Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Jerusalem Wine Festival 2018

It's that time of year again, when the evening starts to cool off and the crowds start to gather at the largest annual social gathering in Jerusalem!
This year 18 Kosher Israeli wineries (plus some foreign and one or two not under Kashrut) came out for the week and are pouring some nice enjoyable wines.
Although the number of wineries has decreased, either due to the festival taking place during the harvest or due to some other reasons discussed in previous posts, it is important to note that several wineries, among them are Adir and Five Stones are new to the show, and the quantity value for money wines being sampled is perhaps the best I've seen in the last few years.
Only one winery that I know of is pouring something special under the table. but as much of the consumer base looks for more value based wines, the wines available are something to be proud of.

Here are some of my favorites:

5 Stones Winery located below Tel Azeka in Ella Valley is relatively new to the seen. The wines in the D vs. G (David vs. Goliath) series are lighter in body and smoother in finish making the wines very approachable. I would start here first, with the white (Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc) and the rose (Merlot and Cabernet) both very interesting wines as is the red.

Covenant Winery is hosted this year by Jeff Morgan himself who is in from the US for the harvest as well as his daughter's wedding. As usual, all their wines are exceptional even if the Reserve (if they have it when you get there) might be a bit young.

Tulip Winery is pouring from the new line of whites as well as the Esperro 2015. All are suggested.
Maia has all three of the regular line (White, pink and red) and is perhaps the best example of Mediterranean varietals in the show.

Matar as usual is pouring top notch! I tasted the Sirus (shiraz), Petite Verdot and well - a little secret with a big bold flavor. This in addition to Covenant will be your place to be spoiled with the fancy, high end super premium stuff.

Lueria scores again with the Lueria white and the Terrace which is perhaps the best value for money wine in the whole show (also one of my favorites).

At Ramat Negev I only tried the rose, but as with the rest of the Kadesh Barnea series, it is a very nice wine in it's price range of NIS 59

Har Bracha has their new Gewurztraminer open, as well as the award winning Jozef Cabernet (bronze medal at Decanter England). In addition you would be missing out if you didn't try the Shiraz.

Additional mentions for the tastings without taking away from them in any way are:
-  Adir:
 Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Odem Mountain:
Yaar Odem white, Yaar Odem Red and Volcanic Shiraz
- Jaques Capsuto
White, Rose and Red

Other wineries at the show include:
Golan Heights, Galil, Recanati, Tishbi, Gros, Jerusalem

In short, If you are going to look for wines that you would really enjoy having on your table and would actually buy on a semi regular basis, or if you are looking for a fun night out with friends definitely go!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jerusalem Wine Festival Summer 2017

It's that time of year again, where what many consider the highlight of the Jerusalem social scene takes place in the 'Statue Garden' of the Israel Museum.

Yes, I am talking about the annual Wine Festival, which over the past few years has gotten a bad rap in that too many wineries were foreign or not kosher, the weather was too hot, ticket prices keep rising, or because the wines being poured were mostly mediocre...

Whatever my feelings on these issues, I cannot skip it, as it's a place for me to network and arrange for new products and sales prices for the upcoming Rosh Hashana season -- in addition to the fact that I feel that I owe you all my annual report on the event!

As it turns out (and as you'll see below), there are actually some new, exciting wines (and wineries!) to discover, and yes - if you like getting to know the latest and greatest, you'd be missing out by skipping the event. Without further ado, here is what the first night had to offer:

Over 20 kosher local wineries (plus a couple from overseas), pouring some very nice wines -- even if they aren't all over NIS 150 a bottle.

I didn't make it to all the tables, so I will only add in the notable mentions where I can.

The Lineup:

Jacques Capsuto

Although not personally the most ardent fan of his wines, he does create some very unique blends --  it is worth stopping by for the introduction to grapes like Roussanne, Marsanne and Claret.

Or Haganuz
I have always found these wines to be crowd pleasers: good wine, good value, and they have the right wine for the occasion...and the pocket book.

