The Holy Land in a Bottle
The associations I have with Israel are far and wide (clubbing in Tel Aviv, history, deserts, clubbing in Tel Aviv, conflict, religion, birthright trips, clubbing in Tel Aviv, you get the picture) though up until now rarely included wine.
Silly, silly Laura. As it turns out the history-steeped region in the fertile crescent has been producing wine for milennia–literally since the pre-Jesus era when togas and leather sandals were way more popular than Nikes and bandage dresses.
Infiltrated by French wine-making superstars in the late 19th century, Israeli wine began to imitate the style of its European neighbors, adopting traditional European grape varieties and winemaking techniques.
Strangely, it’s only in the past 30 years that the region has become noted for quality wines from major labels like Yarden and Carmel Heights, who produce delicious juice from gorgeous, high-altitude vineyards.
It was my pleasure to sample some Yarden wineand chat with their American-born winemaker Victor Shoenfeld (Who describes the wines as “a combination of Old World elegance and New World Power”) recently at Tribeca spot Capsouto Freres, an establishment known for its souffles and great lineup of Israeli vino.
Thanks to the influence of previously mentionedFrench Superstars you can find many European varieties flourishing in the desert nation. My favorites came from the Golan Heights winery–their 2010 Odem Chardonnay and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom Vineyard took my breath away.
I tasted the chardonnay alongside a light salmon appetizer and its creamy, buttery character sprang forth instantly. This juice was big on flavor, revealing subtlely-sweet pear and tropical fruit flavors mid-sip. This golden nectar–and its charming character–reminded me of a loud, curvy girlfriend whose attitude comes from being big.
The El Rom vineyard cabernet was DELISH alongside roasted lamb–juicy black cherry and plum flavors dominated–and I think its awesome, earthy character would hold up well with other slow-roasted meats, or even smokey BBQ dishes. At $58.99, it’s far beyond an everyday indulgence but this full-bodied cab would make a great special occasion wine or present for someone you really, really like.
Israeli Wine Uncorked:
Laura Loves: How wineries use altitude to make up for being outside traditional grape-growing regions. Moving vines five feet vertically is the equivalent of moving them 1 mile north, so hot regions often compensate with height to get the best conditions.
The lamp on Yarden’s logo–Maybe I’ll rub it and get some wishes?
This website, which lists stores with signficant Israeli wine options. Regardless of price and taste, you’ll find something.
Fun Facts: In 2011, Israeli wine exports totaled over $26 million.
The U.S. is the largest export destination for Israeli wine.
Wish List: A trip to the top of this mountain in Israel, followed by a few days of sightseeing and nights clubbing in Tel Aviv.
Another bottle of 2008 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom Vineyard, if all 14,700 bottles haven’t already been devoured.
Photos courtesy of Gregory White PR.