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Posts Tagged ‘Yarden’

LOOT! The extreme smörgåsbord brought to me by my father on his current visit. An odd variety of smoked salmon, gourmet pancake & scone mixes, and a "limited edition" Christmas pudding from Harrod's, made with vintage Port and contained in a velvet box - it cost more than many of my monthly bills

Today, the last day of 2011, is a Saturday.  What a year.  I’ve not blogged in a while, as has been the recent trend, not that I’ve not been collecting material.  So, it’s a great time to share a review of recent, and not so recent events, as some of them are quite awesome.  As for the year to come?  Well… that’s for another post, but I suspect I’ll be reading more classic literature, traveling more, and studying for a wine certification…I hope.  Enjoy the photos!

March - June: Alkalai Wine Bar, I lived in Bourgogne-wine-land every day

WINE: I transformed my career, somehow, with luck, with some concrete planning, with hard work. I went from an online marketing/editing/PR drifter and hopeless fiction writer, who worked part-time doing wine tastings, to a wine bar sommelier and cook, to an invitee representing the winery in a French exhibition, to a full-fledged winery employee.  I’m proud of myself for going for something I wanted and succeeding.  You never know what was entirely based on chance, but I know that whatever had happened, I would be working full-time in wine at this moment, whether at the winery or a restaurant or a hotel.  I learned how to leave a job I hated, work hard, ask for help (which was not easy), and ask for what I wanted (which may have been even harder).  I love my new job.

Christmas Day: Katzrin, Israel. Visit to the winery. I'm pouring our Yarden Heights Wine 2009, a Gewurtztraminer ice-wine-style dessert wine. Yummy.

Christmas: Yonatan vineyard, Golan Heights. Organic Cabernet Sauv.

TRAVEL: Hmm… where did I go…  Bordeaux, Paris, Giverny (in Normandie), Chicago, Kauai… I changed planes in Amsterdam, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles – though those aren’t supposed to count… and that’s it.  Fantastic adventures…but not as far and wide a selection of places as in years past.  I was very privileged in these, however.  They really were incredible trips.  Wine, food, laughter, hard work, hard play, art, beautiful weather – always – and especially the interesting people that I traveled with and met along the way. (on an interesting side note – after having been featured on an American Travel Channel television show, I was recognized all over the world, by random people, some of who plotzed and took photos with me and my sister).

June: the legendary Shakespeare & Co bookshop, Paris. Incredible book reading, and I met and spoke with author Nathan Englander, who graciously signed my book, in Hebrew and English. Extraordinary last day in Paris

April & June, Tel Aviv & Bordeaux: OYSTERS! Huitres!

FOOD: I cooked less this year, but ate just as heartily.  Perhaps too heartily.  The most typical New Year’s resolution may be in order for me this year.  From scrummy wine bar fare like prosciutto & Parmesan, fatty French cheese platters, and freshly steamed Thai dumplings; to oysters, foie gras, chestnut creme crepes,  Armagnac ice cream, crisp lemon squid, a simple Chateaubriand steak I’ll remember for a long time, more hearty soups than I can remember, and much much more.

March: squashing tomatoes with my bare hands for shakshuka at the wine bar

KAYAKING: an odd adventure sport I picked up and stuck with.  I suppose I needed some more exotic expensive exercise-induced adrenaline in my life.  Begun as a crazy lark in Hawaii (the Na Pali coast is rated the #2 adventure to take part in by National Geographic), I was thrilled and proud I survived the craziness, I decided to roll with the momentum and immediately join a kayak club in Tel Aviv.  It’s been interesting, and terribly challenging.  It has added another dimension to this ever-changing life.  It has also added  painful dark bruises to my legs and arms every week, and taken a large chunk out of my paycheck for water-tight clothing.  Oh well.  Life.  Better to go for it than to sit on the sidelines.

August: Kauai, Hawaii - kayaking the Na Pali coast

December: Rosh HaNikra, Israel - border of Lebanon - inside the deep caves

December: my kayak club with the Israeli navy

AND let’s end the year with some videos!  Going along with the title of this post, Tom Lehrer wrote some excellent songs that still ring true today.  In honor of all of the revolutions this year, in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya. In remembering all of the precarious situations that remain, Iran, North Korea, the Euro-zone crisis, the upcoming American elections, the environment going to hell, flu, honeybees dying out, and Israel practically becoming a misogynist theocracy, and of course the future of my physical, mental, and especially social fitness.  Let us hope, but more importantly, let us work hard for a better year and a safer, happier world.  And here’s some laughs and satire for us all.

