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Wine Review: Israeli wines shine at holidays

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The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, starts on the evening of Dec. 2 and ends on Dec. 10. The festival celebrates the miracle of the light in the temple that, during a siege, stayed lit for eight days when there was only enough oil for one day.

Just an FYI, it is a Hebrew tradition that a light above the cabinet holding the scrolls of the Torah (Bible), should never go out, and it is referred to as the “ever burning light.” The highlight of the celebration of Hanukkah is the exchange of gifts each of the eight nights of the holiday.

There also will be a traditional large meal, and where there is feasting, there will be wine.

Galil Mountain Winery Yiron 2014 ($35)
This wine lives in two worlds. One world is it its Israeli birthplace, while the second is the fact it’s made in the traditional Bordeaux style. Allow me to explain: The French influence is definitely felt in this wine due to the influence of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the French banker who assisted in the re-establishment of the vineyards and wineries of Israel, and in doing so, introduced the French style of winemaking. This wine is very typical of a Bordeaux, as it is a blend of mostly cabernet sauvignon, backed up by merlot, syrah and petite verdot. The wine takes on all of the nuances of the classical French chateau Bordeaux style, while maintaining all of the charm of a modern, full fruit flavor. The 2014 growing season was kind, and the result is a deep red-purple color and a sparkling clarity. The aromas are equally as impressive: explosive berry, along with wild herbs and oak. Much of these aromas carry over to the flavor, where they meld with an earthy component rarely found in other cabs. The tannins are there, as would be expected, but they are not fierce or over-accentuated. This wine is drinkable now or can develop more complexity with a little extra bottle aging. Here is a chance to experience a wine that continues the classical style of winemaking.

Yarden Katzrin 2014 Chardonnay ($37)
Chardonnays come, and chardonnays go, and to tell the truth, most of them are boring. There is, however, nothing boring about the Yarden Katzrin chardonnay. Since the chardonnay grape is not grown in Bordeaux, the good Baron de Rothschild also sent over winemakers from Burgundy to help the winemakers in that area. What resulted can be seen in every bottle of Yarden Katzrin chardonnay. Here is a wine that displays all of the character and elegance of the fabled wines of the burgundies of old. The most obvious aromas are apple and citrus, backed up by summertime fruits. The oak is found to be delicate and very pleasing. The flavor is rich and features a buttery smooth sensation on the palate. This chardonnay can restore your faith in the variety.

Yarden 2014 Merlot ($35)
Merlot has spent much of its time existing in the shadow of the regal cabernet sauvignon. Although related to the cab, it was most often relegated to the position as a blender to soften a cabernet sauvignon’s often fierce nature. Only in an area of Bordeaux, called Pomerol, was the variety taken seriously – yet not serious enough to challenge the high and mighty cab. This beautiful and well-made wine reinforces America’s love affair with merlot. The Yarden 2014 is a bold merlot, which accents the soft and subtle characteristics of the grape. There is plenty of flavor here – cranberry, boysenberry and blueberry head the list – to be found with oak and vanilla in the background. These trail off to the finish, which by present-day merlot standards is incredibly long.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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