Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A one day tour of Islay's distilleries. Part 1



The view from Lagavulin distillery
 
Islay whiskies are famous for their heavy smoky peaty island style.  The truth is that there are plenty of exceptions. Bruichladdich mostly produces unpeated whisky and Bunnahabhain’s standard output is light and delicate. Nevertheless, most distilleries on Islay do live up to this reputation.


When I visited Islay last year, one of the things I wished to achieve was to get an answer to a question which had bothered me for some time. Where does that salty seaweed sea air smell and taste come from that you experience in Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bowmore and Caol Ila?

After reading as much as I could on the subject there seemed to be two distinct opinions:

That salty, sea air, seaweed taste and smell comes from:

1. The natural Islay water they make the whisky from.

2. The sea air that penetrates and impregnates the wood of the casks with sea salt as the whisky is maturing in the warehouse.

Most people discount the first opinion. Talking about pure peaty Scottish water that comes from the stream that rolls down the mountains of the Highlands is all part of the marketing “sphill” that surrounds whisky and shifts so many bottles. I don’t have a problem with this. However,  most true whisky experts will admit today that actually the water source they use to malt the barley and produce the wort has only a minuscule influence (if that) on the final flavour of the whisky and that it has all been a very clever marketing tool aimed primary at the Americans.

I had always assumed that the second opinion was by far the most obvious. After all, who hasn’t noticed that after visiting the seaside, your clothes and skin still smell of the sea air and salt? Think what influence that would have on a wooden barrel sitting in a warehouse by the sea for 10 or more years?



Almost all Islay distilleries are to be found on the coast.






 
 

This all made perfect sense until the whole theory of the salty sea air permeating the wood of the cask was dispelled when I learned that, straight after distillation, almost all of that delicious seaweedy sea breeze Caol Ila Single Malt was poured into tankers and shipped off to the mainland where it was put into oak casks and sat in a central warehouse near Glasgow for 12 years!

So where does this sea air flavour come from so dominate in Islay whiskies?

My answer came in the form of a very special bottle of whisky I bought in the distillery shop in Caol Ila while visiting the island with my wife and daughter.


At 5:00am we set off and took the A83 and then the A816 from Oban to Kennacraig where we caught the ferry to Islay at 7:00am, arriving at Port Ellen at around 9:00am.


On the ferry, on our way to Islay. We passed many little islands. Simply breath taking!

As we were heading towards Islay we met the ferry going the other way.






Arriving at Port Ellen

For ferry Information:


Our rented VW Polo parked in Port Ellen village
 
It costs a fortune to bring a car on the ferry but actually costs very little to hire a car on the island so we pre-booked a Volkswagen Polo for £32 from D & N MacKenzie  for the whole day.  They met us at the port as we came off the ferry. Documentation was over within a blink of an eye and off we went to our first distillery tour at nearby Laphroaig within five minutes.
D & N MacKenzie Car Rental:

Not surprisingly, the tours at the Islay distilleries reflect the ferry arrival times. Laphroaig’s first tour is at 10:00am. Ardbeg’s tours start at 10:30am and Lagavulin’s first of the day is at 9:30am. By carefully noting the tour times of all the distilleries we were able to visit Laphroaig, Lagavulin, then Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and then dash back down to Ardbeg  and still had time to drop the car off at Port Ellen and jump on the last ferry. Whew! It was a bit of a mad rush but an absolutely superb day. Having said that, if you really want to do justice to Islay and its eight distilleries, I’d recommend booking a place over night.

For a list of Islay distilleries and tour times see here:

 
 
 
To be continued.... in Part 2
 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bruichladdich Carmel "Kosher" Cask 1989 is no more kosher than any other sherry matured malt

You can still obtain  this bottle marketed under the title "Bruichladdich Scotch Islay Single Malt Carmel Kosher Wine Finish 1989"
However it turns out that this whisky is no more kosher than any other Single Malt matured in yayin stam (non Jewish) ex-sherry casks!
 

