Shiloh Winery

#225 – September 7, 2012

Before I get into our discussion on this week’s Israeli winery – Shiloh, I wanted to mention the recent surge in international acclaim Israeli wines have been receiving.  Starting with a recent in-depth piece from the International Wine Review (for which I assisted with background information and was given credit).  While a subscription is required, they generously agreed to provide Yossie’s Corkboard subscribers with the full report on my website), recent months have seen unprecedented recognition for Israeli wines.  Some of these accolades include the Golan Heights Winery being nominated as a Wine Enthusiast New World Winery of the Year (after winning the wine producer award at VinItaly 2011), multiple tastings of high-scoring Israeli wines by Wine Spectator’s Kim Marcus and a relatively comprehensive (for them) tasting of Israeli wines by the Wine Enthusiast.  Given the late Daniel Rogov’s tireless work to promote Israeli wines domestically and on the international stage, it seems appropriate to mention these growing accolades on the one-year anniversary of his untimely passing.  His presence in the kosher wine world continues to be missed and will likely continue to impact the industry’s development for years to come (as I predicted in last year’s crystal ball).  With Israeli wines getting more international acclaim, hopefully the rest of the world will start to realize what we have known for at least a decade – Israel makes great wine that deserves more than being relegated to the kosher shelves in wine stores (much more on that in a month or so)!

Now, onto Shiloh Winery and its emergence as a terrific up-and-coming winery, well worthy of your attention.  The eponymously named Shiloh makes its home in the village of Shiloh located in Israel’s Central Mountain region, home to top-notch wineries like Gvaot and Psagot and other up and comers including Tanya and Domaine Ventura.  The current village of Shiloh is situated adjacent to Tel Shiloh, Israel’s ancient capital before losing the title to Jerusalem and generally accepted to be the former permanent location of the Mishkan (the temporary sanctuary the Jews carried through the desert and predecessor to the Beit HaMikdash).

Shiloh is a relative newcomer to the scene, whose first commercial release of approximately 20,000 bottles was with the 2005 vintage and current production is approximately 80,000 bottles.  The winery is owned and managed by its CEO – Mayer Chomer, with the winemaking duties in the hands of the talented and creative Amichai Luria.  After a few mediocre years where consistency and quality was a bit of an issue (with some terrific wines and many less so), the winery seems to have recently turned a corner and is currently producing a highly respectable lineup of really great wines.

Interestingly, as a number of wineries dial back on their mevushal offerings, in the last two years Shiloh has started to produce a large number of wines in both mevushal and non-mevushal versions, with the mevushal versions primarily destined for export although I would anticipate them showing up in Israel’s numerous Glatt Kosher restaurants as well.  With a large focus on export (initially the winery mainly exported its wines); the goal of creating high-end and ageable mevushal wines is understandable.  After some trials and tribulations, Amichai developed a proprietary method for flash pasteurization (creating mevushal wines) that he insists doesn’t impact the wine’s taste.  After a side by side comparative tasting of most of the wines for which both mevushal and non-mevushal versions were produced, I can attest to the fact that there is very little deviation between the two (although there are slightly noticeable, nuanced differences).  That said, the main issue these days with mevushal wines versus their non-mevushal counterparts is the effect on the cellaring potential and it is too early to tell the impact on the future of Shiloh’s wines.  I have laid down a number of their wines in both versions and will be revisiting them over the next few years to see how they fare so stay tuned for what will likely be a very interesting experiment.

In addition to varietal versions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Shiraz and Barbera, the winery also produces a number of terrific blends including their flagship Mosaic and a newly introduced and well-priced “Mediterranean blend”, Legend, both of which are reviewed below.  The winery’s reserve label goes by Secret Reserve (Sod in Hebrew), with their Shor label being the table wine series comprised of both single varietal wines and a few blends and the Mor series representing their entry level series which includes a red blend and a Chardonnay.  As with many Israeli wineries in recent years, Shiloh has successfully experimented with varietals outside of the historically dominant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, including two of my current favorites – a Petite Sirah in the Secret Reserve series and Barbera [not officially] in the Shor series.  The winery also produces a port-style wine – Fort and for the 2007 vintage produced a late harvest Chardonnay.

With the recent improvements, the winery’s style of judicious use of oak is yielding delicious and big wines that are mostly approachable at release with ripe fruit, herbs, wood influence, and bold tannins with great balance and structure that bode extremely well for the wines’ (and the winery’s) future.  What remains to be seen is whether Amichai has cracked the mevushal process (a la Hagafen and Herzog) and whether the long term ageability of Shiloh’s wines will be negatively impacted.

