Visit to Galil Mountain Winery for Launching of Wines

Driving to the GM Winery

We’re off — Driving to the winery

It was a beautiful summer morning on Friday, the 30th of August, when we joined Naftali, Asher, and Papo to participate in the Galil Mountain Winery’s presentation of a very special wine, Yiron, named after the kibbutz which owns some 33% of the winery. We loved this wine in its previous vintages, and were interested to taste the latest one. It is a bit of interesting economic history that the Golan Winery owns the other 67% as a hedge against the Golan Heights no longer being part of Israel. Galil Mountain Winery continues to grow, and, as do their wines, the winery matures and improves. This year the production reached 1,150,000 bottles. But I digress, and to return to the subject of this article, the Yiron wine is also the flagship wine of Galil Mountain Winery. As usual, the event was orchestrated to the nth degree with no detail left undone.

Israelwinetaster Welcoming All to EventWe arrived on time at 11 AM to be greeted by staff members toSarit, Chief of Visitors Room record our attendance and to offer us a cooled glass of their 2012 vintage Viognier, one of their wines that I particularly like, and my favorite of this varietal, compared to the Viognier of other wineries in the north. As usual it is light and fruity, but balanced by a small portion of it having been aged in oak. I must add that this year they started producing two Viogniers. The “Galil Mountain Series” Viognier, which they call the “Young” one is, like the original in that it is fermented only in stainless steel vats. Forty percent of the slightly more expensive “Galil” Series is fermented in oak casks. It costs 55 shekels compared to 43 shekels for the “Young” Viognier. More on this in a future tasting when I will compare the two, but to move on, as we approached the main entrance of the winery visitors center, we were faced with a display of beautifully presented Poster of Yiron Wine Past Prizesposters describing some of the history of the wines, music from an ensemble, breads and olive oil, and tasting tables of several red wines including one they call Friends, and two from their Galil Series, Alon, and Ela. I avoided the Friends wine as I was not a lover of this blend sold only to the winery club members. I must really give it another chance at some time in the future, especially at home with dinner. The Alon was light and fresh with hints of prunes, pepper, and mild tannins. This is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah and 7% Petit Verdot, and 7% Cabernet Franc. It is a wonderful everyday wine to be enjoyed now, although I would not be surprised if it aged well in the proper conditions of storage for the next few years . The Ela is a blend of 73% Syrah, 23% Barbera, and 4% Petit Verdot. As I had experienced in the past, is a bit bold and “in your face” for my taste. The Barbera variety in this blend imparts these aspects to the wine and gives it an Independence Day fireworks type of drinking experience.

Galil Mountain Winery Tasting RoomThe morning continued as they allowed the participants to arrive and fill up the front open space which was used for the participants to stand and taste the wines, and enjoy the music and breads. Tables had been set up in the visitors center itself where racks of wines are usually on display, and this area also filled with guests. The balcony outside was also arranged with tables, and it, too, became filled. But despite a full house of approximately 250 guests, these various areas were never crowded. photo 4The balcony also served as the grill cooking area at one end and the smells of roasting eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and finally chicken and Charcoal Grilling -- Mmmmmm Smells Good!kebab filled the air. Announcements were made by Uri Tyroler, the winery CEO, and finally, at noon the Yiron wine was poured and the food was served buffet style. The sequencing of the event was carried out as a symphony with the winery staff acting as the orchestra and the CEO, the composer and conductor. The food and the Yiron wine were the grand finale. Bravo!! Encore!!!

The 2010 vintage of the Yiron Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Survignon, Merlot, and Petit YironVerdot presented itself as a complexity of aromas after I allowed to to “open up” while swirling the wine in my glass. After these several minutes of aeration. the initial unbalanced harshness of pent up tannins dissipated and the wine regained its proper gentleness. As previous vintages at this stage in its life, it is young and high in tannins. It most certainly will age well to be ready to be opened and appreciated in 3 to 5 years. To open and drink it now would not be doing it justice. The carton of 12 bottles that I purchased will remain in our wine cellar for now and I will have to wait.