 

 


 
The question I needed answered was whether the wine which was previously in the Carmel wine barrels was yayin mevushal (boiled) or not. If the wine was lo-mevushal then as soon as a gentile touches the barrel, the barrel would take on the same kashrus status as any non-Jewish ex-wine barrel. However, if the wine which was previously in those barrels was mevushal then the barrel and any remnants of wine in the barrel remain kosher.

I wrote to Carmel Wines and asked them whether the wine which was previously in the barrels they sold to Bruichladdich was mevushal or not. They passed my query onto Adam Montefiore, the famous Carmel Wines spokesman. Within a day I received a very detailed email from him where he told me that he was personally involved in the sale of the Carmel Mizrachi wine casks to Bruichladdich. He said that he can state that those barrels previously contained wine which was lo-mevushal! In other words, as soon as they arrived at the Distillery the casks took on the same status as non-Jewish wine. That is, it became yayin stam. So, although they were mareketed as "Kosher Whisky" they actually had the same kashrut status of any other non kosher sherry cask matured whisky.
He wrote on the 03/07/2012:

"...Bruichladdich purchased barrels from Carmel which were used for maturing Carmel’s Single Vineyard and Eizorit / Appellation wines at the Zichron Ya’acov Cellars. None of the wines aged in these barrels were Yayin Mevushal but all were 100% kosher. 
The barrels were shipped after being sealed by Carmel’s Mashgiach. However after arrival in Scotland Carmel has no knowledge of how they were looked after. In other words Carmel claims responsibility only to the gates of the winery!... By the way, the label on the actual bottles and the gift boxes do NOT refer anywhere to Kosher Wine Finish. This would be misleading. They instead refer to additional cask enhancement in wine casks from Carmel Winery, Israel.
Of course, these were not Carmel products. Carmel only produces or distributes kosher products. However for those who wanted a whisky with a taste of Israel, these came as close as any. For the whisky lover, they were also magnificent whiskies (in particular the 1989.)I wish to reiterate, that these whiskies did not have a hechsher.
Regards, Adam "
I wish to personally thank Adam for taking the trouble in writing to me with a very detailed reply which fully answers my query.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tobermory and Ledaig comparison Review


Tobermory and Ledaig from the Isle of Mull

Oban Harbour


This is the first of what I hope will be a series of blog posts on peaty whiskies.
Last August, as promised, we took a holiday with my parents in the Western Highlands, renting out a chalet just south of Oban in order to tour and visit the Whisky distilleries in the area.



Our Log Chalet.



Oban Distillery is in the heart of the town.


Scottish Honey
The first day I took my family up to Fort William for some tourist shopping. We got some delicious Scottish blossom and heather honeys which we thoroughly enjoyed during the Rosh Hashana to Succos season. The honey was packed with complex flavours of wax, flowers and fruity sweetness and greatly increased the simcha of our Yom Tov seudos (Festival meals). What a chutzpa to call that jar of brown syrupy sugar you find in the supermarket by the same name?
We bought three bottles of Heather honey and only one Blossom, just for comparison. The reason? Well, the Heather honey’s brown enticing colour sold it for us. The Blossom honey looked dull in comparison which fooled us into thinking that it would have less taste. In fact, just the opposite was true. The blossom honey had more character and flavour than the Heather honey. It had a stronger creamier honey taste with a more subtle sweetness. Simply yummy! You would have thought that I should have known better from all the years of telling people not to judge a whisky by its colour but only by its taste?

While my wife and daughter were clothes shopping I popped into The Whisky Shop opposite to look around. I was intrigued by a quarter cask sitting in the middle of the shop with the label Ledaig Cask Strength printed on the side.
The shopkeeper informed me that Ledaig (pronounced “Lechaig”) was a virtually unheard of peaty whisky from the Isle of Mull and they were promoting it in their shops. They were selling small 20cl medicine bottles of the stuff for £8.00. I decided to give it a try.

Medicine Bottle
We opened the bottle that evening after dinner and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next day we got up at 5:00am to take the ferry to Islay to visit Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich and Caol Ila.  Because my parents did not wish to get up so early they decided to take a more leisurely trip to the Isle of Mull.


