarden, Golan Heights & Galil Mountain Winery

29 Mar


It never fails: within one 24 hour period,  both a local neighbor and a long-distance blog fan hit me with the same question: “Will you suggest some more wines I can buy for Passover this year?”

Why yes, I think I will!

Mount Hermon White Wine Blend, 2016, Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 13.5%ABV, SRP $12/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers honeydew melon and fresh wildflowers. On the palate, this blend is a delight to the tongue: ripe white peach, Bosc pear, sweet apple, and tangy citrus for a lovely fruit blend moving from the front to side palates. The tropical fruit hits on the finish, crossing up through the top palate and into the nasal cavities. This is so easy to drink, I’d suggest you open it while cooking, but it’s really the wine you want to ply your guests with as they enjoy reading the Haggadah, paring with roast chicken, gefilte fish, fresh fruit, and the cheese course. Aunt Edna (who won’t drink red wine) will love this throughout the meal, but will remind you to pour her “only a little” each time you come by with the bottle. A great value in non-Mevushal, Kosher-For-Passover wine at a daily drinking price.

 

Yarden Gewürztraminer 2016; Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 14.5%ABV, SRP $21/bottle.

This non-Mevushal, Kosher for Passover white is world-class gewürztraminer! Medium straw in color with sweet citrus on the nose. On the palate: lychee, pineapple, a hint of clementine, some orange peel. Nice acidity without being too hot. Great balance with mouth-watering acidity, the mid and back palate pucker up as the wine moves back and down on the long finish. Without a doubt, this is among the finest examples of Gewürztraminer  I’ve tasted from Israel. This medium-bodied wine is the perfect for the discerning and difficult wine drinkers to start their meal with- your first few cups, perfect for the fish and salad courses, before you move on to the brisket. After the brisket, you can come back to this for dessert, it’s that mouthwateringly delicious. If you want a little more citrus, smoke and a tiny hint of mint that is serious enough to pair with crispy duck, a roast, or the salmon course, look no further. This is a serious white wine for Pesach, and it’s a delightful expression of the gewürztraminer grape!

 

 

Yiron, Upper Galilee, 2014 Red Wine Blend, Galil Mountain Winery; Galilee, Israel. 15%ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

The serious red blend! Made of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah, and 5% Petite Verdot, this is aged for 16 months in French oak. Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers blueberry pie and a bit of extra alcohol to burn. Given some time to air, the aromas of vanilla, blackberry, spice box and forest floor come through. On the palate, find a mix of black currents, blueberry, and tart black plum. With above-average acidity and strong tannins, a swish around the mouth allows you to sense the unctuous, full-bodied mouthfeel and enjoy its long, tart finish. This is an excellent choice to serve with your roast or brisket, no doubt, you might be tempted to name this wine when the youngest one asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Trust me, keep that answer to yourself, and wait for the next cup -it’s worth it. Last but not last, this bottle would also be a perfect gift wine for Passover if you’re a guest joining others for the annual ritual and celebration.

 

What wine will grace your glass, and your Seder plate this year?

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a fan of Yarden and their head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, who is credited as being the single greatest influence in elevating Israel’s wine to a world-class level. You can check out my other posts about his wines, and more Kosher for Passover wines at these links:
http://bit.ly/VSYarden
http://bit.ly/YardenRosé
http://bit.ly/JvBYardenII

à votre santé!

Won’t You Be Mine? My Valentine is Yarden Rosé 2011 Sparkling Wine

30 Jan

Yarden 2011 Brut Rosé; Golan Heights Winery, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV; SRP $39.

 

Color is pale salmon, while the nose offers rosebuds and cherry blossom. On the palate, strawberries, tart pear and a hint of tangerine dominate the palate with secondary notes of baking yeast, almond paste, sour raspberry and a hint of chalky limestone. Excellent mouthfeel with medium sized bubbles in solid proportion and moderate effervescence. A delightful finish of balanced fruit, acidity, and tannin. This bottle lasted 2 days with re-closure and  maintained the same balance, flavor profile, and freshness over 28 hours. All in all, a delightful bottle of sparkling rosé.