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Fabulous clothing and shoes, wine stains and crushed toes.  So the game goes.

Talking to wine writers at the Golan Heights Winery stand at Sommelier 2011

Israel and wine, newsworthy topics both, best when paired.

The Sommelier Exhibition 2011 has come and gone, and it was fast, busy, exciting, exhausting, and over as soon as it began.  We at the Golan Heights Winery featured the 2008 Vintage – including 3 new single vineyard wines that were released this week, timed with the event: the Merlot from the Kela vineyard; the Syrah from the Tel Phares vineyard; and the Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed El Rom vineyard.  We also introduced the Gamla Syrah 2009 (English),  the newest addition to the Gamla series, a long time in the works – brilliant magenta color, vibrant fruity aroma bordering on the confectionary (and I mean in the best possible way), and such a fun wine it is.   The jazzy new 2008 Yarden 2T, a blend of two Portuguese varietals Turiga Nacional and Tinta Cao, was also a huge hit – lighter bodied yet complex, something we Israelis are not used to… and should be a great pleasure to get to know.

In other fascinating wine news, I read this interesting piece on 8 Budget-Friendly Destination for Wine Lovers. Ever thought of going to Thailand for a tour of wine country?  Umm… never.  But for $50 a tour, $5 a bottle, and a hotel for $15, your plane ticket is your largest expenditure (which frankly, is not small potatoes, but we’ll ignore that).  Apparently it’s brilliant fun to see Thailand’s 3 wine-growing regions that are able to harvest twice annually because of the wet and hot climate.  All the others I’d heard of and have actually considered.  Hungary (Tokaj – now why in the world wouldn’t I?) and Cyprus (fascinated by Greek-Turkish wines – millenia-old traditions) especially.

OK – on the bizarre, awesome, I-never-would-have-thunk-it, front, a Japanese comic book (the genre is known as Manga), all about wine – “Drops of God.”  First published in 2004, it’s been translated into English, and it’s brilliant and fascinating.  Wine Manga.  Wow.  It was a smash hit in France, a sensation in South Korea, and it introduced wine culture to large parts of Asia.  Check out the article and the Wikipedia page.  I’m buying this.

Otherwise – I’ve been working and kayaking and that’s about it.  Mostly working.  And consuming junk food, cucumbers, and tuna fish sandwiches.  Ah life.  And wine, don’t forget the wine.  My teeth turned an absurd shade of nasty smeared blackish purple over the past two days at the exhibition (not because I drank, god forbid while I work, at least not much) but because I was designated taster for most of the time – testing for oxidized and corked wines.  Thank goodness for baking soda.

And to close, a beautiful Ernest Hemingway quotation I stumbled upon today:

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.

 

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Come one, come all!  From tonight, Saturday May 21 to Saturday May 28, the Golan Heights Winery is presenting their incredible yearly wine extravaganza at the port of Tel Aviv.   There will be 6 separate themed bars, and each cost only around 30 shekels to sample all four (or more) wines featured there.

All of the information online about the fest is in Hebrew.  However, it’s going to be fantastic.  The winemakers themselves are going to be there.  We’re opening top-end wines that are not yet on the market.  There are free workshops every night.  Blind tastings.  The works.

Day 1 was incredible! I got to open a Yarden Rom. That's right. Rom.

Basically, be there or be square.  You can come for 20 minutes, you can come for 4 hours.  It’s simple.  As it’s free to get in (it’s at the namal, after all), you can pick and choose exactly which of the 6 experiences you’d like to have.  Starts at about 7 pm every night (except Shabbat, when it’s after Shabbat ends, around 8 pm).

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Whether I like it or not, accept it or not, it’s what it is.  I’m working myself to death.  Much of the time I like what I do, but there is a good deal of time I dislike what I do.  The fact that I average 3-4 hours sleep, the fact that my university and creative work is suffering, the fact that I never see my friends – that is depressing.  And why am I writing about my misery (is it misery?) on this blog?  Well, I haven’t written in a while, and I know that when I force myself to write, I feel better, and I achieve a bit more order.  In fact, I only have about ten minutes to write right now.  Perfect.  Spitting it out.