Whilst there, they visited the Tobermory distillery and came away with a bottle of cask strength Tobermory.

Later that evening back in the beautiful log chalet, after dinner, we all sat down to compare these two Isle of Mull malts.

Both these Mull malts shared a vegetable salty character. However, that’s where the comparison ended. They are two very different whiskies.
Because they were both cask strength we added a lot of water to our glasses. The water from the tap in the chalet was an amazing brown colour. The owner assured us that it was perfectly safe to drink and was naturally brown because of the peat in the ground. The water was actually delicious and made a great cup of tea. It was however a bit disconcerting washing with this brown water in the morning.
Tobermory is light, delicate and herbal with a malty barley grainy base. It reminded me of fresh rain water and green vegetable juice.  We all tried to identify the vegetables. We came up with fresh spinach, fennel, parsley and water cress.  The finish is quite short, dry and briny.
In total contrast, Ledaig is full bodied, oily, big, smoky and peaty assort on the tongue. Smell and taste of seaweed, spinach, minerals, flinty with a long sweet toffee peaty finish. The more you drink it the more complex it gets. It has layer after layer of contradictory sweet and dry flavours making this a very interesting drink indeed. Definitely not for the beginner, that’s for sure.
My daughter and I both preferred the Ledaig despite the fact that my daughter is not usually too keen on peaty whiskies. Perhaps it was because the Ledaig had that delicious sweet finish whereas the Tobermory remained dry throughout. My parents on the other hand found Ledaig too heavy and overpowering for them. They preferred the lighter more subtle taste of Tobermory.
A fascinating comparison of what we thought were two malt whiskies form Isle of Mull. What we didn’t know at the time was that in fact they are the same whisky. There is only one distillery on the island and that is Tobermory. The distillery produces a peated version and a non peated version. The unpeated version they market as Tobermory and the peated version is, you guessed it, Ledaig!
This was the first experience I had had of trying an unpeated and peated version of the same single malt and what an experience it was too! Maybe it was the magic of sitting in a cosy log chalet in the middle of the Western Highlands but it was a very special occasion and one I will not forget in a hurry.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dalton Oak Aged Range


Dalton Petite Sirah 2010   NIS 55.
Dalton Fume Blanc 2011    NIS 45.

As mentioned in my last slighty weird post, I am reviewing two medium priced wines today from Dalton winery. I have already reviewed their top of the range “Reserve” line and praised highly their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc all of which were excellent.  The “Reserve” range are all around NIS 100 to NIS 120 price range. Let’s see how their “Oak Aged” Series for around NIS 40 to NIS 60 fair.
The Dalton Label
I have mentioned in the past how much I like the Dalton’s label design. Obviously a wine label has two functions. Its primary function is to inform you as to what the contents are but the label must also be able to entice you into picking up the bottle and buying it.
The understated minimalist design succeeds in both these areas lending the wine an aura of confidence.
I'd rather trust a man who doesn't shout what he's found,
There's no need to sell if you're homeward bound.
If I choose a side,
He won't take me for a ride.
(Genesis, “The Chamber of 32 doors”, 1974)

Teudat Hechshir

Machon LeKashrus, HaRav Mordechai Unger, New Square, NY.
OU (Orthdox Union) America
Local Rabbinut Merom HaGalil
Haschgachas Yoreh Deiah, Rav Shlomo Machpud
There are a few blends in this Oak Aged range but I decided upon a Petite Sirah 2010 for Friday Night and a Fume Blanc 2011 for Shabbos lunch.
Pitite Sirah 2010

Petite Sirah is a grape which is known outside of America and Israel as Durif. It is a modern red grape produced by cross breeding Syrah and Peloursin grapes. In theory, it produces a full bodied heavy tannins plummy wine. They enjoy maturation in oak casks and produce spicy vanilla notes over time.

