Bashan Winery

#181 – July 29, 2011

One of the winery’s that we brought in especially for the Sensi6 event was particularly appropriate given the “green” focus of the event – Bashan Winery which, to my knowledge, is the only kosher, fully-organic, winery in the world! The winery is truly a tiny boutique operation, currently producing around 20,000 bottles a year none of which are commercially available in the United States. Leket still has a few bottles left over from the event which are available for sale – let me know if you are interested.

Located in the yishuv of Avnei Eitan the lower Golan Heights (a place with incredible hiking and where I used to spend a considerable amount of my free time every summer), Bashan was founded by Uri Rapp and Immanuel Dase in 2000 when they panted their first vineyards. The winery’s first release was in 2004 and it’s position as the only fully organic winery made (and continues to make) it the subject of much positive talk (and the wines aren’t half-bad either as you will see form my notes below). I tasted the wines in the 2004 and 2005 vintages and the improvement they have made over the years leading into the 2009 vintage reviewed below is astounding. The consistency and quality of this winery is really good and, giving the overall excellence of Israel’s 2008 (Shmittah) vintage, I am looking forward to getting my hands on some of Bashan’s 2008 wines as well. The wines are produced from grapes grown in their own vineyards which currently include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot only (approximately 2.5 acres of each). Bashan currently produces a Cabernet and Merlot under the “Eitan” label and a blend under the “Nave” (pronounced na-veh) label.

One of the major differences between wines made from organically raised grapes a number of which are produced by a few Israeli wineries (e.g. the amazing Chardonnay from the organic Odem vineyard of the Golan Heights Winery), to be a fully organic winery, sulfites cannot be added to the wines and making wine without the preservative qualities of sulfites is tough – very, very tough (and obviously wines with no added sulfites don’t age as well (or at all), somewhat limiting their appeal but is definitely not a reason to shy away from trying Bashan’s wines. A later newsletter will deal with organic (and biodynamic) wines and grapes in substantially more detail so stay tuned.

Set forth below are my notes from the three wines we poured at the Sensi6 event. These notes were taken a few days prior to the event (to make sure the wines were “worthy”) and the wines probably had a bit more time to open up then at the event itself. As you will see, these wines are “wines from a place” with notes and characteristics that reflect the earth in which they were grown and the terroir from which they were born.

Bashan, Eitan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009: A medium bodied wine that, once it had about 30 minutes in my glass, opened up into an easy drinking wine with sufficient sophistication and depth to warrant my attention. Nice black fruit on both the nose and palate with a pleasurable “dusty” or earthy overtone and hints of spicy oak. A medium finish with hints of mint and tobacco leaf rounded out a delightful drinking experience.

Bashan, Eitan, Merlot, 2009: My favorite wine of the three, this wine was rich, round and mouth filling with some intriguing blueberry notes to go along with the blackberries, cherries and hints of cassis. Hints of sweet cedar wood (recently determined by Daniel Rogov to be a defining characteristic taste of wines from Israel or the general Mediterranean basin). Plenty of nice aromatics on the nose and good fruit nicely balanced by the wood and tannins all came together beautifully, leading into a medium long finish with more fruit, wood and a pleasurable faint bitterness rising on the finish.

Bashan, Nave, 2009: A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that spent over a year in oak resulting in soft and well integrated tannins that provided a round and mouth filling sensation on first attack. Give this wine some time to open up in your glass and you will delight in the blackberries, dark plums and currants surrounded by rich back earth, sweet, Mediterranean herbs and slightly spicy wood all leading into and continuing with a medium to long finish that encourages another sip (again and again).