The event was typical of those put on by the highly professional staff of the Galil Mountain Winery and, in my opinion, reflected the attention to detail that is manifest in their wines as well as their events. I have always enjoyed visiting this winery, both just to go there without an appointment in order to taste and purchase a few wines, as well as to attend a major event there such as this one. As many times as I have been there, I don’t think I have ever published a series of photos of the winery. So I here present a slide show of pictures that I took of the working area of the winery:

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Yarden Rom Vintage 2006

Yarden Rom labelThis article is sung to the tune of, “You made me love you, I didn’t want to do it…..” Here we are in our apartment in Naharia, having brought a carton of wines down from our mountain moshav home at Evan Menachem and several also from our shared wine storage cellar at Moshav Amkah. We drank every bottle that we brought including some very good ones, and finished off our case of recently purchased Rose from Castel. We were wineless except for a single bottle of Yarden Rom from 2006. Ask me why I even took it out of storage and brought it here were we are now living, eating, and drinking wine. I just don’t have an answer. But it was our last bottle of wine. It came down to either opening it and drinking it against the late Daniel Rogov’s advice to save it until it would reach full maturity and be at its best in the years 2014 to 2020, or even later, or not drinking any wine with dinner. So we “bit the bullet” and tried not to “choke on the cork.” Once again, “You made me open you, I didn’t want to do it…..”

This was, according to the late guru of Israeli wines, Daniel Rogov, the best wine ever produced in Israel and he rated it highly with a score of 96. It is  New World Blend of 37% Syrah, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot. This blend goes against the grain of tradition with little or no precedent in any French wine region for blending the Rhone Valley variety, Syrah, with the Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The grapes were selected from from 8 different vineyards, seven on the Golan and 1 in the Upper Galilee, the wines blended nine months after harvest. It was oak-aged in French barrels for a total of 21 months and bottled without filtration. Yarden Rom is a joint endeavor of Zelma Long, internationally acclaimed winemaking expert, and Victor Schoenfeld, Head Winemaker of Golan Heights Winery. Zelma Long has been working with Victor and the Golan Heights Winery team since 2002 on a project studying specific vineyard blocks with the aim of increasing wine quality. Yarden Rom is a natural extension of those efforts, allowing Zelma and Victor an opportunity to carry their work together through to a finished wine that reflects both the quality of their relationship and the quality of the Golan Heights as a winegrowing region. Rogov’s wine tasting notes stated,

“A wine to follow in stages for at this point in its development it opens so fruit forward, with ripe blueberries, cherries and red currants that some may actually mistakenly think it sweet. Even now however, that sensation passes quickly to reveal a full-bodied, well extracted and remarkably intense wine with aromas and flavors that literally flood the palate. As the wine continue to develop and as its elements come fully together look for notes of fresh herbs, espresso coffee and hints of both anise and cinnamon.”

We opened and decanted it before letting it sit a while. Then, not being able to wait further, poured, swirled and sniffed, allowing the deep complex aromas flow over us like a warm wave of love and earthiness. We imagined a deep forest with mossy stone walls and newly mowed grass. The tasting blew us away with its thick velvety feel on the palate and tastes of cinnamon and cloves mixed with black cherries. The tastes of a variety of nuts came to mind including brazil nuts, chest nuts, and almonds. You might guess that I am exaggerating when I say the finish lasted an infinity. O.K., but it sure was long and pleasant with wafting waves of hints of the flavors crashing back and forth like the slowly receeding tide.

Yarden RomYou can purchase it in the United States by going to the Wine Enthusiast Magazine‘s website where it is priced at $150 for a bottle. Incidentally, on this web site, they give it a score of 91. I would guess that they punished it for its not being the traditional Bordeaux Blend. In some circles, “New World” is looked down upon. On the Cellartracker web site the average of three reviewers resulted in a score of 93.7. Give us your opinion in the Comment section below.