I won’t bother typing out the label description as you can read it from the label in the photograph above. For such a modestly priced wine, Dalton certainly make a lot of fanciful claims!

I like the sound of "American Oak barrels which results in a taste of lavender, leather and old world complexity". However I think they've gone too far when they start talking about “old world complexity”. What on earth does that mean?

I placed the wines directly in the wine cooler and kept them there until we needed them on Shabbos. Interestingly, as the temperature in Israel has gone up, so has the temperature in my wine cooler. Constantly set to 14 degrees Celsius, it has been showing between 15 and 16 degrees indicating that it cannot reach its assigned temperature. This is a bit worrying as we haven’t reached the really high values yet of 30 degrees plus.
Friday night we came back from shul and opened the bottle of red. After everyone was assembled and Shalom Aleichem, Eishes Chayil and the kid's brachos in front of the Shabbos candles, we were ready for Kiddush. The bottle was standing for about 15 minutes and had problably gone up about two degrees in temperature by the time I came to pour it.

Getting to the Shabbos table I poured the wine.  Its almost totally black colour with hints of purple was very striking. The Nose was very very promising. Swirling the wine around in the glass brought an assortment of very solid attractive aromas of heavy plum juice, warm berries, vanilla fudge, oak spices and a hint of smoke.
After Kiddush, we sat to drink the wine. Ummmmh, glorious. As my two sons were home from yeshiva, we had the full complement of six family members at the table so there was only enough for one glass each. This was no where near enough to really sample this complicated wine. Medium to heavy body with rich matured plums and berries yet certainly not syrupy. Definite taste of creamy vanilla ice cream as it goes down and a long lasting finish.

The strange thing is that all these flavours seemed to come along, one after the other, not in layers. Was the wine lacking complexity? I can’t say as I drank half the glass down for kiddush in two gulps (as is the halachah) and then didn’t have sufficient wine left over in my glass to properly judge it. I wasn't the only one. Requests for more were met with dissapointment as we extracted the last drops of this wine from the bottle. We shall certainly be purchasing this Petite Sirah again (beli neder) but this time, we are going to buy two bottles so that we can try it with the challa and hors d'oeuvres to further enjoy its many tastes. I'd also be interested in knowing if any other Israeli winery produces a Petite Sirah. I think I like this grape.
Dalton Fume Blanc 2011

I was looking forward to this one. I like smoky whiskies and remember how delighted I was with the Dalton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which was full of sweet cigar smoke.
Fume Blanc is actually what they call Sauvignon Blanc in California. According to Wikipedia, the name Fume Blanc was simply a marketing ploy to try and shift some cases of Sauvignon Blanc when it went out of fashion. Why Dalton decided to use the American name for this grape rather than the name which everyone knows this grape by in Israel, I’m really aren’t sure.
Typical characteristics of this grape are tropical fruit flavours, tartness and refreshing. The label adds to this description” a rich smoky character”. Intriguing indeed!

We opened the bottle at 14 degrees Celsius straight out of the wine cooler, opened and poured it immediately.  Veshomru Kiddush said, we tasted the wine. This Shabbos we had guests who I know like their wine and whisky so I was hoping they would be impressed with this one.
Oh Deary me! I noticed something funny from the start. Even after the wine had settled in the glasses there were still bubbles rising to the top as if this was a sparkling wine. There was a slight smell of bitter lemon and yeasty dough. Tasting the wine, it was barely drinkable. Dry, fizzy and furry on the tongue. Yuk!
Now we have had a similar experience before with a bottle of Bravdo Chardonnay. I don’t know if this fizziness occurred after it was bottled, that is, the wine has spoiled or, the wine was ruined during manufacturing process by for instance, adding too much yeast. Whatever it is, I’m not willing to buy another bottle to try out.
 Slightly embarrassed, I quickly asked everyone to wash for HaMoetzi and we began our seuda (my daughter’s delicious challa with a Tuna salad, Egg and onion salad and homemade chumos salad) with a bottle of Glen Grant Single Malt, followed by Ardbeg with two teaspoons of water. After the excellent whisky we forgot all about the Fume Blanc!

