Although the modern Israeli wine industry is just that we can comfortably say they are reliable in terms of quality? In general terms I am prepared to give Israel that compliment. However to be sure let's do some testing. Remember Israel is a tiny country.
The Upper Galilee is my favorite wine producing region of Israel because because it has some altitude which can protect the grapes from the searing lowland Israeli heat. Its vineyards are at altitudes between 420-800 meters.
As a producer Galil Mountain Winery produces wines of solid quality. In fact I'll say it makes the best wines Israel has to offer. However I have yet to visit Israel to visit its many wineries.
Their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon has a classic ruby color and is very transparent suggesting a lighter bodied wine. Thick bramply aromas of blueberry pie, cassis, black cherry with a hint of charcoal. On the palate mellifirous tannins that spread out like a slowly blooming flower. On the palate a bit gruff and assertive with black cherry and blackberry leading the march. Like the Israeli personality this wine is not to be pushed around. The charcoal and grit on the palate say "Enjoy me but please avoid comparisons to other Cabernet Sauvignons. I am a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Upper Galilee."
If possible decant an hour before serving to placate its initial gruffness. Ideal for grilled beef, wild game or rabbit stew in red wine sauce. Good until 2022.
(Galil Mountain Winery Upper Galilee 2014 KP Cabernet Sauvignon, Galil Mountain Winery, Yiron, Israel, 750 mL, 14.5%, $ 24.95 (in Ontario) Robert K. Stephen rating 92/100).
Hey a newcomer on my block … Jerusalem Wineries with a Premium 2013 Shiraz. Garnet colored. On the nose, red peppers, pepper, dates, figs, blackberries but it's the black pepper on the nose which almost requires a comparison to many a Syrah.
On the palate very smooth with silky tannins. Lots of black cherry, cassis and pomegranate with just a bit of gravel. A rather long and seductive finish. Satisfying and full bodied. New kid on my block but if they continue like this they'll be old reliable.
(Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium 2013 Shiraz, Jerusalem Wineries, Israel, 750 mL, 13%, $ 24.95 (in Ontario) Robert K. Stephen rating 91/100).
Recanati has consistently impressed me with its Chardonnay. In fact in 2012 it was the best white I had scored for that year. Again it's from my favorite Israeli wine region, the Upper Galilee.
Almost platinum in color with aromas of apple, pear, melon, marzipan and baby powder with some pineapple on the fringes.
On the palate a strange smokiness with chalk, banana, gentle touches of oak all kind of falling flat and short. A beautiful mind but not so great a body! Or put another way charming aromatics but a wandering and unfocused body.
Great with chicken kebabs or a falafel sandwich. Unfortunately this vintage pales with Recanati potential.
(Recanati Chardonnay 2014, Upper Galilee, KP, Recanati Winery, Emek Hefer, Israel 750 ml, 12.5%, $ 24.95 (in Ontario) Robert K. Stephen rating 75/100 My goodness I rated them 2012 Chardonnay a 94. How far the mighty have fallen! No old reliable here!
Let's finish off with a Teperberg 2014 Merlot. Red plum in color. A nose of ripe black cherries ringed by a huge burning bush of mocha all lathered up with generous notes of plum, pomegranate and sandalwood. I'm getting a very good feeling about this wine!
Full bodied and like a good Merlot nice and plush mouth feel. Subtle but lingering tannins. On the palate some fig, blackberries and sour cherry with an initial nip of acidity. That little nip of acidity and substance tannins make it suitable for veal, Vegetarian Risotto with Leeks and Swiss Chard or a Herbed Mushroom and Goat Cheese Sauce over Egg Noodles.
All said and done fairly approachable and inoffensive. Utilitarian may be the right word. Complex no. Enjoyable yes. It will hang in until 2020 and soften to the point it will be a good sipping wine. For now take advantage of its smidgen of noticeable acid to pair it with foods. (Teperberg Impression 2014 Merlot KPM, Samson, Teperberg 1870 Winery, Tzora, Israel, 750 mL, 14%, $ 23.95 (in Ontario) Robert K. Stephen rating 86/100. Been killed by pasteurization this is perhaps one of best Mevushal reds I have had. I think if it had simply been KP (Kosher for Passover) it really would have scored higher!
My advice for Israeli wines in particular is to avoid Mevushal wines due to the flavor killing pasteurization. KP (Kosher for Passover) wines on the other hand can be spectacular but I pay attention to selecting the right winery and that only comes with an adventuresome spirit and the ability to embrace wines from distant lands other than the usual millions of bottles of Euro, Californian and Canadian wines. Israeli wines have unique characteristics worth giving a try.