Don’t let the name or the region catch you by surprise, this is a serious, world-class sparkling wine. Made of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Noir in the traditional Champagne method. Whole cluster pressed with secondary fermentation in the bottle; disgorged after five years of bottle aging. Cellar up to a decade from harvest for maximum enjoyment. I paired this with roast turkey on the first day, and grilled steak on the second- it held up beautifully to the salads, grilled and roasts meats and the vegetables, potatoes and even cranberry sauce- but this wine is simply gorgeous on its own, and needs no excuse to be enjoyed whether it is by itself or with food. Either way, you win.

This is an excellent Valentine’s Day bottle to share with a loved one, but even more, just to have on hand. A solid value in the Under-$50 range that will make your special night that much more romantic, or spice up a quiet dinner for two… or four! With the vintage rosé being Kosher for Passover, you can buy several bottles and keep something in reserve for that event as well, whether you serve this as the host, or bring it as a housewarming present.

Whether you ask “Will You Be Mine?” or “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights”, you will be well prepared with a world-class wine that will impress whomever you serve it to: 2011 Yarden Rosé. 

 

If you want to know more about the winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, I previously wrote about him here

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Yarden’s World Class Wines for Days of Awe

1 Oct

Let’s be perfectly honest: twenty years ago, I would NOT have fought to serve Israeli wines from the Golan Heights for an important family dinner. But times have changed, and great Israeli wines are now available locally at competitive prices- so if you aren’t nodding with me, then take the time to read this and get both your wine game and your local wine store up to speed! I proudly served these wines to our family and guests above all else available from my cellar. So, listen up!  

Yarden Brut Blanc de Blanc 2009, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV, SRP $30/bottle. 

This is a sparkling chardonnay made by Victor Schoenfeld, and it is world-class sparkling, made in the traditional method and aged five years with tirage yeast. Pale gold in color. On the nose: gentle star fruit and brioche. On the palate, tropical fruit, baking spices, toasted challah with a hint of minerality. Where years ago my father-in-law would break his Yom Kippur fast with an ounce of cognac, I instead opt for this- it revitalizes my blood sugar and pairs beautifully with anything- be it a Rosh Hashanah dinner with apples and honey before the brisket, or the traditional break-fast dinner of bagels, scrambled eggs and smoked fish. There are a few Israeli winemakers whose work is absolutely world class, and Victor Schoenfeld hits that mark. If you aren’t already a fan, you’re missing out.

 

 

 

Yarden’s Galilee Mountain Winery,  “Yiron” Red Wine Blend, Upper Galilee; Golan Heights, Israel. ABV 15%, SRP $32/bottle.

 

Color is deep magenta with ruby edging. The nose offers mature blue and black fruit along with forest floor and hint of toasted oak. On the palate: blackberry, blueberry, and cassis are dominant with secondary notes of mocha, kiln-dried wood, gravel, sand and granite. Demonstrating an excellent tannic backbone with strong acidity, this wine is ideal for the brisket course, but it also paired gorgeously with a toasted everything bagel topped with cream cheese, smoked sable and lox, tomato and a little Spanish finishing salt.

When you drink this, you will swear you have a classic Bordeaux blend in your hand. Winemaker Micha Vaadia worked at Jordan,  Cloudy Bay, and Catena Zapata- and it shows! The blend is 56% Cabernet, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot, and is aged 16 months in French oak barrels (hello, now we know why the vanilla and toasty oak is so dominant in the profile!) One thing that blows my mind: Looking at the stats, I’d normally shy away from a wine with this high an ABV but let me tell you, it’s un-noticeable. I experienced no heat on this wine, just tons of pleasure across the palate.

 

A Perfect Pairing with Yiron: a toasted ‘Everything’ Bagel, with a shmear of Cream Cheese, Sable, Lox, Tomato, and Spanish lava salt.

 

 

 

My pictures don’t do the wine justice. As soon as a finished a sip, my hand reached back for the glass or to re-pour another taste. This wine is surprisingly tasty, and a great value in this price range. The nose and flavor palate of Yiron are simply stunning. The best thing you can do it put a bottle in your hand, serve it, and let your mouth and your guests tell you exactly how good this is. You can thank me by inviting me over for Yiron with brisket, bagels, latkes… or all four!

 

*Special Thanks to Joe Berkofsky of Puder PR.* 

à votre santé!

 

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

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