Recanati Winery is, in my opinion, the “Biggest Little Winery in Israel.” When I say, “Big,” I am talking about the quality of their wines, the flagship wine called Recanati Special Reserve achieving the status of only 20 wines in Israel to have been awarded a rating of 91 by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. They are also big in terms of a varied selection of red and white wines, blends, and a Rose. They are not so “Little” as regards their yearly production, but in terms of their very small facility, a compact, and efficient operation.
Our visit was hosted by Zena, who works in the Visitors Center. She showed us around and informed us as to the winery’s history and production. The questions she could not answer, were passed on to the personable masgiach, David. Founded relatively recently, in 2000, Recanati Winery has grown to a present yearly production of one million bottles of wine. This is an especialy astonishing accomplishment considering the size of their no-frills, compact winery. They waste no space in this efficient operation located in the Hefer Valley Industrial Zone near Hadera, between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Interestingly enough, its location is also unusual in that none of their vineyards are in this region. All the grapes are grown and are brought to the winery from afar, mainly from vineyards in the Upper Galilee. Manara and Kerem Ben Zimra are where most of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes are grown. They also come from the warmer regions of the Ella Valley, Jezreel Valley, Lower Galilee, and Binyamina. Their Carignan grapes are grown and brought to the winery from the Judean Hills.
Gil Shatsberg has been the head winemaker since 2008. He is a graduate of the Viticulture and Oenology Program at the University of California Davis. He was the founder of Amphorae Winery, a well known boutique winery which had a reputation for quality wines.
Recanati Winery divides their wines into several series. The bottom line, more mass-produced wines are called Yasmin Label, called Yasmin White and Yasmin Red . These are all from machine picked grapes, the Yasmin White, a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and the Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz. These are table wines and to be drunk young. Their price is an accessible 33 ₪ (shekels) each when purchased at the winery. This is approximately equivalent to $8 at the present exchange rate.
The next step up is the Recanati Label, consisting of varietal wines from the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes. The one wine of this series that is a blend is the Rosé made from Barbera and Merlot grapes. All of these sell for 52 ₪ except the Rosé which costs 66 ₪. We tasted and wrote an article about this Rosé wine only very recently (the immediately preceding post).
Continuing up the quality (and price) ladder, their Reserve Label wines are hand picked and barrel aged. Mark Squires who writes for the Wine Advocate, commented that, “Recanati’s Reserve level wines have always offered some value for the region…. that tends to be short on values ” The Chardonnay Reserve from the Manara Vineyard with its initial fermentation on the lees. We tasted this and found it very smooth in the mouth and sells at the reasonable price of 66 ₪. The Sauvignon Blanc Reserve from Ben Zimra Vineyard is aged partly in oak barrels and partly in stainless steel vats. We also tasted the Merlot Reserve from the Manara Vineyard. This has a special smoky aroma and flavor of roasting marsh mellows and sells at the very reasonable price of 52 ₪. Other wines of this series consist of the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Cabernet Franc Reserve, and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. All of the wines of this Reserve series sell for 90 ₪ at the winery.
The Syrah-Viognier Reserve and Petite Syrah-Zinfandel Reserve have been bumped up to the new Mediterranean Series and cost 132 ₪ and 104 ₪, respectively. Don’t look for this new series on the Recanati web site or their catalog as it doesn’t exist there. This has only been recently created, perhaps as a result of two of its three wines being awarded 90 and over points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. This change in their wine classification has, in my opinion, confused the previous clear division of wine series. The third wine of this new series is the Wild Carignan, which we wrote about in a previous article.
The top of the line series is still called Special Reserve and consists of the SR White, a blend and sells for 132 ₪ at the winery. The Recanati fagship wine, the SR Red. This is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Petit Syrah and 10% Syrah aged 14 months in oak barrels. It costs 165 ₪ at the winery and is obviously their most expensive product.