Mia Luce

#299 – July 19, 2015

With the amazing things happening at Recanati (stay tuned for an updated newsletter soon), it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that the winery is blessed with one of the deepest “benches” of winemaking talent among Israeli wineries.  Assisting über-talented chief-winemaker Gil Shatsberg are two folks, both talented winemakers in their own right – Ido Lewinsohn and Kobi Arbiv.  It takes a certain level of self-confidence for a winery to permit its winemakers to have commercial wineries of their own on the side and Recanati has certainly earned the ability to allow both Ido and Kobi to have commercial projects of their own, albeit much smaller than Recanati’s operations and “run” on their “own” time (similar to the arrangement Covenant has with Hajdu).  Ido’s winery isn’t kosher [yet], but Kobi has had official kosher certification from the 2011 vintage (with the wines actually being kosher from the 2009 vintage).  With a quiet assurance coupled with a relatively rare humility, Kobi fits right in with the rest of the wonderful team at Recanati’s helm (a quality that isn‘t limited only to the winemakers).  After starting in 2006 as a “cellar rat” he rapidly learned the trade, graduated from Israel’s Tel-Chai winemaking course and, showed real winemaking talent, was promoted to “winemaker” in 2013, joining winemakers Gil Shatsberg & Ido Lewinsohn as a full-fledged member of the team.  Anyone who has met Kobi or tasted some of his delightful Mia Luce wines knows that this is a well-deserved honor and the quality of his wines continues to improve every year.

Derived from the Italian (his father is Italian-speaking) “My Light”, Kobi’s “light” is the thing that that makes him happiest – winemaking (and alluding to its “Or” Akiva location), and is really a “garagiste winery”, with production set up on the upper floor of his parent’s Or Akiva home (Ido’s winery is also housed with his parents).  After an inaugural release of 600 bottles for the 2008 vintage (a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from Kerem Ben Zimra and dubbed “La Stanza”, meaning “My Room” and named for the tiny room in which the winery was housed), Kobi ratcheted up his game, releasing two wines for the 2009 vintage (which I “found out about” and tasted at the Sommelier Expo in Israel in 2013.  The first wine I tasted was his 2009 Rosso which, similar to his inaugural wine, was Merlot based (96%) with a bit of old-vine Carignan added for personality and “bite”.  He also made an [even more] limited quantity of Carignan (“La Speciale”) utilizing those same magnificent grapes that Recanati uses for its near-cultish Carignan which became his calling card for the coming vintage year where he focused on that animalistic Carignan producing approximately 2,000 bottles annually before doubling production in recent vintages to around 4,000 bottles annually.  In 2011 he added a delightfully esoteric white wine to his portfolio based on Colombard (93%) with 7% Chardonnay giving the wine some heft and aromatics which he made again in 2012 but hasn’t made since.  Mirroring the philosophic winemaking trend of the mother ship, Kobi is focused on varietals more appropriate for Israel’s terroir (Carignan, Petite Sirah and Colombard) and a subtle and food-friendly winemaking style suited for its seasonal climate.

Not [yet] sold in Israel, these are wines well worthy of your attention and I highly recommend you seek some out on your next Israel trip.  The wine is sold mainly to restaurants with a few select wine shops having it in stock as well.  That said, your time seeking it out will be well rewarded and please ping me if you need assistance sourcing some of there terrific wines (you won’t be disappointed).  As an up and coming winery, Kobi hasn’t yet committed to labels, varietals or a stable portfolio of wines, but rather to a winemaking style he has hung with since his inaugural 2008 vintage, a fact evidenced by his coming two vintages being Syrah instead of Carignan based but reflecting the character-laden, subtle and elegant food-friendly wines we have come to expect (2013 (94% Syrah and 6% Carignan) being released soon and already almost sold out and 2014 (91% Syrah, 6% Marselan and 3% Carignan) in the works.  Likewise with his 2012 Bianco, which contained 7% Roussanne instead of the 7% Chardonnay from the 2011 vintage).  Kudos to Kobi and I look forward to following Mia Luce’s continued upward trajectory in the years to come!

