Archived entries for Israel Wines

Home for the Holidays: Food, Wine, Family & Memories

Food, wine and fellowship have always been a mainstay of our holiday celebrations.  With the recent passing of my great aunt Stella, who died right before Christmas, it was a poignant reminder to appreciate those that we love.

Stella Urusky, on the bottom row on the lefthand side in the black.  Don’t be a hater about the hair or dress.  It was 1994.

Stella actually inspired the entire premise of Dallas Wine Chick.  Stella’s favorite wine was pink, fizzy, made up of chemicals and usually under $5.  I got on a self absorbed mission to “teach her” about “good wine.”  So, for a year I opened the best white wines that I had in my collection – white burgundies, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, pinot blancs, alsaces and albarinos with the conviction that I could change her mind.  A big life lesson for me is that I couldn’t.  She hated them all and just wanted what she wanted.  So, the concept that wine snobbery shouldn’t be forced on anyone and people should drink what they like was solidified in my mind.

She also taught me about compassion, the value of family, taking care of unwanted animals and speaking my mind.  

So we gathered at my parent’s house as the snow fell and ate more food than we should, had more wine than we should and told the same family stories that I’ve grown up hearing.  It was especially poignant that my cousin, Patrick, a F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot, was finally back home after his year-long tour on the USS Enterprise.   

The USS Enterprise was on its final voyage after 50 years of service and it is the longest serving aircraft carrier in the US fleet.  It was the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, Top Gun was filmed on this ship, it acted as a spotter ship for John Glenn’s historic orbit of Earth, played an important role in the Cuban missile crisis and in Somali pirate engagement.  As the oldest ship in the Navy, the motto is: “There is pain and there is Enterprise pain”…

We also got to hang out with my other cousin, Jeff, and his fiancé AJ, who we are eagerly ready to welcome to the family when they marry in California in the future. 

With all of that as our backdrop, we tried several wines from Yarden in the Golan Heights; Elyse Winery in Napa and a Terrazas from Argentina. 

We started with the wines from Yarden Wines of Israel.  You may remember that I was impressed last November when I had the opportunity to experience my first wines from the region.  I can speak for the rest of my family in saying that these wines exceeded everyone’s expectations.

The Golan Heights Winery was founded in 1983 and is based in Katzrin.  The winery is known for its use of technology and the advances it has made for wines produced in this region.  The region has extreme temperatures and elevation changes combined with volcanic soils.

Yarden Mount Herman White 2011

This was the favorite white of the group.  Big notes of citrus, peach, floral and minerality made this a great match with the food.

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Lots of cherry, blackberry and stone fruit with notes of earthiness, tobacco and oak made this a very memorable wine and one that I will seek out in the future.

Yarden T2

This dessert wine which was made of two Portuguese grapes and fortified with brandy was a very nice dessert wine, but the $50 price tag made it a bit bittersweet.

We then switched over to Elyse.  I’ve long been a fan of Elyse Winery wines and these did not disappoint.  

Elyse 2010 Petite Sirah

Lots of dark berry fruit, floral and spice.  I loved the finish with its notes of chocolate, mocha and oaky flavor.  This was a rich and yummy wine.

Elyse 2007 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Also inky black with lots of stone fruit and blackberry flavors with nice spice and cedar.   This was a very well balanced and elegant wine.

Elyse 2008 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel

This is the vineyard where it all began and the wine that launched Elyse into 25 years of success.  Lots of juicy fruit, earthiness and spiciness make this Zinfandel memorable.

We also tried a Terrazas 2011 Reserva Torrontes, which tasted of green apple, flowers and orange blossom.  A nice, dependable, food-friendly wine that matched holiday food very well.

I hope your holiday season was filled with memories of family and friends that will last long beyond the chaos and will create smiles for years to come.  

Israel Wine Shines Bright in Dallas: First Winemakers Come Full Circle

When I received an invitation from Alfonso Cevola of Glazer’s Distributors, a person whose palate I respect, to attend a celebration to kick-off Israel Wine Week in Dallas, I was curious.  As you know, I love finding off the beaten path wines that I can introduce to you.  And wow — while these wines are kosher, I can tell you as a card-carrying Catholic that they stand up in taste, complexity and value to almost any wine out there. 

