A Tale of Two Wine Blends.

Ramat HaGolan (Golan Heights) Winery Yarden Mount Hermon Red 2009
Psagot "Edom" Blend 2009

The first time I tasted the Ramat HaGolan Mount Hermon Blend 2009 I thought it was a bit rough and ready. The back label informs us that this is a blend of Bordeaux Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes grown in rocky volcanic soil. The label does not mention that the blend went through any maturation process. Despite proudly displaying the “Yarden” insignia, which is the winery’s deluxe range, after the “Golan” and “Gamla” ranges, the cheap price of this blend betrays its humble status.

Pouring it out, it has a beautiful rich ruby red colour with a “alcoholicy” (is this a word?) fruity aroma. Initial taste is slightly acidic with plums and forest fruits with a slightly rough tannins aftertaste. Overall, there was a feeling that the blend was not balanced right. I’d described it then as a typical cheap “table wine” where not much thought had gone into it. OK with food but nothing special. In fact, I was slightly annoyed at the winery for using its deluxe range label for this wine which I considered a bit misleading.

However, that was back in 2009 when the wine was fresh out the stainless steel tanks. Around the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, a Metamorphosis took place. The ugly duckling became a swan! I happen to have had a spare bottle of 2009 lying about in a dark cupboard and opened it up one Friday night. I had to do a double take. Had I opened a Ramat HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 by mistake? I looked at the label again. As mentioned earlier, the label does not mention any particular maturation process in the barrel but I cannot believe that at least one of the wines within the blend did not spend at least some months in oak barrels.

Same ruby red colour but the bouquet was now of ripe plums and black cherries. Tasting notes: A Medium bodied rich taste of black berries, plums, cherries and other dark forest fruit and sweet black pepper corns. There was still a slight taste of that pure alcohol there but it really was very mild and only added to the delightful experience. Aftertaste was silky smooth, long and satisfying with absolutely no trace of rough tannins whatsoever.

For those who need proof that wine can mature and improve in the bottle, you must try this wine before they all disappear forever. Interestingly, whisky experts will tell you that once bottled, unless the whisky has been exposed to air, the whisky should not change its nature in the bottle, even after many years.

I found and bought another two bottles I happen to find at the back of the shelf in the supermarket, behind all the 2010 bottles. Same result. Just wonderful. I then went on a massive search, buying up every 2009 bottle I could get my hands on. There weren’t many of these bottles left it seems in the Jerusalem supermarkets as this wine was bought up fairly quickly after it was put on the shelves. I remember back in 2009 when these bottles were on sale for 4 bottles for NIS 100 just before Rosh Hashana. Oh how I wish I'd bought a few cases!

Last July when I was in the Golan Heights I intended to buy a case or two of the 2009 but alas they had all sold out. I spoke to my favourite person there, Lisa, originally  from Australia. She smiled and said that everyone at the winery had noticed as well. I asked if the same thing would happen to the 2010. She looked doubtful. She didn’t know, we would have to wait and see. She still insisted that I drink the remaining bottles as soon as possible yet I only opened a bottle last Friday and all the family agreed that it was superb with a taste of an aging process which defies belief.

Despite the fact that she said they had sold out of the 2009, I noticed in the corner that they had four bottles of “bloated ” 1 ½ litre Mount Hermon 2009 bottles. I asked if they were for sale and they said yes. They came up on the register as NIS 65 a bottle. Being that the 750 ml bottles sold for around NIS 35 this didn’t seem like a bad price. We opened one of the bottles in the tzimmer and it did not disappoint. The perfect accompaniment to a summer’s evening barbeque.

I thought I’d seen the last of this apparition but browsing the supermarket wine shelves in Harnof I picked up a Ramat HaGolan Merlot 207 to check the price and noticed to my amazement, five more of those bloated 1 ½ litre bottles of Har Hermon 2009 hidden at the back. I carefully took down the whole of the front row of the shelf in order to get to them and loaded my trolley with my treasure. The barcode reader returned a price of NIS 70 a bottle. Not bad. We’ve already drunk two of them and we’ll save the rest for Yom Tov. I’ll open them when we have at least 8 at the table so that we finish the bottle.

The 1 1/2 Litre bottles
If you can find them, prices should be around NIS 35 for the regular 750 ml bottle and NIS 70 for the 1 ½ litre bottle. An absolute bargain if you ask me.

Now to a completely different blend, aimed at a completely different market.

Psagot “Edom” red blend is described as a luxury blend with a luxury price tag to go with it.

