IsraWinExpo 2012

I was happy to have the opportunity to attend the first (trade-only) day of IsraWinExpo and determined to take full advantage, arrived as early as possible for the opening press conference which included a talk by Adam Montefiore’s on the state of the Israeli wine industry to the approximately 45 visiting foreign journalists, wine buyers and other professionals (for a more-or-less complete list of foreign attendees, see here: – quite interesting. It was great to have the opportunity to chat with many of the foreign visitors who were eager to learn more about the wines, wineries and industry as a whole.

After the press conference, in order to orient myself and plan my tastings, I took a quick walk around the exhibition noticing that the entire show was substantially smaller than Sommelier (both in total space and attending wineries); exacerbated by the fact that there were a substantial number of non-winery booths. While most were at least tangentially related foodstuffs like cheeses, chocolate, oils and jams, wine fridges and wine-related gifts (which served as fillers, making the Expo seem larger than it was), Israel’s business daily Globes and others were present as well, seemingly out of place.

The wineries attending included: Alexander, Artsi, Barkan, Binyamina, Carmel, Domaine Herzberg, Domaine Netofa (who shared a booth with Royal’s Israeli representative – Zur Agencies – who had some of the more classic Royal Wines but, nothing that hadn’t been at KFWE), Domaine Ventura, Galil Mountain, Gat Shomron, Golan Heights Winery (who were only pouring a representative of their varied Chardonnay and Syrah wines; given their size and variety of offerings, I know its tough to have a representative showcase, but somehow Carmel and Barkan managed (and I would have loved to taste the 2008 Rom or the new T squared (a not-yet-released post-style wine based on the T2)), Gvaot, Hevron Heights in all their glory and labels, Har Bracha, Livni, Luria, Or HaGanuz, Ramot Naftaly, Segal, Shiloh, Tanya, Teperberg, Tishbi, Tulip, Tura, Weitzman and Yatir.

The list of missing wineries was extensive and seemed to include a disproportionate number of Judean Hills wineries. Off the top of my head, the absence of the following kosher wineries was noticed: Adir, Agur, Bazelet HaGolan, Bravdo, Castel, Dalton, Ella Valley, Flam, Gush Etzion, Katlav, Mond, Mony, Odem Mountain, Psagot, Saslove, the Shor family wineries, Tabor, Tzora, Tzuba and Yaffo (although many of the winemakers/winery reps were there however as guests).

As with Sommelier, many of the wineries had their “special wines” (older vintages, magnum format, flagship wines) off the counter available only to those deemed worthy. As I mentioned on the KFWE thread, while I understand, respect and appreciate the need of the wineries to maintain an air of exclusivity for their better wines and prefer to pour the better wines for those who would actually appreciate it, I find the practice a little unsavory and silly – especially on a trade/press-only day.

Between Sommelier, KFWE and judging the wines for the Jewish Week’s annual Kosher Wine Guide, I [thought that I would have] had fewer wines that I would want/need to taste but I was [happily] mistaken and there were tons of new wines so I ended up tasting just over 80 wines over the eight hours I attended before I had to leave to catch my flight back to NYC. My advice to those wanting to do serious tasting and take real notes at these events is arrive as early as you can, have a plan for exactly what you want to taste (including listing out the wines/vintages in advance) and get as much done as early in the day as possible. While there were a few mistakes and omissions to the list I linked to above (notably the Tanya wines), it was extremely helpful with the pre-planning allowing for a good utilization of my time. Between 12-4 there was almost nobody actually tasting anything, making quiet focused tastings relatively easy and affording a nice opportunity to have in-depth chats with the winemakers.

Keep an eye out for future newsletter in which I will provide more information on the wines and wineries, including detailed tasting notes, but for now, I’ve listed some of the highlights for me below. In general, I got the continuing impression of passion, innovation, experimentation and the continued desire to drive the industry forward – all of which is nice. This manifests itself with new varietals (a lot of Gewurztraminer and port-style wines seem to be popping up recently) although there seems to be less of a move towards the Rhone varietals than I would have expected.

Besides the few interesting wines listed below, I was also happy to “discover’ two new kosher wineries Artsi (a new winery whose first vintage is 2011 with two current offerings – a 2011 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, made solely in stainless (with the “Reserve” wines currently in the barrel with an anticipated release of January) and Weitzman, whose first vintage was in 2007 and has been kosher since (while neither wineries had offering that were anything special, it’s always nice to see new ones pop up).

