Ella Valley Wines
Ella Valley Pinot Noir 2005 NIS 119
Ella Valley Chardonnay 2007 NIS 69
Ella Valley is one of largest of the so called boutique wineries found in the Judean hills region with output of around 300,000 bottles a year with about 40% going for export. It is situated north of Beit Shemmesh inside Kibbutz Netiv Lamed Hei. There is a visiting centre open six days a week. Tours are in Hebrew but can be conducted in English with prior warning. Please phone 02-999-4885 for further details and booking.
|The Winery shop|
To quote from the website: http://www.ellavalley.com/en
“The Valley of Ella is well-known throughout the world as the place of the famous battle between David and Goliath. In fact, in ancient times, the valley was no less famous for its wines. The historical tradition involving vine growth and wine production, which was forgotten for hundreds of years, was revived in the last decade, thanks to the determination of a small group of visionaries. The opening of the Ella Valley Wineries brought back to the region a wine culture that was thousands of years old, with the help of 21st century tools and skills.”
I came across these wines being advertised on the Internet. After visiting a number of wine shops I finally tracked them down in a shop in Machaneh Yehuda. Most places stocked the Chardonnay but this was the only shop where I found the Pinot Noir for sale. In fact many expert wine shops even denied its existence, confidently telling me that Ella Valley did not do Pinot Noir and patronisingly insisting that I had confused Ella Valley with the Golan winery.
I finally tracked these wines down in a shop called "HaMismach" in Macheneh Yehuda, Rechov Agripas 64. It is a large shop selling a huge selection of Israel only wines plus the largest selection of Scotch whiskies and Single Malts I have yet seen in Yerushalayim.
Prices in the shop were the lowest I’ve yet seen by some NIS 20 a bottle. However, unlike specialist shops, the atmosphere was distinctly unfriendly. The men at the counters looked at me as if I was mad when I asked their opinion on a particular wine. I asked the salesman who appeared to be in charge (the owner?) a question regarding his whisky stock and received a rather aggressive evasive answer. This place is for those who know what they are looking for and definitely not for the casual browser. I concluded that it was a waste of time trying to have a conversation with the owner so went outside to ascertain the name of the shop for my blog report.
The road here in rechov Agrippas is very narrow yet the buses have all been rerouted here since the council banned the busses from rechov Yafo. Because of the market here, the pavement is packed with shoppers almost all day long with people overflowing or falling into the road. It is incredibly dangerous as the busses have no choice but to drive right up to the very edge of the pavement leaving no room for anyone who slips off at the wrong time. In my opinion, it’s a serious accident waiting to happen.
I tried to read the shop’s name above the window front but failed due to a sun canopy obscuring the letters. After looking very carefully I walked quickly into the road in order to look up and read the name from a few meters away but I was quickly shouted at by someone dressed in a uniform with a Jerusalem council badge, screaming at me to get back on the pavement. I did however catch a glimpse of the words on the shop front. It turned out to be an advert for a whisky I had never heard of.
I went back inside and asked one of the workers there who was busy packing bottles on the shelf, if he could tell me the name of the shop. He looked me up and down, saw the bag in my hand of the purchase I had just made and asked me why I wanted to know as if I had asked a very suspicious question. I needn’t have asked, the name of the shop was printed on the receipt!
As I said, they had a rather large stock of maybe as many as 30 different Single Malts. Prices for Single Malts were in the NIS 400 to NIS 1,000 price range (some 200% more than the price in the UK). Baruch Hashem I have a few friends in my kehilla who regularly travel to Chutz La’Aretz and can bring me back a bottle from the duty free. This keeps me well stocked.
Now to the tasting section.
We opened the Ella Valley Pinot Noir 2005 upon returning from Shul. The bottle informs us that the wine was hand picked at night and matured in French Oak barrels for 13 months.We let teh wine breathe for over 20 minutes as we had to wait for my son who was chatting with friends outside. I poured the wine into glasses and then we began Shalom Aleichem, Aishes Chayil and the brachos for the kids.
The initial aroma straight out the bottle was very promising. A slight waft of the oak barrel with fruity and muddy elements. No mistaking that this was a Pinot Noir! The colour however was disappointing. Seen against the white Shabbos table cloth, the colour looked a dark rusty brown, not the beautiful muddy red-black I was expecting.
Straight after Kiddush I began to drink the wine in two long swallows, holding the second in my mouth for a few seconds and swirling the wine around to analyse the taste.
First impressions were of a rather watery diluted taste like stream water with small pebbles and soaked wood. This was followed by a surprising fruity dryness and then a blast of unpleasant tannin which turned my gums to chalk. This was certainly not what I was expecting. We left the wine until after HaMotzi and then gave it a second try. With wholemeal challa, it was a lot more palatable with some stewed fruit notes coming out. We began to enjoy the wine with our hors d'oeuvre. I cannot comment any further on exact tastes as the home made challa contained “kimmel” (caraway seeds) which overpowered everything else. Perhaps the 2005 is already past its drinking date? Only trying a bottle from 2007 or 2009 will tell but at NIS 119 a bottle I won’t be performing that experiment any time soon.
Verdict: I so much wanted to like this wine but was sorely disappointed. Not enough flavour and too much tannin.
Shabbos lunch we opened the Ella Valley Chardonnay 2007. The aroma straight out the bottle was enchanting. Waves of lush peaches and bananas with ice cream with a touch of brandy poured over the top. Yummy. The back label infomed us that the wine had, like its red brother, had been hand picked at night and matuired in Oak barrels for 11 months.
Colour against the white Shabbos tablecloth was just what one would expect from a good Chardonnay. A rich yellow with no green at all. Tasting was even better. This was pure peach, melon and banana nectar. A deliciously creamy smooth refreshing taste with a touch of matured 15 year old brandy soaked oak notes and a long lasting fresh fruit satisfying aftertaste. The wine was not heavy in the slightest and the perfect kiddush wine for a warm Shabbos lunch.
It was simply glorious. In my opinion, this was just what an excellent Chardonnay is supposed to be like. We finished the bottle wanting more.
Verdict: Perfection in a bottle. We all loved it.