In conclusion, one fantastic success beyond all expectations followed by one complete and utter disaster. Sounds rather like Arsenal’s game results for this season doesn’t it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Right!", said Fred

http://raphaelnouril.com/judaica.aspx

Every Shabbos I have a chat with a an American friend of mine; (let’s call him Fred for convenience sake), who sits to my right in Shul. The conversation begins with discussing the parsha but almost always finishes with talking about the wines and whiskies we have experienced over Shabbos.
Fred complained more than once that he thinks the wines I choose to drink and review are too expensive for the majority of wine lovers who might read my blog yet he has never explicitly commented on anything I have written on my blog which leaves me wondering if he actually reads it at all.
Perhaps he started reading it and thinking it awful, stopped reading but is too polite to tell me, (unlike another “friend”, let’s call him Bob; who I used to enjoy discussing various single malts with, one Shabbos morning told me outright not to keep talking about my blog as he had no intention of reading it. He said it in such a blunt fashion that it left me quite startled.
Because of this unpleasant experience with Bob, it would be embarrassing to ask Fred out right if he does read my blog for fear of receiving the same reply. So, if you are reading this Fred, hope you enjoy the mention and the following review on Dalton wines even if you don’t let me know that you’ve read it. Oh, and if you aren’t reading this because you don’t like my writing style or content then thanks for not telling me. I appreciate it.
Anyway, even if you are reading this or not, this next review is for you Fred. You are always going on about Dalton’s medium price range of wines and urging me to try them so being that I am tight for money at the moment, (having just purchased flight tickets to Scotland so that I can fulfill a wish of mine to do a grand tour of Islay distilleries), I decided that this was the perfect time to follow your advice and give the Daltons a try.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why the wine from the Shomron region is so special


Just found this video about the Shomron region.
There is some wonderfull footage of Shiloh and the Biblical Park there. Great stuff !!!

The video begins with the prophetic words of Amos 9:13-15 which left me stunned. As they say in England. I was totally gob smacked!

Thinking about it, this blog itself and my wine reviews are witnesses to the words of Amos coming true in our time:

"Behold days are coming. – the word of Hashem – when the bountiful seasons of plowing and reaping will overlap. When the treader of grapes will meet the one who carries the seed; the mountains will drip juice and the hills will melt. When I will return the captivity of My people Israel and they will rebuild their former cities, and they will settle, and they will plant vineyards and drink from their wine; they will cultivate gardens and eat from their fruits. I will place them on their land and they will never again be removed from their land that I have given them, said Hashem, your G-d. "


Coincidently, (that is if you believe in coincidences), these pesukim form this week’s Haftatorah for Acherei Mos.


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wines of Shiloh


Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon Shor 2007   NIS 85
Shiloh Chardonnay 2010                          NIS 80
Shiloh Rose 2007                                       NIS 75

In my last blog I mentioned that I took my parents to the Shiloh Biblical Park a few months ago before our appointment at Gvaot Winery and whilst there, saw some wines being sold in the café from Shiloh Winery.

The Shiloh Winemaker, Amichai Luria
This Chol HaMoed Pesach I really wanted to visit the Shiloh winery so was in contact with the wine maker, Amichai, at Shilo  who told me that he would be happy to receive us in the afternoon even though the winery was officially closed. In the end it didn’t work out but I did get to go back to the Biblical Park with my family and took the opportunity to buy some more wines there.
View from the top of Shiloh

The Park had put on special Chol HaMoed activities and we all had a smashing time there. If you haven’t been to Shiloh yet, please go. Even observant Jews, unless they are very well versed in Tanach, know little of the time when the Mishkan was situated in Shiloh. I very much enjoyed their presentation showing what life was like in Shiloh during Pesach and it made me realise how little I knew of the period. Archaeological digs are continuing at a fierce pace, uncovering new thing from Pre First Temple period all the time. Exciting times indeed.