Wine Update

Dixie – This fantastic top-rated Tel Aviv restaurant (near Azrieli – Yigal Alon 120) is hosting its annual Wine Festival in collaboration with the Golan Heights Winery and the Galil Mountain Winery.  You will find me there every lunch hour between today (well, I just finished my shift) and the 21st of May.  They are selling wines by the glass that just never get opened because they are so rare and expensive, as well as very popular wines at incredible discounts.  There is also a wine shop at the front of the store where you can buy these wines for prices lower than you can find at most wine shops.  So – for incredible meat (it’s a fantastic steak house, burgers, gourmet meat everything kind of place), and the best wine deals in town this week, head to Dixie.  To entice you, there is the Yarden Merlot from the organic vineyard Odem, available by the glass.  Brilliant wine.  Also the ever-popular and gorgeous Yarden Gewurtztraminer.

Piedmont MonthAlkalay (Alkalay 1, corner of Hashla, Basel Square), the wine bar/store at which I work is celebrating a month of wines from Piemonte, a region in northwest Italy, perhaps the very best growing region there is.  The three red varietals are Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo.  We’ve got them all, including some fantastic Barolos and Barbarescos (if you’ve got a few hundred to shell out).  BUT there are several bottles of great stuff at great prices, 30-50 shekels per glass.  I especially love the Maria Gioana from Fratelli Giacosa, a spicy deep single vineyard Barbera, as well as a white wine, the first Cortese of Gavi I’ve ever drunk.  It is so flowery and delicious – could pass for a semi-dry wine, although it’s dry dry dry.

Person Wine News – soon to come.  I have big news, but I’m pretty certain I cannot share it yet.  I’m about to burst.

Finally, Personal Hell – I’m writing a short story I adore, and it was due two days ago – and I haven’t had a breath of time to finish a serious edit – it cannot possibly be read in its condition, despite the fact that I have the storyline down solid.  If I don’t get it done tonight, I’m in deep poo poo.  Wish me luck with finishing this story, my beloved main character Fatimah deserves her ending.

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I am bubbling over with pride and for very good reason.  The winery I’ve worked for for two years, the Golan Heights Winery, just won top honors – the best wine producer in the world – at the Vinitaly International Wine Competition in Verona.

This is awesome, such a coup for Israel, for the winery, for a “new world” winery that is so young (founded in 1983), etc.

The award is given to the producer that has the highest points – tallied from those who have won first prize in at least two individual wine categories.  The two wines that swept their category from the Golan Heights were the 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard and the 2008 Yarden HeightsWine (dessert Gewurtztraminer).

Chardonnay Odem

Golan HeightsWine

The Golan Heights Winery beat over 1,000 other producers from over 30 countries who submitted over 3,000 wines.  This competition is commonly referred to as the “World Cup” of wine, and it means a great deal that Israel has won.  We’re serious players in the wine world, and now the world, all the world, will recognize it.  No more will I wander Europe and have people not know that Israel makes wine at all.

All Vinitaly Award Results

Articles: (I’m sort of shocked there aren’t more in English and French…)

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A day late, but not a dollar short, I’m hoping.  There are a lot of exciting wine happenings going on this weekend.  In short – read on – and whatever you do – if you are drinking wine this weekend (and I hope you are) make sure it’s a good one.

Events:

Friday, April 25 – Yarden Single Vineyard tasting at ALL the Derekh HaYain stores.  I will be at the Hashmoniam Street store at 10 am to 3:30 pm tomorrow opening some ridiculously incredible wines including:

2009 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Organic Single Vineyard
2007 Yarden Merlot
2005 Yarden Merlot, Tel Phares Single Vineyard
2006 Yarden Syrah
2006 Yarden Syrah, Tel Phares Single Vineyard
2007 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon

Be there or be extremely square.

Saturday, March 26 – 2008 Bourgogne Wine Release Block Party @ Alkalay! From 12 pm to 12 am there will be dozens of the finest Burgundy wines available for half glasses, full glasses, half bottles, and bottles.  That’s right, you too can afford to drink a thousand shekel bottle, or at least a fraction of one.  It’s sickeningly awesome.  Wines included are:

Whites
Château de Puligny – Bourgogne Rosé 2009
Ramonet – Bourgogne Aligoté 2009
Jean Durup – Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2008
Deux Montille – Rully 2008
Héritiers du Comte Lafon – Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine 2009
Christian Moreau – Chablis 1er cru Vaillon 2009
Ramonet – Chassagne-Montrachet 2008
Domaine Leroy – Bourgogne Aligoté 2007
Antoine Jobard – Meursault En la Barre 2008
Château de Puligny – Puligny-Montrachet 2008
Roulot – Meursault 2008
Sauzet – Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru La Garenne 2008

Reds

Marcel Lapierre – Morgon 2009
Château de Puligny – Monthelie 2008
Vougeraie – Côte de Beaune “Pierres Blanches” 2008
Ramonet – Chassagne-Montrachet 2009
Leroy – Bourgogne 2007
Méo-Camuzet – Fixin 2008
Gouges – Nuits-St-Georges 2008
Denis Mortet – Gevrey-Chambertin 2008
Liger-Belair – Vosne-Romanée 2008
Emmanuel Rouget – Vosne-Romanée 2008
De Montille – Volnay 1er cru Taillepieds 2008
Prieuré Roch – Nuits-St-Georges 1er cru Vielles Vignes 2007

Be there or just be really uncool.