From its Web site: http://www.psagotwines.com/

The community settlement of Psagot is located on the peaks of the Benjamin region mountains, 900 meters above sea level, east of the city of Ramallah, overlooking the Wadi Kelt basin, the Jericho Valley, the Dead Sea and the Edomite Mountains. On the eastern side of the settlement, facing the breathtaking scenery, the Berg family planted vineyards and orchards. In the course of working the ground, an opening was discovered which led the family to an amazing cave from the period of the Second Temple. The cave was part of an ancient array of caves, which according to one archaeological version, equates the location with the Biblical city of Ai, one of the cities conquered by Joshua bin Nun. Slightly above the cave, a second cave was discovered in which an olive press and wine press from the Second Holy Temple era were uncovered.

In the 1980s, the Berg family settled in Psagot. The father, Meir, an engineer and mathematician, planted vines for grape consumption and expanded the agricultural area to plant cherry and nectarine orchards. In 1998, he planted the first grape vineyard for wine production, 18 dunam of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The winery concept took root deeply within the son, Yaakov, and his wife Naama. In 2002, the winery was established by the young couple in the heart of the vineyard which had expanded, and it, too, grew. Today it stands on 40 dunam of wine vineyards owned by the Psagot Winery.

The ancient cave serves as a large wine barrel cellar next to impressive stainless steel tanks and other winemaking equipment. The wine passes from the stainless steel tanks to the oak wood barrels in the cave in which the wine is aged. The cave's cooling system rarely needs to be activated, as the naturally cool conditions preserve the constant temperature, which during the winter does not go below 12 degrees Centigrade, and during the summer does not rise above 18 degrees Centigrade. The natural humidity stands at 90%.

Their premier wine is called “Edom”, and is actually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Merlot (7%), Cabernet Franc (17%), Petite Verdot (15%) grapes and individually matured in oak barrels for 14 months.

They proudly announce that the wine has won the following awards:

Gold Medal Winner in the 2006 Golden Cluster competition
Gold Medal Winner in the 2006 Teravino competition.

How did I come by this wine? Well, my dear wife visited the winery as a part of a work day trip. After a short tour they arrived at the winery shop where upon she phone me and described what was on sale. We decided together to buy their bestselling “Edom” Blend 2009 (NIS 120) and a Cabernet Franc 2009 (NIS 95).

I wouldn’t usually have agreed to spend so much on a blended wine but my wife informed me that the saleswoman described it as something very special and quite unique. It’s true that it’s not every day you come across a deluxe blend.

The wine bottle and label itself is in my opinion, over the top and too touristy. Some people (namely the Americans) might be impressed with the replica ancient Israel coin glued to the front of the bottle which I suppose is designed to emphasize its deluxe branding. I thought it a bit tacky to tell the truth.

We opened the bottle last Friday night after returning from shul and let the wine breath through Shalom Aleichem, Eishes Chayil and the kid’s brochos. We then waited a further 10 mins while my daughter finished making a bowl of fresh salad.

We poured the wine into everyone’s glass and admired the dark plum red (almost prune juice) colour, typical of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Aroma was medium to heavy and of black berries in Oakwood and dry spices. Kiddush recited, I sat back and took the first swallow. Initial tasting was very promising. Black currents, forest berries, oak and spices coming through. A second swallow gave me more of the same but then the rough tannins hit my gums. It was definitely less than a regular Cabernet Sauvignon for sure but that would be expected being that it contains the other wines as well. However, comparing this with the Ramat HaGolan Mount Hermon 2009, the tannin was an unwelcome surprise.

After HaMotzi, we tried the wine again with some challa and chopped liver, egg and onion salad and the result was much better. Like a Cabernet Sauvignon, this is not really a wine suited for Kiddush.

Would I buy it again?
Probably not, at least not at its regular price.

For what you get, despite the impressive coin glued on the front of the bottle, it’s very overpriced. Edom is a pleasant enough table wine with food but sorry to say, not outstanding.

Second Thoughts:

After reading through my own review after publishing, I feel that I was a little unfair on Psagot. After all, it is a relatively new and very small family run boutique winery without the massive resources and experience of the Golan Heights Winery. Taking this into consideration, the wine shows great promise of even better vintages in the future and perhaps, being a deluxe blend, it could be that had I drunk this Edom 2009 say in another year after the tanning had calmed down a bit, I would have experienced something incredible. Who knows? I still have the Cabernet Franc 2009 which my wife bought at the same time as this bottle. I think I'll leave this one for another year and then let you know what I make of it. Stay tuned.


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