So, despite having not visited the winery yet I thought I must tell you about these wines:
I bought three wines. A Cabernet Sauvignon, A Chardonnay and a Rose.
Shilo Ranges

The Wine shelf in the Shilo Cafe
(Note. Actual prices were cheaper than labeled here)

As far as I can tell, Shiloh produces two main ranges plus a few blends and non-reds, not categorised within a particular range name. I’ve seen their quality Shor range in shops in Yerushalayim. Then they have what they call their “Secret Reserve” range. The Café was selling a Cabernet Sauvignon Secret  Reserve priced from NIS 135 to NIS 235. Those who are familier to this blog will know that I have a general rule not to review wines over NIS 120 as I consider this outside the average wine lover’s price range. I have been known to make an exception but try and stick to this rule as much as possible. The other reason why I did not purchase the Secret Reserve was that they were all from the 2008 Shmitta year which I don’t buy unless I know exactly how they have been looked after and in what circumstances they were produced.
The Website
They have an informative website in Hebrew, English and Spanish.
I noticed a quite few English mistakes here and there but its valiant effort.
I loved the wonderful idea of adding links to most of their wines which open a PDF file containing a large photo of the bottle plus a flat version of the back label in English. If only all wineries would do this. I’ve taken snapshots of some of these PDFs and included them in my review as the bottles I bought were in Hebrew.
HechshirimKashrus Certification
Unlike their next door neighbour, Gvaot, who are content with just the local Binyamin region hechshir, Shilo Winery boasts Local Rabbanut Supervision as well as American OK and Badatz Chatam Sofer Bnei Brak.
I was particularly impressed with their statement on their website regarding Terumah and Ma’aser and they deserve high praise indeed:

Shiloh winery allocates First Tithe to a family of Levites with a long-standing tradition. On every third and sixth year, the winery allocates unmarked bottles for Tithing for the Poor, with the help of Social Services and reliable charity collectors.”


Now on to the wine reviews:


Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon Shor 2007.
The front label has an unpretentious elegance about it which tells us exactly what this is. A no nonsense, not overly expensive really descent bottle of wine. I liked the little touches on the bottle which connect the product to the Shiloh region. Very tasteful design and certainly not OTT unlike some other wineries in the same region.

The label informs us that this Cabernet Sauvignon has been matured in oak casks for 15 months.
We took this bottle out of the wine cooler, set for 14C and opened it without delay upon returning from Shul Friday night.( I was in a particularly good mood as the Shaliach Tzibur had not davaned Carlibach for a change and instead stuck to a traditional Kabolas Shabbos). We noticed straight away a lovely fresh spicy aroma emanating from the top of the bottle.
We waited around 10 minutes for my middle son to come home after chatting with his mates outside shul where upon we commenced with the traditional Shalom Aleichem, Aishes Chayil and the kid’s brochos. Now it was time for Kiddush. Smiling faces and very hungry we all made our way to the dining room table.
I poured the wine noting a dark clean blackcurrant red berry colour (more reminiscent of a Merlot) and that lovely fresh spicy aroma again. Kiddush was said slowly and regally and at last it was time to taste this Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a medium bodied, full flavour wine packed full of mixed forest berries plucked straight after a heavy rainfall. Underneath this though was an exhilarating taste of fresh leaves like myrtle or some other strongly aromatic plant and beneath that, a base of sweet hazelnut. This wine has incredibly silky smooth tannins which reminded me very much of the elegant style of its neighbour, Gvaot, only slightly lighter in body.

Without a doubt, this Shiloh is perfect for Kiddush. However you must also try it with food so if you have more than 4 or 5 at your table, be ready to open a second bottle to enjoy with your meal.

This particular Friday night, our hors d'oevre consisted of a Tuna salad with apples, spring onions, celery, lemon juice and mayonnaise. (I suppose you could call it a Waldolf salad where the walnuts are replaced by tuna). This was consumed with homemade wholemeal flour challa with sultanas baked with a glaze of eggs and sprinkled with garenim (sun flower seeds, shells removed obviously). Some wines with a heavier body would have drowned out the taste of the food. Not so with this wine. The Shiloh seemed to enhance the taste of everything, lifting the food to a higher level.

