Gvaot Herodion Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Domain Netofa Rose 2009

It has become increasingly common that at least one and sometimes more of our kids are away for Shabbos. As we had the unusual situation of having a full complement of children this Shabbos, I decided to celebrate with some special wines. So another walk to the wine shop "Yayin Ismach" on 3 Yaakov Meir Street last week was in order.

I started off there having a nice chat with the salesman about Islay Single Malts as he was selling a Bowmore and Laproig. He admitted not knowing anything about Single Malts so I offered to tell him something about the different whiskies found on Islay which I think he appreciated. Then it was time for him to give me some advice about wines.

My criteria were as usual, a bottle of red for Kiddush Deorisa (Friday night) and a bottle of white/Rose/Blush for Kiddush DeRabanan (Shabbos morning). The wine had to be from Eretz Yisrael and not from the Ramat HaGolan winery as I wanted to get some knowledge of other, smaller Israeli wineries.

If you have read my previous wine blogs then you will know that we experimented with Teperberg wines last time with, I must say, mixed results from my family. The main criticism from my kids was that the Teperbergs had an overpowering taste and smell of damp musky cellars.

When I told the salesman this he laughed. He told me that many Israelis like this musky style but he personally didn’t know what the attraction of this style was. So, having established that we were on the same wavelength, I asked him for his recommendations.

He pointed me straight away to the Gvaot “Herodion” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 for Friday night. This wine is matured in new French oak cask for 12 months. He explained that it did have a slightly woody taste but unlike the Teperberg, it was not overpowering and for a young wine it showed great complexity. The wine had also recently won the Terravino Israel’s Wine and Spirit Gold Award 2010. I decided that this was definitely worth a try.

For the second wine he directed me to one of the only true Rose wines that are produced in Israel. This Domain Netofa Rose 2009 had a very enticing colour and seemed just the ticket for Shabbos lunch.

Let’s start with the Gvaot “Herodion” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. A rather old fashion wine label here. Too much gold and hanging grapes makes it look kitschy in my opinion. It seems to me that the smaller the winery, the more they try and impress with fancy labels. This is a mistake and may actually put potential buyers off. Ironically the larger wineries use simpler elegantly understated label designs which I believe are more attractive to the wine buyer in this price range.
To side track for a moment. The Israel Postal Service make the same mistake with their stamp designs. They try too hard to impress with overly complex designs and too much detail crammed into what is after all, a little piece of paper. The result is a clutter of confusion which makes the stamp look cheap. The British Philatelic Bureau is not perfect, having produced some awful designs in the past (noticeably the Millennium 2000 sets for example) but most of the time they get it right. The simple, understated designs transmit a sense of confidence. Where wine is concerned, this is what will encourage the buyer to hand over his or her credit card.

Which designs do you think are more impressive?

Back to this Cabernet Sauvignon. Gvaot describes itself as a boutique winery that first starting producing only a few years ago.

I would suggest that Gvaot invest in an English site as well as their Hebrew one. http://www.gvaot-winery.com/. They are situated in the beautiful hilly Shomron region in the heart of Israel, between Eli and Shiloh.They produce around 12,000 bottles a year which makes them rather small. It is this region where we Jews used to make wine some 2,500 years ago and I am particularly proud that people of Gvaot have come back to their Jewish wine routes so to speak. I wish this winery much success and hope that it expands so that more can experience what this winery has to offer.

We opened the bottle letting it breath for 15 minutes before pouring and then let it sit in the glass for another few minutes. Initial aromas were very promising. A rather fresh young berry aroma with a hint of the wet wood and spices. Young Cabernet Sauvignons can have an unpleasant ruff edge about them before they settle down. This bottle seemed as if it had matured early but still retaining a youthful freshness. Colour was a good clear and clean dark black berry. Initial tasting was positive. Obviously I was expecting that ruff aftertaste you commonly get when tasting Cabernet Sauvignons on an empty stomach and that roughness was present but only slightly. We let the wine settle down while we prepared the hors d'oeuvres and then washed for HaMotzi. After having some of my daughter’s delicious homemade whole meal challa in our stomachs, we again tasted the Gvaot “Herodion”. Ummmm, greatly improved! I rounder more complex taste of fresh fruits of the field came out with a touch of dry cinnamon and coriander and that always present hint of damp wood. I was disappointed however that the roughness had not dissipated as much as I would have hoped it would but after all, we were tasting this wine only 2 years in the bottle. Holding the wine in the mouth revealed some fresh cut grass flavours followed by a slight sugarless chocolate (not bitter but not sweet).

Compared to the Teperberg, the Gvaot was more fruity, lacking that heavy whisky spirit alcohol flavour that is so noticeable in the Teperberg. I personally like a wine to taste like a wine and a whisky to taste like a whisky. I’m boringly straight like that. That’s why I don’t like Balvenie Single Malt that pretends to be a wine brandy and I am less than impressed with Teperberg’s full blasting cask matured whisky style wines.

Verdict: A competent Cabernet Sauvignon showing a lot of promise and drunk too early by us. Had I had the money, I would have bought another bottle to open in two or three years’ time. I have no doubt that this wine will benefit greatly from spending a few years in a wine fridge at around 14 degrees. Definitely worth coming back to this one in a few years. Price: NIS 120

Now to the Domaine Netofa Rose 2009. According to the back of the bottle, this Rose is a blend of Syrah and Mouredre grapes. This brand new winery is situated on the hillside of Nachal Tavor in the Lower Galilee. Slightly bigger production wise than Gvaot, they produce some 25,000 bottles a year but maybe geographically smaller as they share the wine making facilities with other wineries in the area.

The label is very small French village in style which is not a criticism. It transmits a homely “local” intimate image. The thing that strikes you most is the delightful y pleasing colour of this Rose. It is simply gorgeous, conjuring up romantic images of late summer sunsets and sitting out in the courtyard, in front of the fields, eating a freshly cooked French style dinner. I don’t know. Warm French bread, begets, freshly grilled salmon in herbs, mushrooms and pasta. That type of thing.

After returning from shul, we took the wine out of the fridge and opened it. After five minutes we poured the wine into our glasses, sitting there for a few minutes while my family gradually made it to the table. I have to admit I was surprised at how dry this Rose was. I was expecting something sweeter. It had a subtle peach flavor with a light alcohol spirit taste and only a hint of wood. Holding the wine in the palette for a while brought out some fresh aroma of flowers with a light perfumed fruity but dry finish.

I enjoyed it but my family was less impressed. They would have preferred it to have been sweeter. They of course were comparing this with the Teperberg’s Efrat Zinfandel Blush which is Semi-Sweet and my wife’s favourite. This is an unfair comparison however as they are very different wines. I would have preferred it to have had less of that alcohol spirit taste and more of the light nectarine or peachy flavor. I’d give it 10/10 for effort, 10/10 for its superb colour and presentation and 8/10 for overall taste. Still, its early days yet and I expect and hope this winery to only grow from strength to strength. I’d think about buying another bottle for a summer picnic. Price: NIS 60


  1. I don't know about the wines, but the presentation is gorgeous...


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