Israel has been producing wine for over 5,000 years and started nearly 2,000 years prior to the Greeks and Romans in Europe.  In 1882, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of Chateau Lafite, founded Carmel Winery.  It took about 100 years for the wine folks in California to conclude that the Golan Heights had the right climate — volcanic soil, altitudes, temperature and water — to make some quality wines.  It took Royal Wine Corporation 50 years later to decide to import these wines to the U.S.  It took about another 100 years for Sheldon Stein to decide that Glazer’s needed to bring these wines to Dallas and beyond.  I’d personally like to thank them all.

The most widely grown varietals in Israel include cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and sauvignon blanc with up-and-comers cabernet franc, riesling and syrah.  The five wine regions include Gali (Gaililee including the Golan Heights), Shomrom, Samson, the Judean Hills and Negeve appellations.  Currently there are more than 250 large-scale, co-operative and boutique wineries that produce 30 million bottles annually.


The thing that I’d like to urge you to do is to not think about these wines as kosher wines (actually not all Israeli wine is kosher), but award-winning wines made with great care and by great people.   Lior Lacser, Carmel’s winemaker, discussed the need to bring these wines forward to consumers who drink fine wine vs. a kosher sell.  His focused is elegant, balanced wines that showcase Old World style with New World techniques.  We tasted 12 wines — a mix of white, red and dessert — in two different categories and at price points from $15 to $80.

Carmel Wine Maker

Carmen Sha al Gewurz

We started with several white wines including:

  • Carmel Ridge White 09 — fruity, crisp, lots of citrus and pear with good minerality.  A very nice everyday food, friendly wine ($17.99).
  • Carmel Private Collection Chardonnay 09 — tropical notes with a little too much bite in the finish for me, but as you know, I’m not a huge chardonnay drinker ($21.99)
  • Carmel Kayoumi Vineyard Riesling 10 — orange blossom, off dry with honeysuckle, citrus and petroleum.  This was an awesome representation of riesling and the winemakers favorite wine today ($26.99)
  • Sha’al Gewurztraminer Late Harvest 07 — apricot, honeysuckle, lychee and a fabulous dessert wine ($21.99)

Our red line up included the following:

Carmen Yatir Red

Carmel Petite Sirah

Carmel Mediterranean

  • Carmel Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon — spice, cedar and eucalyptus ($22.99)
  • Carmel Carignan 07 — this was a labor of love for the winemaker and a grape that used to be part of Israel’s history.  Big cherry, spice and mocha.  Awesome and full of character ($28.99).  Also loved that these labels are “whimsical” with a variety of fauna from biblical Israel that are hand-drawn
  • Carmel Petite Syrah 07 — smoke, blueberry, floral with rich, juicy notes.  These grapes originally were relegated to grape juice until Gava saw the potential and this is NOT your average Welch’s ($29.99)
  • Binyamina The Cave 07 — vanilla, toasted oak, earth, cardamom, sage, black berries and menthol.  Lots of depth and layers to this one ($22.99)
  • Yatir Red Blend 06 — Herby, fruitier, definitely not my favorite of the tasting, but an interesting wine ($42.99)
  • Carmel Mediterranean 07 — big black cherry, leather, earthiness abound; a great wine ($60.99). 
  • Carmel Limited Edition 07 — a flagship high end wine that is made only when the conditions are optimal.  I tasted petroleum, tobacco, chocolate, mocha and eucalyptus.  An elegant wine with an elegant price at (86.99), but I’d put this up against almost any high-end Napa wine at the same price point (or even above).

We learned about a new association of 20 Israeli wineries founded a month ago, solely dedicated to taking these wines to a new level in America.  From what I understand, there are many fabulous wineries missing not in the Royal portfolio, but it’s a good launching pad.  You should be able to find these at Sigel’s, Centennial, Mr. G’s, Central Market and Corner Wines.  After almost 200 years of winemaking, I can assure you that they are quite good at it.  I plan to buy and cellar some — I’ll keep you posted on the evolution.  I challenge you to do the same.

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