Bravdo Karmei Yosef Chardonnay and Ramat HaGolan Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay

This past Sukkos we opened a lot of wines so I hope to put up on my blog quite a few wine reviews and Sukkah photos in the next few days.
However, I thought I’d start with two Chardonnays selling for exactly the same price.
Bravdo Chardonnay 2010
Ramat HaGolan Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay 2007
First, the Bravdo Chardonnay 2010
Price in Machane Yehuda: NIS 99
For Sukkos morning we opened what we thought would be a spectacular Chardonnay. At least, the back label of this wine would have you believe.
Bravdo is another one of these small boutique Shomrom wineries in the heart of the vineyards at Karmei Yosef on the western slopes of the Judean Mountains

The red "wax" medal is just visible on the left hand side

The Bravdo label reminds me of something but I just cannot put my finger on it. A White label with gold frame, squiggly writing and a funny red disc or medal type stamp stuck half on the label and half off. Now where have I seen this before?
Let’s do Google with the search string “French Wines” and see what we get.
Well what do you know? White labels, gold frames, squiggly writing and medal type stamps stuck on the sides of or above the labels!
Hmm? Is Bravdo trying to impersonate someone? Aspirations are one thing. Pretentiousness is another.
This puffed up self-importance continues with the tone of the writing on the back of the bottle. What haughtiness! It sounds so pompous it could almost be a parody of a wine expert showing off.

A rough translation of the back label (which really does not do justice to the hoighty-toighty style of language used) is as follows:
Bravdo wines are the result of the cumulative expert knowledge of Prof. Ben Ami Bravdo, chairman of the board of experts of the World Umbrella Organisation for grapevine and wine, and Professor Oded Shosayov, international and world renowned expert on wine making processes.
The vineyards and the winery are owned by the Arkin and Shosayov families and are situated on the west slope of the Judean Hills.
This wine is created with a unique process that enhances/intensifies the aroma of the fruit at vintage time. Two thirds of the wine was fermented in new oak casks, half of them French and the other half American. The wine was matured with yeast in order to obtain that classic "buttery" chardonnay flavour. After 3 months the wine from the casks are combined with the third of the wine that had previously gone through a cold fermentation process with no barrel contact [Ed note: put simply, he means that they kept a third of the wine in a stainless steel tank], to obtain wine with a fruity emphasis in the best tradition of Bravdo wines. There are only 8000 bottles in this series.”
Well, doesn’t that sound impressive!? Unfortunately, the wine was dreadful!
We opened the bottle from the wine cooler which was set to 14 C.
My daughter brought the bottle to the table in our Sukkah and it sat there for around 15 minutes after which I poured the wine into the glasses in preparation for the Festival Kiddush.
The first thing we noticed was that the colour was all wrong having a pale yellowy green look. It looked more like a Sauvignon Blanc.
Looking at the wine there were bubbles settling at the bottom of the glass which was not a good sign. The wine was not supposed to be sparkling.
Smelling notes:  A strange unidentifiable stale smell, totally devoid of any fruity character.
Tasting notes: There was an immediate unpleasant fizziness on the tongue. The buttery taste so boasted about on the label was nowhere to be found. It left the tongue feeling slightly furry and dry as if all the fruity sweet taste had been extracted. YUCK!
Doing a Google for this phenomenon, I came across a Wine site where someone was complaining that their Chardonnay had small bubbles at the bottom and it tasted dry and slightly sour. The expert concluded that the winery had messed up either the amount of yeast or the filtering process or both. The expert explained that if there was too much yeast in the bottle then it would eat up the sugar and eventually turn the wine sour and fizzy. How ironic being that the label boasts that the makers are world renowned experts.

