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 WineLovers.com 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.

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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.