Tanya Halel Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 and Chardonnay Eliya Reserve 2007 review

Tanya Halel Pinot Noir Reserve 2007 NIS 100
Tanya Eliya Chardonnay Reserve 2007 NIS 100
After having already tried and loved the Tanya Halel Reserve Merlot 2007 and read a few very interesting  facts about this winery, (for instance, that the owner is a bit of an eccentric who lives in a cave and will only accept perfection at any price), I decided to search out and buy his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to try.
I eventually tracked both wines down to a huge and very well stocked wine shop called Geffen at 34 Beit Hadfus, Givat Shaul, Jerusalem. The store manager, David, was very helpful and seemed to be quite knowledgeable. However the business card he gave me stated that they had an internet site (www.geffenwine.co.il) but when I tried it, the site did not exist! Anyway, prices there are pretty good. For instance, they had a number of sales on including Ramat HaGolan’s Pinot Noir, NIS 130 for two!
If you have read my previous blogs then you would know that my favourite wine is based on the Pinot Noir grape and you would also know that there are few Israeli wineries that have had the guts to try and produce this wine and even fewer who have succeeded. So far, I have enjoyed only two Pinot Noirs. Every Ramat HaGolan vintage I have tried including the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 are all superb. Recently I reviewed the Gvaot Pinot Noir and thoroughly enjoyed this strawberry flavoured variety. I was intrigued to find out how Tanya winery would fare with this grape.
Regarding the Chardonnay, (as also mentioned in an earlier blog), I was speaking to a small vineyard owner about the Shomron region and he expressed his opinion that the region was not conducive to making white wine. However, after reading that Tanya strives for perfection I thought it worthwhile giving the Tanya Chardonnay a try.
The Geffen store was selling all Tanya Halel 2007 varieties for NIS 195 for two bottles. I phoned up a friend who agreed to take two bottles off my hands so I went and bought two bottles of Chardonnay 2007, one bottle of Pinot Noir 2007 and one bottle of Merlot 2007 giving the Merlot and one of the Chardonnays to her.
Both wines have the same three reliable hechshirim.
1. Machon L'Kashrus, HaRav Mordechai Ungar, New Square NY, U.S.A
2. “OK” Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, 391 Troy Avenue - Brooklyn, New York 11213
3. Local Certification by Rav Avraham Gisar, Ofra. Israel.

Tanya Halel Pinot Noir Reserve 2007

So, on Friday night, with great anticipation and expecting much, we opened the Pinot Noir 2007 and let it breath through Shalom Aleichem, Eishes Chayil, the kids brachos and a squabble which turned into a punching match between my two younger sons. Argument resolved, we came to the table and poured the wine.

For those who's Hebrew is less than perfect, here is a rough translation of the back label:

"This wine is made with Pinot Noir grapes grown in a vineyard unique in its cool climate and high altitude of a mountain ridge. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 20 months. Further aging in the bottle will contribute to the wine’s development and will enable it to reach its peak. Serving temperature is 18-20 degrees C. The wine has not been put through any filtering or shading processes."

The back label informs us that this Pinot Noir has spent a whopping 20 months in French oak barrels. It further recommends to serve the wine at between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius. Consequently I left the wine out on the Shabbos table to reach near room temperature before we went to shul. I estimate that the bottle was indeed around this temperature when we opened it.
Turning my wife’s glass at an angle of 45 degrees and looking at the colour against the white Shabbos tablecloth I observed a very murky dark rusty brown colour. This is rather an odd colour for a Pinot Noir.
The wine’s nose was light with a faint aroma of ripe black cherries but nothing much else.
Taste? It would not be true to say that this wine had overpowering rough tannins. It would be more accurate to say that this bottle of tannins had a slight taste of wine. My eldest son exclaimed that it was like stuffing a large dry cloth in your mouth. This is exactly what this wine tasted like. It was pretty much undrinkable. A complete waste of money. I’d like to ask someone if a wine like this, if kept for long enough would eventually calm down sufficiently so that it becomes drinkable or even enjoyable?

If this is the case then the winery, who obviously taste their wines before bottling ought to print on the bottle something like:
“Store on its side in a cool place for at least X years before opening.”
To be fair, the back label does say that the wine will benefit from a bit of aging in the bottle but it does not specify for how long or indeed whether they recommend not opening the wine until after a certain amount of months/years.
Conclusion: A bitter wine and even bitter disappointment after spending so much money. Perhaps if one has the money to spare, it might be interesting to try this wine again after a few years. By all means, if you see this wine on offer, buy it but whatever you do, don’t drink it now in 2011/2012!

Tanya Eliya Chardonnay Reserve 2007

We opened the Chardonnay for morning Kiddush. The back label incredibly in my opinion, tells us to open this wine at between 8 degrees and 12 degrees Celsius. 8 degrees??? That’s really cold! You would drink a dessert wine like a sweet Muscat at this temperature but not a delicate Chardonnay, surely?  One would only drink whisky or wine at such a low temperature if the intention is to dull down the over powering either sweet or bitter flavour. For instance, Johnny Walker Black Label blend is designed for the American market that enjoys putting ice in their whisky. The scotch will show a sweet barley flavour even at low temperatures but just try drinking this straight and it will taste bitter. Likewise, try drinking a brandy matured Muscat at room temperature and it will taste like sickly syrup.

Sweet Muscat. Drink chilled.

I ignored the recommendation because it just didn’t make any sense and opened the Tanya Chardonnay at around 15 degrees Celsius. Cold enough to be refreshing but not cold enough that it masks the subtle flavours, textures and layers.
The label tells us that this wine spent 10 months in French Oak barrels so you would expect at least a hint of wood flavour and smell.
The colour was a typical Chardonnay yellow. Smelling the wine after swirling it for a few seconds in the glass exposed delicate subtle aromas of tropical fruits and cream.
Tasting the wine uncovered a light taste of slightly milky unidentified tropical fruits but where was the wood? Had the label told me that the wine had been kept in stainless steel tanks I would have believed it. It was pleasant enough but with no aftertaste to speak of. Utterly forgettable.

Golan Heights Yarden, Organic and Katzrin Chardonnays

There was nothing unpleasant about the Tanya but is was simply lacking flavour and body. Don’t forget that this wine cost NIS 100! In contrast, the superb Ramat HaGolan (Golan Heights) “Yarden” range, whether the Katzrin, Organic or standard Yarden Chardonnays (costing less than this one) are frankly in a different (higher) league. Actually, truth be told, the Ramat HaGolan “Gamla” (their middle range) is far superior to this Tanya at half the price.

Gamla Chardonnay

The Golan Heights Chardonnays possess smooth deep creamy flavours of ice cream eaten with a wooden spoon, bananas, melon, peach, lemon and more. In comparison, this Tanya Chardonnay was two dimensional and boring. In my opinion, the Tanya compared very favourably with the Ramat HaGolan budget “Golan” range costing around a third of the price of the Tanya.
Budget Chardonnay and very good value

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with these wines. After enjoying their Merlot so much I was hoping these would be of equal quality. What a shame.


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