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.