Bat Shlomo
Always a favorite of mine (although lately, they have some very interesting competition). Last night I sampled (again) the Sauvignon Blanc - the wine that got them started - as well as the all new Regavim - Red blend. This wine came out as the "younger brother" to the superlative Betty's Cuvee and it is the winery's answer to providing a red wine at a much lower price point. Unfortunately the wine will only be available in restaurants for the time being...

Covenant Israel
A new venture from the owners of Covenant Winery in California, Covenant Israel is pouring all four of their superb wines! As is the case with Bat Shlomo, the local winemaker is Arie Earl. If you haven't heard of him, you will -- he is making waves in the local industry with the quality of his wines. Arie is working together with Jeff Morgan from Covenant California and these two super talents are quickly making a name for their wines (collective and respective) as leaders in the Israeli Industry.

The Viognier is citrusy and full of nice fruit, the Rose hits every point that should be hit, and the Syrah is, well, out of this world! Stop by here first, in the middle and at the end, tell them I sent you, and then join us for the Wine Maker's dinner on September 11th at Eucalyptus (details on the Kfar HaYayin Facebook page - https://m.facebook.com/KfarHaYayin/ )
You will not be disappointed!

From the house of Pelter, is pouring Rose, Cummulous and every hour or so a Premium bottle (last night was CB).  The Cummulous, in particular, I found to be among the best value for money wines that I know of, coming in at under NIS 100!

La Citadelle
The 2015 lineup was actually among the best I've had in a long time, and the 2016 lineup is just as good. Get here early and enjoy their three rose wines while it is still warm out - they will be a perfect fit to the sunset and warmer temperatures before the sun goes down. Tell them I sent you...

Livni - although pouring from just their basic line, I strongly suggest trying his Cabernet Sauvignon.

No specific comments (yet) on:
- Ramat Negev
- Odem  Mountain
- Lueria
- Tulip
- Maia
- Chateau Remo
- Har Bracaha

...but all have a variety of wines including clean, clear fruity whites, nice quality reds and even a reserve or two...

Other wineries: Eyal, Ella Valley, Ramat Hagolan, Galil, Tishbi, Tavor, Segal (Rechasim) and Midbar.
They are all there and actually, all enjoyable. While not everything you'll taste is mind-blowing, the overall "flavor variety" is much more interesting than the past few years.

In short, the wines are back, the temperatures are cooler, and the social aspects never dwindle.
Spend the NIS 90... bring some friends, and have fun!



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Jerusalem Wine Festival - Summer 2016

There have been a lot of ill feelings expressed about this year’s wine festival. Many people have come out (both in print and in public/private conversation) against the cost, the lack of high-quality wines, the lack of across-the-board Kashrut, and the temperature of the wines being served, just to name a few. And yes, I’ll admit that after last year, I too was one of these people.

However, I went last night — both as a professional courtesy to the show’s managers, and to gain general knowledge of what the industry is up to, as well as meeting my friends, customers, and colleagues for a drink. And you know what? I actually had a good time.
The temperature settled at a pleasant 22 degrees in the open Jerusalem air, allowing for the wines to be served at a very pleasant cool state. This was mainly due to the fact that the event was held in September, not August, as in previous years. 

33 wineries — all of them Israeli — with 30 under Kosher certification, were pouring a nice selection.

Gone are the massive productions of Carmel, Ramat HaGolan, Dalton, Binyamina, Tavor and Recanati. In fact, most of the larger “everybody-know-them” wineries were all but gone altogether. Dalton has a modest table, as do Golan and Galil, but the rest of that list is not present at all.

Instead, you have a fine selection of the next-generation, up-and-coming wineries such as Bat Shlomo, Matar, La Citadelle De Diamante, Ramat Negev, Montefiore, Odem Mountain, and some of the classics such as Gush Etzion, Shilo, Ella Valley and Tepperberg.

Most of these actually were pouring some great wines, and the crowd (at least last night) was bearable.

All in all, I believe that with exception of the price tag, the organizers have heard the outcry, and have responded by fixing most of the errors of the past.

