As I write these few words, the war on Hamas and Hezbollah is in its seventh week. Klal Yisrael has responded with an outpouring of support for our brethren in Eretz Yisrael through any means possible. Including, of course, consuming, drinking and eating more Israeli wine and food products.
Adam Montefiore, the famous UK-born wine writer for The Jerusalem Post, published a letter a few weeks ago calling to support the Israeli wineries as Israelis aren’t drinking much wine in these difficult times. I am reviewing in this column a wine from Odem Mountain, Israel’s northernmost winery which sits at the border with Syria. They have had difficulty tending to their vineyards as Hezbollah constantly targets the region with missiles and suicide drones.
This coming Chanukah, more than warming up our body, we need to warm up our soul and mood. Perhaps more than in any other culture, wine symbolizes celebration for the Jewish people. Indeed, we drink wine as part of our Shabbos and Yomim Tovim and at all simchas. That’s great, of course. But the Torah tells us that wine gladdens man’s heart. It is wine itself that triggers us to feel happy and joyous. I only write in these pages ahead of Jewish holidays. Hopefully, by the time you read my next column, Am Yisrael will have IY”H emerged victorious, and those who were abducted will have been returned to their families as healthy as possible.
Razi’el, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, NV: For over 25 years, the Ben Zaken family has been producing excellent Bordeaux-style reds and Burgundy-style Chardonnay from grapes grown in their Judean Hills vineyards. Razi’el, the new winery launched by the family with the 2017 harvest, continues the same pursuit of excellence while exploring different styles of wine, also inspired by French regions. This Blanc de Blancs is a complex Champagne-method sparkling wine, with a medium to full body and deep flavors of fresh brioche, lemon zest, and green apple that linger long on the palate.
Yatir, Creek White, 2020: This is a brilliant dry white blend that highlights the amazing potential the Yatir Forest terroir has created for grape growing. Medium in body, this dry and restrained white shows nice viscosity with notes of pear, lime, quince and almonds. It has refreshing acidity and would pair well with chicken teriyaki or with a turkey roast in a creamy mushroom sauce.
Herzog, Special Reserve, Quartet, 2021: Easily the least known wine of this series and it certainly does deserve attention! A blend of four grape varieties that changes every vintage, displaying the harmony that can be achieved in the exceptional California wine country. The Petite Sirah takes the lead here, and one can taste the flavors of ripe blueberries, roasted herbs and freshly cracked pepper alongside notes of baker’s chocolate on the finish.
Shiloh, Secret Reserve, Cabernet Franc, 2020: Made with ripe Cabernet Franc grapes from the Judean Hills by the great Amichai Lurie, Shiloh’s general manager and winemaker, in collaboration with Gad Elbaz, the famous singer. The nose shows distinct aromas of ripe plums, black cherries, vanilla, and toasted oak. Medium to full-bodied, showing mouth-filling flavors of sweet blackberries and cherries, hints of oak, and vanilla with touches of roasted coffee beans. It has a rich texture, with high acidity and chewy tannins. Full-flavored beef or lamb dishes pair best with this style of wine.
Bin Nun, Cuvée, 2020: A relative newcomer, Bin Nun is a charming boutique winery located near the city of Modi’in in Israel. This wine is a classic Merlot-based Bordeaux-style blend. Deep ruby color, with notes of ripe blackberry and raspberry, with hints of vanilla and pine needles. It is ripe, concentrated, and full-flavored on the palate with nearly sweet, gripping tannins that coat the mouth and medium acidity. I would pair it with a juicy roast and lots of rich gravy.
May these wines contribute to celebrating Chanukah joyfully and chase away the darkness. Chag Chanukah Sameach.
Gabriel Geller is director of public relations and wine education for Royal Wines.