Mia Luce, Rosso, 2012:  Kobi’s current release is 97% Carignan sourced from Recanati’s famous “wild” vineyard and blended with 3% Syrah from the Upper Galilee.  While the wine showcases the typical animalistic traits of Recanati’s wine, the Rosso is more dialed-back and approachable, especially at first attack.  With dark notes of blackberries, currents and other black forest fruit, grilled meat, warm spices, dark chocolate, white pepper and anise on both the nose and palate keep lively and somewhat bright with great balancing acidity, this medium to full bodied wine has plenty of saddle leather, earthy forest floor and saline minerals to balance out the fruit and oak with a lingering finish that, to quote one of my favorite wine-writers “feels like a love train connecting all the people of the Mediterranean basin”; yielding a personality-laden wine that Kobi can truly call his own.  Buy all the bottles you can find.

Mia Luce, Bianco, 2011:  Branching out into the exploding [Israeli] world of white wines, Kobi brings the lonely Colombard grape in from the cold (where it has been languishing after years of purgatory due to its punishing contribution to the negative view of Israeli white wines) with a refreshingly wonderful take on this aromatic grape (which he blended with 7% of chardonnay, both from Kibbutz Manara) that spent 12 months in neutral French oak and clocks in at 12% AbV.  Creating a complex and sophisticated wine from the lowly Colombard is a real accomplishment and this is a refreshingly delightful wine – elegant, restrained and refreshing.  Don’t drink this wine too cold or you will lose some of the an aromatic nose of tart green apple, peach, melon, citrus pith, grapefruit, warm spices, a slight note of toasty oak and a hint of smoke and floral notes.  With a medium bodied and slightly viscous palate with plenty tart fruit, hints of summer stone fruit and flinty minerals with well balancing acidity keeping things lively and a streak of bitterness providing a hint of complexity that tantalizes.  With a longer than expected finish loaded with citrus, acid and hints of fresh-cut grass, this is an intriguing wine that requires your attention (which you will find yourself happy to provide).

Mia Luce, Rosso, 2010:  Once again utilizing the high-quality and easily identifiable old vine Carignan, this time blended with 8% Petite Sirah which spent approximately 12 months in 70% new oak barrels, Kobi produced a characteristic and personality-loaded wine that is also fun to drink.  The nose of rich dark fruit, grilled meat, slightly smoky oak, fresh-cracked black pepper, roasted herbs, well-worn leather is preceded by a touch of intriguingly pleasant Brett that blows off rapidly, and is followed by a full bodied palate with caressing tannins nicely integrated with the rich crushed black fruit, roasted espresso, more grilled meat and backed by focused acidity that skillfully bring the whole “wild” package together.  Truly a “great little wine”.

Mia Luce, Rosso, 2009:  A blend of mostly (96%) Merlot (from the famed boutique [non-kosher] Margalit winery’s vineyards in Ben-Zimra) with 4% “wild” Carignan blended in.  A slew of crushed red berries on the nose with hints of black forest fruit including ripe plums and dark cherries, graphite and roasted coffee beans, a solid dose of green bell pepper and notes of crushed thyme and rosemary with hints of oak.  A hefty jolt of mouth-watering acidity on the full-bodied palate cuts through the fruit and wood, making for a good food wine with plenty of complexity and depth culminating with a finish loaded with fresh-cured tobacco leaf and baker’s chocolate.  A well crafted wine and sensuous wine with slightly rustic yet pleasing tannins that serve to hold the whole package nicely together leading into a long lingering finish.  Kobi recently released a few bottles he had kept back which are drinking beautifully, if completely at their peak.  Drink now.

Mia Luce, La Speciale, Carignan, 2009:  With only one barrel produced (300 bottles) this was a truly limited edition wine and one I feel privileged to have gotten my hands on this wine given its role in “introducing” me (and subsequently the world) to this talented young man.  Showcasing “old Vine Carignan” another way, the wine showed hedonistic tendencies while retaining a rustic elegance at the same time.  Plenty of pungent, earthy meaty notes on both the nose and full-bodied palate, the wine spent a year in mostly new French oak and clocking in a restrained (especially for Israel) 13.5 AbV.  With a bold tannic structure (now completely integrated) and gobs of acid taming the smorgasbord of fruit, smoky oak, earthy minerals, leather, grilled mean and dark chocolate notes, this wine was truly “La Speciale”!