I confess that If this would have been a blind tasting then I would have said that this wine was a Cabernet / Merlot blend as I thought that I detected at least some influence of Merlot grapes. However there is no mention of any other grape on the back label so I have to conclude that I am wrong.
If I had to make one incy wincy criticism then it would be the aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong, the aftertaste was there but it could/should have been longer. Considering all those multiple layers of taste and aromas in this wine I’m surprised at the modest finale. Having said this, everyone at the table gave the big thumbs up for this one.

Since writing this review, we have downed a further three bottles of this stuff. What more proof do you need? Highly recommended!

Shiloh Chardonnay 2010
Although in general I really love the label designs of these Shiloh’s, I must admit to being a bit puzzled by the drawing of a silhouette of a fisherman with his rod in the water. Now, what’s that all about? Is it to tell us that the wine maker wants us to drink this with fish? That’s the only thing I can think of unless it’s some kind of inside joke?

Indeed, the back label does actually recommend this with grilled fish.

The back label further informs us that this wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Before coming across this Shloh, I had not found a 100% pure Chardonnay from the Shomrom Binyamin region which I would recommend. (The excellent Gvaot white which I reviewed previously doesn’t count as this was a blend of Chardonnay and (red) Cabernet Sauvignon).
We removed this Chardonnay from the wine cooler set at 14C and opened it just before Kiddush for Shabbos lunch.
The colour was a bright, almost luminous, yellow lemony green.
I poured the wine and my nostrils were met by a fresh tangy smell of green apples, pineapple and fresh oak.
Kiddush completed, I took a large mouth full and my taste buds were pleasured by an explosion of lemons, green apples, pineapples and kiwi. First the lemon and apples and then the kiwi, in that order. There was some creamy banana there as well. Underneath all this was a definite mineral water and mountain pebbles taste. Then came the lovely smooth, buttery, light fresh oak taste with more lemons, green apples and kiwi. A simply deliciously refreshing aftertaste and without a doubt, the best Chardonnay by far that I have tasted from this region. Yasher Koach Shiloh wines for a superb job!

A word of advice. Please do not drink this wine at too cold a temperature despite the label advising to serve it chilled. I am convinced that had we drunk this straight from the fridge then we would have missed out on all those exquisite layers of taste and texture. 14C to 16C is problably about right.

Last point. I've looked for this Chardonnay in all my usual places in and around Yerushalayim but have not found it anywhere. I managed to get another bottle only because I revisited Shiloh last week. If you happen to see it, don't pass it by.

Beautiful bottle, shame about the taste

Shiloh Rose 2007
I loved the bottle and label design on this one. Very unusual and artistic. It’s a shame that the wine was such a disappointment. Perhaps the Rose 2007 is already past it’s drinking date. Interestingly, the Rose was not listed on their website. Perhaps an experiment gone wrong?


We opened the bottle during the meal and were not impressed by the strong aroma of perfume. This was not the perfume of flowers but of an artificial chemical smell of Flower toilet air freshener. The colour was also somewhat artificial. It was a Rose colour but there was something wrong about it. Taste was bland with a slightly dry aftertaste. For comparison, we immediately opened a bottle of Teperberg 1870’s  “Efrat” White Zinfandel straight from the fridge costing a third of the price. Beautiful perfume of fresh flowers and fruit with a touch of peach. Deliciously refreshing taste with zero aftertaste but for NIS 25 a bottle, you don’t expect much from this. One thing’s for sure, it was immensely tastier than the Shiloh Rose.
Conclusions
Let’s ignore the Rose shall we and just consider the other two wines. Shiloh Winery does not produce the finest wines in Israel although they are up there with the best.  Having said that, due to their general seriousness when it comes to all the halachos (Jewish Law) of wine making, their excellent prices, their very attractive labels and most importantly of all, the fresh exciting taste and high quality of their wine, all combine to make Shiloh my current favourite winery.