Israeli Wines Power On!

Israeli Wines Robert K. StephenDon’t give me the stink eye when I say Israel produces some top notch red wine we should all give a try. I have been sampling for years now and certain producers can be relied upon to vint consistently high-quality wines. More on the red than the white side.

There is little doubt in my mind Galil Mountain Winery is one of the best wineries in Israel. Their 2016 Merlot is now in the spotlight. Black cherry in colour with some tinges of purple. Notes of rich black cherry, cooked dates, ripe strawberries with a hint of mocha.

On the palate concentrated and lush mouthfeel with prominence of black cherry, blueberry, tar, fig held together by discrete acidity. The wine has a short but assertive finish. This Galil Mountain stands tall and proud. It would pair well with lamb, goat or beef in a rich sauce.

The wine is best consumed in 2019-20. It will not improve with ageing. Friendly and very approachable and designed for immediate consumption.

(Galil Mountain Winery, Upper Galilee Merlot 2016, KP, Galil Mountain Winery, Yiron, Israel, $19.95, 15%, LCBO # 060749, 750 mL, Square Media Group Rating, 90/100).

Israel has a huge public relations barrier to its wines. Many consumers equate its wines with some sickly-sweet Passover wine served years ago in North America. Rest assured Israel and Canada have long ago moved away from the era of Baby Duck and Manischewitz.

I rated the 2014 Tulip Just Blend a 92. The 2016 is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was aged 6 months in French oak barrels.

It is black cherry in colour. This is a rich wine on the nose as it is full of black fruit particularly black cherries and blackberry. Big mouthfeel with a good measure of disguised acidity and medium big in tannins. A solid mouthful of black fruit and chalkiness. This is definitely a foodie wine particularly with rare lamb or roast beef. This is one tasty and an impressive brute.

I think the wine will be hitting its stride in 2025.

(Tulip Winery Just Blend 2016, KP, Galilee, $24.95, Tulip Winery Limited, Kfar Tikva, Israel, 13.5%,750 mL, LCBO # 440396, Square Media Group Rating 89/100).

The Barkan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is barrel aged for a minimum 20 months in French oak. Black cherry in colour. Strong aroma of crushed black cherries, cassis and fig with gravelly notes. Mature tannins and a medium length finish with some definite fig and dates lingering. A unique Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes sourced in the Upper Galilee. I can’t make any comparison to an Aussie or Cali Cabernet Sauvignon.

Good until 2021.

I believe its firm nature suits it best with food so just about all types of grilled meats would handle this wine well. A Greek Moussaka without the ground meat would also be a good vegetarian match.

(Barkan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon KP 2014, Galilee, Barkan Wine Cellars, Hulda, Israel, $29.95, 13.5%, 750 mL, LCBO # 698902, Square Media Group Rating 88/100).

We move to a Binyamina 2016 Shiraz. Vibrant and transparent black cherry in colour. Sweet red black cherry, cassis, blackberry, raspberry, date and chocolate on the nose. Mild, almost feeble tannins leave the wine a bit lacking on a key structural component. The fruit so vibrant on the nose is wobbly and lacking definition on the palate.

A decent sipper but lacks backbone for food and the “guts“to age.

(Binyamina Bin Shiraz 2016, Golan Heights, Eliaz Binyamina, Binyamina, Israel, $24.95, 14%, 750 mL, LCBO# 539437, Square Media Group Rating 83/100).

Ok, last one up. From trusted Galil Mountain Winery a Yiron red blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot. 9% Syrah and 7% Petit Verdot. The mere fact a Petit Verdot is involved commands a bit of respect!

Dark black cherry in colour. On the nose black cherry, currants, raisin pie, pine and cedar chest. Some tannins are there but broad and moderate. Enough to age the wine a few more years and give it an immediate and respectable structure.

A rather racy black fruit core on the plate replete with cassis, plum, chocolate, mint and herb framework. Its tannins and acids beautifully mixed so no quick assumptions can be made against it. Perfectly well vinted! And it maintains a unique Israeli character not beholden to Shiraz or Syrah of Australia and France!

Terribly well suited to a big chunk of grilled lamb or goat or a rich tomatoed sauced eggplant dish. It rather begs you to be transported to Israel to better understand what cuisine is best matched to it. A really local wine that deserves to be paired with Israeli cuisine.

Can hold in there until 2022 and not only that but will improve!

The 2016 annual best 100 wines of 2016 by Wine Spectator placed this #93.

(Galil Mountain, Yiron 2013 Galilee KP, Galil Mountain Winery, Yiron, Israel, $27.75, 15.5%, LCBO # 95075, 750 mL, 750 mL. Square Media Group Rating, 91/100).

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen

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