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 Katzrin Chardonnay 2011

Yarden Chardonnay 1We purchased this wine as part of an offer of “futures” from the Golan Heights Winery. Therefore, it was purchased on the basis of trust that this winery would produce a quality product worth the price. So far, we have done this only twice in the past and not been disappointed. This wine was purchased along with Yarden Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The other purchase of wine “futures” was from another high quality, well managed, and trusted winery located in the Judean Hills, Castel Winery. Both of these wine producers are our favorites for consistently high quality wines.

Yarden’s Chardonnay grapes are grown on the northern Golan Heights at elevations above Northern Golan Heights900 meters, or 3,000 feet. The 2011 grape growing season was the coolest and wettest since 1997, with 30% more than the average annual rainfall. The rains in Israel fall from November through April of the following year, and, interestingly enough, the annual amounts are recorded for this season and not for a calendar year. Sometimes, the spring brings rains and sun as the grape vines leaf out, causing an overgrowth of vegetation that shades out the grapes, delaying their maturation. This 2011 vintage brought a chilly spring, preventing excess vine growth that could have resulted from the wet soils. Also, harvest began about two weeks late, well into October, and resulting in over 25% of the fruit still not harvested by the end of the month. As is described in the Yarden website, “after waiting out the rains of early November, we brought in the remainder of the fruit by mid-month, literally minutes before a six-day rain system hit.” Sometimes excess yields of fruit cause a decrease in the quality of the wine, but this year brought average yields of high quality grapes, producing a quality wine. This wine was aged “sur lies” for nine months in new French oak barrels. Ahhhhh, herein lies one aspect of the art of oenology, using various techniques to influence the flavors. This particular technique involves aging the wine on its lees, or exposing the aging wine to dead yeast cells and other grape solids including the skin and the seeds. The process adds many compounds, each of which has its effect. Polysaccharides enhance fruitiness and give mouth-feel that conveys the perception of heaviness and weight, sometimes described as “creaminess”. Amino acids boost flavor and aroma, particularly on the finish of the wine, and they interact with oak. Not only do they sweeten up the raw woodiness of oak, they also modify some of the wood esters, mellowing them.

Yarden Chardonnay 4

The wine as seen against the background of the sun setting on the Mediterranean Sea

We opened this wine and were embraced by earthy aromas of grasses and trees. You must excuse me when I state that my taste buds spoke of slate and granite mineral flavors intertwined with a background of Granny Smith apples. The Yarden tasting notes, which I read only after recording my own reactions, also included “hints of mineral and spice.” I apologize for using a taste descriptor that does not readily relate to something that we usually place in our mouths. Indeed, it is hard to describe what the minerals slate and granite taste like, but if you can imagine placing a few pebbles in your mouth that you have plucked out of a cold swift running brook, perhaps you can experience this taste. Others have said of Chardonnay that it is “flinty,” a taste and smell that’s in the air when a piece of steel is hit against a piece of flint, and meaning that it has a hard, dry, and clean taste. The French call it “gout de pierre a fusil,” or that characteristic odor that came from the muskets of the infantry of the seventeenth century. Recently this has been the subject of a hotly contested discussion on the Israel and Kosher Wine Forum. Some do not believe that minerality is a valid wine taste descriptor and others vigorously defend its use. If you are interested, it is worth reading the well balanced, and well written article in the Wall Street Journal by Lettie Teague. The author doesn’t take sides, but in the end, it is clear how she feels. I agree with her. What do you think?

The bottom line here, is that this is a very good wine. I rate it an B**. Its cost in San Diego and New York, depending on whether you buy a case or a single bottle varies from $33 to $38. Unfortunately, I cannot find what I paid for it as a purchase of a six bottle future. I’ll do a bit of research and try to correct this of information which is lacking.

Yarden Chardonnay 2