Wines to look for:

- Shilo Legend
- Bat Shlomo  - everything
- Matar Cummulous
- Odem Mountain Syrah Reserve
- Har Bracha Reserve Cabernet Franc / Merlot
- La Citadelle Marius

If you happen to attend, make sure to find me and say hello!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Wine Festival Quandry

In my last post, I wrote about some of the disappointing (from a wine standpoint) issues that presented themselves at the Jerusalem Wine Festival.

From the lack of quality of wine's being offered to the small turnout of wineries - from a Kosher or Israeli standpoint.

In fact, the number of wineries was down to 30, which in and of itself doesn't make for  a bad show, but given that in the past years there had been 45+, it is still disappointing. From among those 30, 20 were under Kashrut certification of some sort. 11 (consisting of both kosher and non-kosher)  were from outside Israel, this last point also is not necessarily a problem. As for the lack of premium wines - even this was augmented somewhat for the second through fourth days of the show from wineries such as Har Odem, Golan Heights, Bat Shlomo, Har Bracha and Barkan - each of whom did open wines from their higher level lables.

So the question remains: WHAT HAPPENED?

After speaking to some of the smaller wineries that had shown in previous years, the following answers are what I was given.

1) Structure
Each Wine Festival has an organizer (in this case, two retailers), who put on the event in order to: a) gain name recognition for themselves, b) promote their own sales and c) promote the wineries they work with. The sponsors will therefore 'invite' wineries that they work with and want to promote to participate. If the sponsoring retailers stop working with a given winery, that winery will no longer present at the event.

2) Cost of the Event
The Sponsoring retailers (in this case) have various expenses for location and advertising / marketing the event.
This expense is covered by various streams of cash flow:
- Cost to each winery to participate (usually between NIS 6,000 and NIS 10,000 depending on the sponsor and the size of the display)
- Entrance fees for the participating public (NIS 85 / person, also dramatically up over the past 4-5 years)
- Sales of wine at the event.

Many of the wineries that I spoke with mentioned that they poured on average of 150 bottles each at the festival. Combine that with the cost of the stand, and it gets to be too costly for many of the smaller wineries that produce less product.

The difference between this Festival and the February Kosher Festival is basically a commitment from the sponsor to purchase a large amount of wine from each label that the wineries open. Let's assume that there is a commitment made to buy one pallet of wine (600 - 750 bottles), for each label opened at the show. It now pays for a winery to open a lower-end wine as well as a medium wine and a high-end premium wine. They would pour samples from 50 bottles of a wine and guaranteed to sell 600-750 bottles, meaning they pour 1 bottle for every 12 sold.
If they don't get this guarantee form the sponsor, then it doesn't pay for them to open the bottles that cost more money.

But what about the marketing aspect? Don't the wineries want to put their best foot forward?

Of course, the answer is yes, which is why when it makes no economic sense, they don't show. What we are left with is wineries that a) have enough stock to pour the wine anyway (some can even be overstocked, meaning if 'we don't pour it and try to move it, we are gonna be stuck'), or b) smaller wineries who are not yet known to the general public or, c) foreign product who need to gain the market penetration in an already crowded environment.

Does that mean it's not worth going? Not necessarily.
It's still a great night out with friends!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Jerusalem Wine Festival 2015

It is finally here!
Jerusalem's biggest event of the year, started with a roar, as the first wave of thousands of visitors came out to sample wines to their hearts content. The music played, the wineries poured and the people had a great night out in the uncommonly hot Jerusalem night!

Unfortunately - the great night was not complemented by 'great' wine, with a few exceptions. This years event, although grand in presentation, leaves a lot to be desired in my humble opinion. This is NOT to detract from the fantastic job of the organizers who as usual go all out and have done a great job as far as the event goes. Nor is it meant to detract from the wineries who are always pleasant and friendly, and really go out of their way to make sure you have a good time sampling their wares.

