Visit to Rubin Winery

Dr. Kent and Ronen Rubin, the vintner/owner of Rubin Winery

Today my good friend and colleague, Dr. Jonathan Kent, invited me to pay a visit with him to his favorite small boutique winery, Rubin Winery. Ronen started making wine about 15 hears ago up north near Kiryat Shmonah. Originally, what was started as a hobby with 20 or 30 bottles of wine has become a burgeoning profession, and he now produces approx 3,000 bottles of wine each year. He does not do any of the viticultre, but chooses, instead, to purchase the grapes which come from Meron, Alma and Kerem Ben Zimra. These are well known wine grape growing areas, but we question the veracity of purchasing grapes rather than growing. I have participated in the discussion on WineLovers forums on Israeli and Kosher Wines I am a firm believer in the need for someone who wants to make quality wines to focus primarily on the growing, and secondarily on the fermenting, aging, blending, and bottling. To make a fine wine, one needs a perfect grape, if there is such a thing. Try to make wine from what you buy in the supermarket. It just won’t work. And if someone grows that wonder-grape, he or she will use it to make their own wine or sell it to the likes of Golan Heights Winery for a top price. If you compromise on the grapes, you just cannot make an exceptional wine no matter what you do.

Enough preaching for now. We are visiting a winery run in the home of a  wonderful guy, Ronen Rubin.  His winery is in a real basement under the ground under his home. It is a beautiful set of rooms cooled to an ideal 18 degrees Centigrade, even on a hot summer day at Moshav Bar Yochai where the outside temperature today was in the mid 30’s. Ronen did all the work to build this place and he does all the renovation of the oak barrels he purchased from major wineries in the area  He has disassembled them, sanded down the inner aspect of the wood and burned the wood before reassembling the casks. In addition to being a builder, and vintner he is a cooper. Truly a man of many talents.

At his winery, we tasted the Petit Verdot (he calls it Petit Bordeaux) from the cask. It is a deep magenta, highly flavored, spicy wine which he will use for blending. We also tasted his Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 which was aged 18 months in oak barrels. It is a complex big bodied wine with a long finish with tastes of chocolate, tobacco and cardamon. His Sangiovese had little nose and a gentle flavor. He also makes a Merlot and a Cabernet Franc which we did not taste. We purchased a bottle of his 2010 Shiraz and a bottle of Port made from Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% alcohol added to stop the fermentation while there were still some sugars left.   Ronen is now also making a “Cognac” distilled product and a variety of liquers made from Nana, Ginger, Cherries and other fruits.

Ronen Rubin continues to varietize and innovate. There’s no stopping him.

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A New Port Style Wine Has Arrived

Yarden group of wines produced by the Golan Heights Winery, in my opinion the premier winery of Israel, has again expanded its armamentarium of fine wines by bringing to us a variant of its 2T wine. In their brochure that is enclosed in the handsome box that contains the wine, they assiduously avoid calling this Port or even Port style wine and only mention that “Yarden T2 is made from two Portuguese varieties — Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao — that are famous in Portugal for their part in producing outstanding wines of the Douro Valley.” They do state that the Yarden T2 is “fortified with brandy during the fermentation process, preserving some of the natural sweetness of the grapes. The wine aged for 26 months in French oak barrels.” Hey, what a coincidence that this is how Port is produced! To paraphrase Shakespeare, A Port By Any Other Name Would Taste As Sweet. The fortification results in a higher alcohol content that most wines, 18% in this case. The sweetness will entice many to drink it as a desert wine, although I love it as an aperitif. And it does have the taste of a fine Port wine. It is rich and thick and creamy with a complexity of flavors reminiscent of stewed prunes, cherries, mixed nuts, and vanilla.

We give it an Israelwinetaster Grade of A- with the minus only because of the price of 150 shekels at the winery. This is the equivalent of approximately $40 and is quite expensive. For this price I have found that in the United States, you can purchase a 20 year old Fonseca Tawney Port. The Yarden is, of course, kosher, providing availability to those who drink only kosher wines. Other than that, I would, some day, like to do a comparison tasting of these two wines.