Adding yeast in the wine making process

My first thought was that I shall certainly think twice before buying anything from this winery again. However, A few days later I was speaking to a friend from my shul who makes wine in his back garden about our experience with this wine.  He was of the opinion that the climate in the Shomron area was totally unsuitable for white wines and he would not recommend buying any white wine from this region. The Shomron is capable of producing excellent Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Syrahs but not Chardonnays! I listened to his words. If I see one of Bravdo's reds in the future I won't reject it out of hand. Everyone deserves a second chance.
OK, so now in total contrast...The Ramat HaGolan Yarden Katzrin range Chardonnay 2007

For Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah kiddush after all the wonderful Hakafos in shul (dancing with the Sefer Torah), we were in the mood for a very special white wine. After consultation with my daughter, we decided to open a bottle which I’ve been holding back for a special occasion. A Ramat HaGolan Yarden Katzin Chardonnay 2007.
The Katzrin range is the winery’s finest range. The winery’s standard is fantastically high even for their medium range Gamla series so these Katzrins had to be something really special, the one where even this winery pulls out all the stops. I can tell you now that it did not disappoint and in fact exceeded in our extremely high anticipation and expectations. In my opinion, this is the ultimate, the champion of Israeli Chardonnays!

Our initial motivation for opening this superb Katzrin was fourfold. One, I felt that I wanted to send the last seuda of the Sukkos season off with a real bang. Two, the wine was from 2007 and I thought this was getting a bit old for a white wine and felt that if I left it any longer it may be past its drink by date and that would be a shame. Three, we wanted to make up for the horrid experience of the Bravdo a few days before.
As for the fourth reason. We really live in our Sukkah. We bring the dining room table into our temporary home, along with the arm chairs and candle sticks. And of course, at night we sleep in there under the schach. After spending a whole glorious week in the Sukkah, saying farewell to it and returning to the living room for the seuda is a little sad. I thought we could do with some cheering up.

Enjoying a whisky with a friend. (Face blanked out to respect his privacy)
 Actually, I should have paid more attention to the back label which said that optimum drinking would occur between 4 and 8 years after bottling date. So as it turned out, we were opening this bottle at the very start of its glory period, not the end! (I think we would have opened it anyway even if I had read this before hand).The back label informs us that the wine had been matured in French oak barrels for 9 months. (Interestingly, the 2005 vintage of the same wine states 10 months).

As I spent so much time talking about the label of the Bravdo, I should at least say something about this one.

The label is unpretentious, elegantly simple and functional, telling you on the label exactly what to expect inside. It is a minimalist’s dream. The beautiful oil lamp symbol, immediately recognisable as the Golan Heights winery, finishes off what is an excellently designed label.

We opened the bottle from the wine cooler set to 14 degrees celcius and let it breath for around 15 minutes before pouring.
Colour was a rich dark yellow, almost brandy like.
Smelling Notes. This wine was like a gorgeously smooth and sophisticated Speyside type Single Malt (sweet and fruity) but wine based instead of barley based. I’m not that familiar with brandies but perhaps a better description would be a fruity smooth matured brandy? There was a stout but absolutely not overbearing aroma of matured wood. There were aromas of various fruits. Banana, pineapple, honey dew melon, glazed orange peel. Yes, Lots of orange peel. Mouth watering and simply glorious.
Tasting Notes:  This is a wine to chew, roll around in the mouth and hold there before swallowing. Butter notes? You are talking the finest Danish unsalted white warm creamy butter! The taste is delicate yet pronounced, matured and elegant with rich banana, honey dew melon and pear flavours. Holding the wine in your mouth brings out a further layer of apples, lemon drink without the sharpness, succulent ready to eat fresh pineapple and caramelised orange peel. Aftertaste was brandy sweet and satisfying.
I bought this bottlefor NIS 99 at the winery in 2010. If I manage to find another bottle of Katzrin Chardonnay I shall keep it for another two years before opening it just to see whether it’s at all possible that this wine can improve even further as the label claims. Unlike some wine labels, I trust that if the experts at Ramat HaGolan winery state something, you can pretty much rely on it.


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