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The gorgeousness that is sorrel

It looks like spinach but tastes NOTHING like it.  A sour, delicate leaf, perfect in soups and stews as it has a remarkable thickening quality while retaining its vibrant taste.  Spinach cannot compare.  I don’t know why the whole world isn’t cuckoo for sorrel.  In fact, I’m hoping to start a trend here.  People, if you haven’t tried it, take my word for it, you simply must.  Period.  With the scents that were wafting out of the kitchen, we knew we had one legendary meal in the making.

Today, after a rather frustrating morning of heavy work, I boarded the bus to Jerusalem, on a whim.  One of my favorite friends, the lovely queendeb, resides there on the border of Baka and Talpiot (although she only admits to Talpiot). We don’t get together as often as we should, and as two creative food-minded people, we decided on a cooking project.  I brought the sorrel and a bottle of Israeli-Champagne (GHW’s Gamla Brut).  In her quirky kosher kitchen (with her little brother in NYC on video-Skype the entire time), we proceeded in what felt like an adventurous cooking show.  Here’s what became of our evening:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small celery root, chopped
  • 1 yam, chopped
  • 500 g chicken wings
  • 1 bunch sorrel, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 left whole
  • handful of cilantro stems, chopped
  • 3-4 small celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 white cabbage, cut into large in-tact wedges
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 in strips
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 shot Laphroaig Whisky
  • chipotle pepper to taste
  • pepper, garlic powder, chili, etc to taste
  1. In a large soup pot over high heat, drizzle olive oil, then brown the chicken wings.  Remove.
  2. Whisk together the mustard and soy sauce.
  3. With the fat of the chicken left behind, add the onion, garlic, celery root, and yams (in that order – waiting a minute between additions).  Cook at medium heat until sweating/softened.  Add mustard/soy sauce.
  4. Layer the chicken wings evenly over the vegetables.  Then sprinkle the chopped sorrel, chopped celery & celery leaves, and cilantro stems evenly over the chicken.
  5. Sprinkle chipotle pepper over the surface.
  6. Create a layer with the whole sorrel leaves spread flat.  Place the cabbage wedges over the sorrel evenly.
  7. Pour the whisky over the contents of the entire pot.  Allow to cook for a few minutes to let the alcohol evaporate.
  8. Sprinkle all the lemon zest, and pour lemon juice over the contents of the pot.
  9. Without stirring, slowly and carefully pour two glasses of water into the pot.
  10. Bring to a boil, reduce flame to lowest possible, cover and let simmer for 30-60 minutes.  Do not stir, but checking to ensure the bottom layer isn’t burning is fine.  Add pepper, spices, etc at the end, to taste.
  11. Serve over couscous or rice.

The resulting stew-y casserole was pure heaven.  Rich, smoky, sour, spiced.  The smoky qualities of both the Laphroaig and the chipotle pepper, combined with the tartness of the sorrel and the lemon components, were so complementary, it was wild!  All the veg fell apart, becoming almost caramel-like.  The sorrel indeed thickened things up, and oh me, oh my, the lemon zest was a joy in and of itself!  The layering method came about organically, in that we thought it would be interesting to allow the leafier veg to steam in the lovely saucy broth of the layers beneath it.  And what can I say of the chicken?  It fell off the bone.  So tender.  So moist.  So perfect.

The best part was, even though we didn’t know where we’d end up, we always knew we could do it.  Two savvy seasoned cooks with random well-loved ingredients having a ball.  The bubbly went great with the meal, and I’m so glad we drank it.  This meal was a shining beacon in the middle of a drab work week.  So, it’s a yes to letting loose!  A yes to drinking your best wine for no reason but to enjoy it in the here and now!  And a resounding yes to sorrel! To single malt scotches everywhere! To lemon rinds!  To chipotle! L’chaim, l’chaim to life!

And I’ve driven myself into the cheesy corner.  But it really felt like that.  A meal as a celebration.  Even with just a couple lonesome American-Israeli friends.  Especially because.