Rather it is due to the small number of wineries that are present!
Gone are the days of 45 plus wineries. That number was cut last year down to 30 because of the war, forcing the production into harvest season. This year again only 30 have turned out (and of those a full third are not under any form of Kashrut). Notably missing were Tavor, Tepperberg, Carmel, Yatir - All of whom had massive pavilions in previous years as well as Psagot, Lueria, Shilo, Ben Haim and many other smaller wineries.

Even Golan Heights and Galil are down in size to half of what they were last year.

Those that are there, are not pouring from their top lines (with a few exceptions) At Golan Heights you can taste from the Gamla Cabernet and Sanjiovese, The Gamla Shmura Rose and Brut and some Hermon series wines, and at Galil you can go for Alon, Pinot Noir and Meron.

At other wineries where you used to be able to get that special bottle from under the table, This is only happening mat two wineries this year - Bat Shlomo has the Betty's Cuvee which is very good, and if you get there at the right time, Or Haganuz is opening something special in the Namura label.

The other problem that I (and many other wine connoisseurs) got last night, was the extreme heat. again not the fault of the organizrers...
Red wines were being served at upwards of 25 degrees Celsius, which is never good!

All this said - there are a few places that are a must to visit:

Bat Shlomo is pouring the full range of their wines.

Tha Suavignon Blanc and Rose are in among the best in the country, The chardonnay is also very nice and buttery if that is to your liking, and as mentioned the Betty's Cuvee is a great red (when served at the right temperatures.

Or Haganuz also has a large range and I have yet to taste something bad from them. If you aren't familiar with this winery, you should get to know it!

Har Odem  is pouring the best selection of the show in my opinion. From the Valcanic Chardonnay (probably the best wine of the show) to the Reserve Syrah (a very unique wine) and the Inbar Port, every wine at this table is a hit!

Dalton is pouring two of the Alma Series ( a Semillion and the GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvdre)), as well as the Fume Blanc.

Tulip and MAIA are both there pouring their wines all of which are great!

And then there are Gush Etzion, Har Bracha and Jerusalem - each pouring a new product:

Gush Etzion has a new Un oaked Chardonnay
Har Bracha has a new Cabernet
Jerusalem has a new Petite Syrah

These three for me were probably the best reason to go, as they are brand new products and well worth the prices.

All in all - If you are going for the atmosphere - it is well worth the NIS 85 entrance fee.
If you are going for the wine - there is good stuff, but you have to work to find them...

and of course - if you go - find me and say hi!

***** It is important to note that tonight (second night of the Festival), things dramatically improved tonight as 1) The temperature came down by about 10 degrees. and 2) Ramat Hagolan had 3 Yarden wines out (2T, Pinot Noir and Malbec) as well as Gamla Reserve Cabernet, Syrah, Syrah Rose and Brut.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mulled Wine For the Cold Days Ahead!

As the winter hits in full blast later this week, one of our favorite ways of keeping warm is to wrap myself in a cozy blanket while sipping on a cup of Mulled Wine.
Mulled wine is a hot wine beverage made with mulling spices - or a variety of spices used for beverages.

Here is our favorite recipe:

2 clementines
1 lemon
200 grams brown sugar
6 cloves
1 TBLS cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 bottles red wine

Peel the clementine and the lemon into large bits of peel, and add them together with the brown sugar into a large saucepan, and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and nutmeg and stir in just enough wine to cover the mix. Simmer until all the sugar is dissolved and then bring to boil, and continue at a boil until it forms a syrup.
(it is important to use this small amount of wine here because boiling the wine will burn off the alcohol and if you use all the wine at this point, the final drink would be less fun!)
This will form a good thick base while allowing all the sugar and spices to blend with the wine.

Once the syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low, and add the rest of the wine. Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes, and then serve.

If you are entertaining, you can add lemon wheels and cinnamon sticks to the glass as a garnish.


Approx. servings - 10 
If you have any questions or want suggestions on which wines to use, drop by our store in Kfar Etzion, or call us.

Stay Warm,

Your Wine Specialists,
Eli & Ma'ayan