Alexander: They had a far more extensive selection at KFWE and none of their heavy-hitters were ON the counter so I just stopped by to say hello to the winery manager (Yoram and Ilana were still in the US) and taste the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.

Binyamina: They were pouring their wines which included the new 2011 Yogev lineup and the 2010 Reserve Carignan which after some decanting opened up really nicely (although I liked the 2009 better so far). They also poured the 2011 Reserve Gewurztraminer which was delicious and a welcome addition to the rapidly expanding selection of quality available Israeli Gewurztraminer wines.

Carmel/Yatir: They had a pretty extensive lineup but I stuck to a few specifics including Carmel’s Sha’al SV Merlot and a comparative tasting between the 2007 and 2008 Limited Edition wines where I felt the 2008 was the clear winner (despite the 2007 being more ready to drink at this point).

GalilMountain: Showcasing the new line and label previously discussed, I tried the newly released Alon, 2010 Pinot Noir, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Rose (all pretty good, nothing blew me away although the Alon was certainly the best of them). They also had the 2008 Meron and Yiron which showed as delightfully as at Sommelier.

Gat Shomron: In addition to the wines they offered at Sommelier, they had the 2008 Merlot, 2009 Petit Verdot and a 2010 barrel sample of an “Amarone-style” wine made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. I also purchased a bunch of their two Icewine-style wines – a Gewurztraminer and Viognier (they will be releasing another Riesling-based one for the 2010 vintage soon).

Golan Heights Winery: Despite not having the 2008 ROM or T squared, I enjoyed tasting the 2005 and 2006 Yarden Syrah from magnums and the 2005 and 2007 Yarden Katzrin wines which showcased the benefit of time for these oaked Chardonnay wines and the 2008 Avital Syrah was delicious with tons of potential. Victor’s presence and chatting enhanced the tasting as usual.

Gvaot: Notable wines included the new 2010 Herodion Merlot and Vineyards Dance and appreciated was the 2009 Masada.

Luria: I liked their Gewurztraminer a lot and also tasted their newly released “reserve” wine – Inon (a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Franc).

Ramot Naftaly: I tasted this winery for the first time at Sommelier, wrote an article about them a few weeks back and was excited to taste their newly released 2010 Barbera and try three wines that hadn’t been at Sommelier – the 2009 Petit Verdot and Malbec and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve which I found the least impressive of the bunch.

Recanati: The 2010 vintages of both the Carignan and Syrah/Viognier were available and delightful (the Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend now carries the same cool label) as was the 2010 White Special Reserve (the new Yasmin’s label is curiously nearly identical to its more upscale and expensive Special Reserve). Far better than the wines, was the time spent with Gil, Ido, Noam and Lenny Recanati a charming, fun, intellectual and knowledgeable a bunch as one could hope for.

Shiloh: I was happy to get the opportunity to re-taste the Legend which wasn’t showing its best at KFWE and it showed a marked improvement on its home turf. Adam N. was helping out and it was great chatting with him about the wines.

Tanya: They had a huge lineup of wines across the vintages (over 15 wines) including their newly released Ivri entry-level series (consisting of a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab/Merlot blend). Stay tuned for a coming piece about the winery and the wines. These are definitely wines that need serious aging time for the pieces to come together but are sometimes worth the wait.

Teperberg: After tasting a number of their newer releases including a 2011 Gewurztraminer and delightful Sauvignon Blanc, I got lucky and meet up with winemaker Shiki and Shai (from Allied – their US importer) for a tasting of their newly released series named after musical instruments – Chalil (flute) – a semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon ala Herzog’s Jeunesse, Kinor (harp) – a fortified blend of (~2/3) Cabernet Sauvignon & (~1/3) Merlot and Nevel (a type of harp) – a port-style wine and my favorite of the bunch. They are also following up on their initial Moscato success with two 2011 wines, a white Moscato from Muscat of Alexandria grapes and a red Moscato from Muscat Hamburg.

Tulip: Was pouring their 2011 White Tulip and White Franc (they also poured their non-kosher Black Tulip 2009 and had some non-kosher magnum format tastings as well). As with the 2010 vintage, I enjoyed the White Tulip more than the White Franc but felt that the 2010 White Tulip was a better wine.

For a few pictures of the event: