“Give me a bowl of wine. In this I bury all unkindness”
“A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine”
Henry IV Part 2
Shakespeare weaves wines wonderfully, doesn’t he?
I’ve had a wine-ful couple of weeks, oh yes, I really have. The funny thing is, I was so busy, I didn’t even think (or have the energy) to jot down extensive notes. What you’re going to get here is an enthusiastic summary of some of my adventures, and adventures they always are when you have marathon wine sessions.
IsraWinExpo – an underling’s perspective
Held once every two years, this is undoubtedly the largest and most important wine event held in Israel. For three days, industry folk, journalists, and important beverage import/export reps from around the world meet Israel’s wineries. In the evenings, the general public is admitted to this massive dream of a national oenological “fashion show.”
In other words — it’s important, it’s intense, and it’s really fun.
Day 1 – I worked the afternoon-to-night shift at the Galil Mountain Winery “booth,” if you can call it that. Wineries spend a lot of money on their setup design, like a mini movie set or theatre design. The first day is open to industry only — and I can tell you, it’s a lot more fun to work with this crowd. No annoying folks with no wine knowledge looking to get drunk (“hey, you got some red wine?”).
We served 11 out of Galil’s 14-wine collection, including the 3 flagship wines – a really wide and generous variety. The 2006 Yiron, the well-known flagship of flagships, was understandably a favorite. Every year the winemaker tweaks the percentages – the 2006 is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 5% Syrah – aged 16 months in new French oak barrels. The newbie of the bunch bunch got rave reviews — the 2006 Meron — 78% Syrah, 11% Cab, 11% Petit Verdot, and also aged 16 months in new French oak. If people demanded the Yiron, I almost always got them to agree to taste the Meron as well. I predict that within a year or two it will be as well regarded and popular.
The other Galil wine I’d like to tell you about is the 2009 Rose. Not many are made in Israel, and of those that are, I think many are semi-dry (at least the ones I’ve fallen upon). Ours is very very dry. Exceptionally aromatic, flowery, inviting, it’s crisp, fresh, and has a well-balanced acidity. I’m not a real expert here, but I love that I can identify and enjoy what I sense is a strawberry flavor. I’m always interested in how wines are made, and granted that making rose is not as clear cut as making a straight white or red wine, a while ago I looked into how this is done. If memory serves, there are three main rose methods:
- The first (and the least legitimate/accepted) is blending a red and white wine together.
- When using a red varietal, leaving the skins in for a short while during fermentation (as little as a few hours), then removing them entirely. You get some rosy color, and then the wine usually continues fermenting/aging in the method of a white wine.
- As a byproduct of making a red wine – fermentation of red varietals begins, and a little ways into the process, some of the liquid is drained out, pinkish in color, of course, to be used as rose. The rest continues normally to create a red wine.
Galil’s Rose is interesting (or maybe not, as I’m not too well-versed in world roses). Made with Sangiovese (the bulk, around two-thirds), Barbera, and Pinot Noir — only the Barbera and Pinot Noir give the wine its color. The Sangiovese grapes are crushed immediately, separated from the skins, and fermented in the method of a white wine. The Barbera and Pinot are bled (saignee), and a small bit drained from the bulk of what is destined to become red wine. The white Sangiovese and the pink Barbera and Pinot are fermented separately. I’m wondering how common this method is. Will have to look into it at a later time. What I do know is that Galil does not put out a Sangiovese. All they grow must go into the Rose.
The Golan Heights Winery, my other winery, pulled out all the stops. Such a beautiful display — they mounted dozens of barrels, lay down a granite brick flooring, and hung three antique chandeliers. I was so busy I didn’t have a lot of time to hang there — but I was smuggled some 2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon and one of my favorites — a 2003 Katzrin Chardonnay. I do love my oaky buttery barrel aged whites. The older the better.
Day 2 – I had an even more hectic and more exciting day helping out with private tastings. The international sales reps and PR folk of Golan Heights Winery and the Galil Moutain Winery (its daughter winery) had round the clock individual meetings with distributors and journalists. My task was to keep track of more than 20-30 different kinds of wine, make sure they weren’t corked or spoiled, have them at the correct temperatures, and present them in order during the meetings. This was more than a bit of a roller coaster ride for me. Highlights/lowlights include:
- Having less than a half our to chill 5 premium white wines, dessert wines, and our best sparkling wine — including the time it took me to locate ice!
- Dealing with a couple potentially very very slightly off bottles — had to defer to head vintner to make the decision b/c I was unsure — scary! — but it turned out I was correct, so I don’t feel so bad.
- Rushing around assisting two different people in simultaneous interviews — one organized and very demanding (12+ wines for a 40 minute session), one very scattered and hence had to try to mind-read.
- Being flirted with by slightly creepy older American southerners — heads of beverage companies, mind you — and having to keep a straight and professional and even pleasant demeanor.
- Getting to taste each and every Galil Yiron from the first vintage to the present. Getting to taste every wine that I wanted from the dozens I had ready and available, actually.
- Taking some prominent people through the entire flight during my free time. Just because.
- Meeting and speaking with really interesting and accomplished wine writers (!), including Blake Gray, who was really nice and a pleasure to kibbitz with. We had remembered each other from the day before at the public tastings as we both wear red red glasses.
- Having 5 bottles stolen from my huge lot of 6+ cases while I was running around — a miracle/disappointment for me that I even noticed, as I had just packed the boxes up at the end of the day, and was hence able to recognize gaps where there were none before. Felt horrible, but the winery told me it wasn’t my fault, it was a microscopic drop in the bucket, and not to worry about it. Makes you angry at humanity for a moment, though.
- Not knowing what to do with the remainder of what I know are exceptionally expensive bottles (for Israel) that were only 15-40% drunk. I finally told a girl who worked with the sponsoring body — the Israel Export Department (or something) — that there was a whole case of half-drunk bottles, and to please take and distribute to the workers as she wanted. She thankfully jumped at the opportunity, and hence my heart was happy.
And I think I’ll stop here. This has turned into a mega-post, and I congratulate all of you who have kept up with me. I hope you were able to attend the Expo, and for those who didn’t, keep your calendar open for 2012. It’s such a fun time. I’d love to hear about your impressions, too, so drop a line.