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On January 1, 2010, after less than 4 (and in some cases less than 3 or 2) hours of sleep, my father, mother, sister, her best friend, and I hopped in a rented compact car at 7 am and proceeded to drive from Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights Winery…in the Golan Heights.

This is our story.

(cue Gilligan’s Island theme song)

A few bitchy fights, cramped snoozing, radio station surfing (we never did find one the entire drive), and a generally cranky 2.5 foggy hours later, we reached the region of our final destination — a full hour and a half early.

After I took the blame (and the beating) from everyone for depriving them of an extra hour’s sleep, we had a nice breakfast at a roadside cafe in the old town of Rosh Pina – a picturesque place (so I’m told – it really was super-foggy) just next to the historic, kabbalistically-famous city of Tzfat (aka Safed).  It was really far north.  We really did make amazing time.

At a bit after ten we proceeded to drive the remaining twenty minutes from Rosh Pina (just about directly north of the Sea of Galilee – what we call the Kineret –  a place that generally marks a border between the Galil region and the Golan region) to Katzrin, the tiny town (the largest town in the region) that is the home of the Golan Heights Winery.

Collectively owned by 4 kibbutzim (collective farms) and 4 moshavim (cooperative farms), the Golan Heights Winery began the Israeli wine revolution in 1983. Quite frankly, they make the best wine in Israel, consistently winning international awards and accolades.  They introduced many of the modern grape varieties to Israel, and produce more than 30 labels under three series (Yarden, Gamla, and Golan).

Aside: I work for them leading wine tastings, albeit on a very part-time basis. I love working for them.  I am more than a bit biased. But being a wine lover first and foremost, every trip I take to Katzrin to visit GHW is an exceptional treat.  You’re treated like family — and this is a state-of-the-art facility.

The main visitors’ center is closed for renovation the next 6 months, so a makeshift (if you can even call it that) center was rigged in the main administration building.  Despite Fridays being quite popular visitation days, it was quite empty there.  I’m used to seeing throngs of tourists, both domestic and otherwise.  Perhaps it was the winter, or the fact that many were probably nursing hangovers in their warm beds (which is where we half-halfheartedly wished to be).  Because of this fact, we had an almost private tour (with one quiet young couple tagging along).

After a brief history of wine, winemaking in the region, and the Golan Heights Winery itself, the tour guide (lovely woman named Ela) took us to the “wine cellar” — really the largest barrel storage building in the country, housing more than 7,000 gorgeous French oak vessels.

The tour ended with a wine tasting.  Perhaps because the visitors’ center was closed, or perhaps because there were so few people – we were shown to the private tasting room besides the vaults (or maybe a better word for it is ‘archive’) of wines that are kept just for the winemakers (and I expect, VIPs).  It was really fun, and the wines we were given really showed off the vast range they produce – starting with a very young Chardonnay (Golan 2008) – leading to a very hefty Syrah (Yarden 2005) – ending with such a treat, the Heightswine (Yarden 2007; play on words – made in the same fashion as Ice Wine).

My parents being my lovely parents bought me another bottle of the Single Vineyard Yarden Syrah (2004 – Ortal Vineyard) – my absolute favorite – at the gift shop, and we stocked up on a few other gems (Dad’s taking home another Syrah Ortal, a Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard El-Rom 2004, and a Noble Semillion Botrytis, amongst other things).

The Hodes family being the Hodes family, the ride home was just as memorable, one squabble inevitably leading to another more colorful and more complex than the one before.  We stopped at an artists’ village, took a quick (15 minute) hike in a nature preserve to see a local waterfall, and then hit the road, unfortunately choosing the scenic route, back to city-dom.  We took a wrong turn twice, my father progressively became more and more ill (stuffed up sinuses from lack of sleep), and we took a very, very long detour in order to visit a Druze village (Dalyiat El-Carmel) to drink a quick coffee and stock up on hummus, tahini, salads, and pita — because the very wise Hodes clan had extended an invitation for dinner at our place to the rest of the family for that very evening — and there was no way we had the time, nor were we in the condition to cook.

We returned to Tel Aviv ten hours to the minute after we left.  The adventure wouldn’t end for several hours more.  And it would take the rest of the weekend to recover. A three hour tour, indeed.  Talk about almost 7 hours in a car for a 1 hour tour. That takes passion.  Or madness.  Or both.

I say, well worth the visit to Israel’s greatest winery.

Great businessweek article on the revolution in Israeli wine production

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