Shiloh Mosaic, 2006:  The winery’s flagship blend is comprised of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 7% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot and 6% Petite Sirah, each of which were fermented and aged for 12 months separately prior to blending and another 6 months in oak (50% new) together.  Prior to release, the wine received over two years of bottle aging in the winery as well.  A delicious wine that easily rises to its place at the head of the winery’s portfolio.  A rich and prominent nose of ripe black fruit together with espresso, subtle hints of roasted herbs and plenty of toasty oak.  A full bodied palate of now nicely integrating tannins has much of the same with the oak playing a deeply supporting role (without being overwhelming) to the fruits, which include black plums, cherries, currants and ripe blackberry, all accompanied by chocolate, mocha, saddle leather and leading into a lingering finish that delights.  Drinking amazingly well right now but still needing some time to open up.  This wine will cellar comfortably through 2017, maybe longer.

Shiloh, Secret Reserve, Petite Syrah, 2007:  Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is one of my favorite Shiloh wines (despite the oddball spelling) for which I have unfortunately yet to encounter a 2009 vintage.  A big, bold and full-bodied wine, with plenty of jammy blackberries and other black fruits on the nose tempered with plenty of toasty oak, hints of dark chocolate and gripping tannins.  With its previously bold tannins now nicely integrating and providing good structure and backbone to the ripe fruit, this wine is a delight to drink and one to pick up whenever you come across any of the few remaining bottles.  A palate laden with more ripe black fruit, a nice dose of warm spices and toasty oak delivers on the nose’s promise and delights with plenty more chocolate, fruit and oak.  As with many Petite Sirah wines, a shorter finish than one would expect from such a powerful wine, but one laden with spice, anise and a pleasant hint of bitterness.  For more on the delightful Petite Sirah grape, check out my recent article here.

Shiloh, Shor, Barbera, 2009:  When I had the inaugural vintage of this wine in 2007 (and included it in one of the Leket Wine Club’s shipments), it was one of the few Shiloh wines I really enjoyed with Barbera being a varietal that has taken nicely to Israel’s Mediterranean climate.  Following the winery’s recent massive quality improvements this is no longer the case and I enjoy nearly all of their offerings, but I still have a special affinity for their Barbera and regularly find myself enjoying it on random Tuesday evenings.  This medium bodied wine opens up to reveal a rich nose of crushed red forest fruit (with hints of dried fruit), warm Mediterranean herbs, spicy oak, tobacco and hints of baker’s chocolate.  More fruit and spicy wood follow on the still slightly tannic palate, so give the wine some time to open in your glass and you will be rewarded with plenty of mouth coating tannins wrapped around a core of more fruit, chocolate and dark espresso leading into a lingering finish.  Drink now through 2014.  I have had both the mevushal and non-mevushal versions of this wine and find them pretty similar with only slight, nuanced differences and both are recommended.

Shiloh, Legend, 2009:  Following the trend popularized by Carmel with their eponymously named Mediterranean blend, Shiloh launched their own Israeli blend – Legend, with the 2009 vintage to much success.  An interesting blend of 45% Shiraz, 40% Petit Sirah, 9% Petit Verdot and 6% Merlot, yields a delicious wine that is very enjoyable right now due to its smooth and well integrated tannins and will continue to provide enjoyment for some years to come.  Each varietal was aged separately in French and American oak for eight months before being blended, and the blend spent an additional eight months in oak prior to bottling.  A delightfully aromatic nose redolent of red, near sweet fruit, light chocolate notes, lavender and floral notes with some black plums, blackberries and currants edging in later on.  A rich, round and mouth-coating medium bodied palate has more of the fruit, some nice spiciness, tanned leather, lead pencil and herbs that leads into a plenty long finish loaded with the wine’s essence including herbs, chocolate, nice minerals, tar, forest floor and tobacco leaf.  Drink now through 2015.  Another wine produced in mevushal and non-mevushal versions, this tasting note is for the mevushal version (I tasted both recently).

Shiloh, Secret Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009:  Aged for 18 months in French oak with 14.5% alcohol and a ripe and richly aromatic nose of crushed black fruit including blackberries, cassis and some plum accompanied by roasted herbs, shaved pencil, spicy wood and cedar this is a really nice wine.  More of the same on the round and mouth filling medium bodied palate loaded with black fruit, plenty of spicy wood, baker’s chocolate and plenty of rich tannins that keep it all together nicely and leads into a lingering finish of chocolate, oak and a spiciness that lingers.  Drink now through 2016.

Shiloh, Shor, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, 2007:  A rich and full bodied wine with Shiloh’s characteristically richly aromatic nose of ripe red fruit that changes over time to more blackberry and current nuances, together with some crushed herbs, chocolate and typical spicy wood.  A palate loaded with cassis, raspberry and plum is tempered by mouth-coating tannins and more spicy wood and accentuated with hints of eucalyptus, warm spices and espresso leading into a lingering finish of blackberries, wood, chocolate and spice.  Drink now or within the next 12 months.

Shiloh, Mor, 2009:  Shiloh’s regular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (30%) and Barbera (20%) which spent 14 months in French and American oak.  Bright red and black fruit on the nose including blackberries, raspberries, plum, cherry and cassis are accompanied by crushed herbs, toasted smoky oak, some spice and well integrated tannins most of which is present on the medium bodied palate with nicely integrated tannins leading into a lingering finish.