Rogov’s Reviews: Sophisticated Benyamina

Binyamina wine cork from this great Israeli wine

Daniel Rogov has a positive review of the Benyamina Winery in last week’s Ha’aretz. Benyamina is a large winery, often overlooked. It’s great to see that this Israeli winery is constantly improving.

Wine and Spirits / Sophisticated Binyamina
By Daniel Rogov

That Binyamina winery is on the way up is beyond question. With far better control over its vineyards than in the past, increasingly modern equipment, and Sasson Ben-Aharon and Assaf Paz aboard as winemakers, it is clear that the winery is making quality steps forward on an annual basis – not only in its top-of-the line series, Avnei HaChoshen and Reserve, but also in mid-priced Yogev series and entry-level series Teva. What has surprised me somewhat is that even though the wines are receiving a warm reception abroad (about 25% of the winery’s annual output of 2.4 million bottles) the winery has yet to shatter the glass ceiling that will allow greater acceptance, especially of its two top series, among more sophisticated wine drinkers in Israel.

Binyamina, Syrah, Avnei HaChoshen, Odem (Ruby), 2005: Blended with 2-3% of Viognier, intensely dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with generous near-sweet tannins and smoky oak integrating nicely. Shows red berries, cherries and red plums along with hints of leather and meatiness. Long and generous. Drink now-2011. NIS 145. Score 90. K

Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Merlot, Avnei HaChoshen, Sapir (Sapphire), 2005: As it was last year, a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Shiraz and 25% Merlot. Oak aged for 15 months, dark ruby to garnet, opening with licorice and mint on the nose and palate, moving to bitter-sweet chocolate and Mediterranean herbs and then to red plums, cassis and spicy notes. Drink now-2010. NIS 145. Score 89. K

Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Avnei HaChoshen, Tarshish (Aquamarine), 2005: Dark garnet with purple and orange reflections, and aged in new French oak for 16 months. Opens with super-soft tannins, which firm as the wine develops in the glass, medium-bodied, with appealing currant and red plums on the nose and palate, backed up by a hint of sweet herbs on the moderately long finish. Drink now-2011. NIS 145. Score 89. K

Binyamina, Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier, Avnei HaChoshen, Yashfeh (Jasper), 2006: A gently oaked, medium-bodied blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier (40%, 35% and 25% respectively). Golden straw in color and aromatic, a crisply dry white wine boasting pineapple, citrus and white peach flavors on a lightly spicy background. Drink now-2009. NIS 95. Score 88. K

Binyamina, Merlot, Reserve, 2005: Dark garnet, medium to full-bodied, reflecting its development in French oak barrels with hints of spicy wood and generous near-sweet tannins. On the nose and palate raspberry, strawberry and vanilla, supported nicely by herbal and spicy notes. Drink now-2010. NIS 75. Score 88. K

Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2005: Medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely with spicy and lightly smoky wood, yielding to generous red berries, cassis and spices. Lacks complexity but easy to drink. Drink now-2010. NIS 75. Score 87. K

Binyamina, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2007: Light gold, medium- to full-bodied, with gentle oak influences and showing citrus, pear and tropical fruits with an appealing hint of bitterness that comes in on the medium-long finish. Drink now. Score 87. K

Binyamina, Sauvignon Blanc, Avnei HaChoshen, Leshem (Opal), 2006: Reflecting its six months in oak with a gentle overlay of spices, this medium-bodied white shows generous citrus and peach notes along with appealing mineral crispness and hints of freshly cut grass and mint. Drink now-2009. NIS 50. NIS 95. Score 87. K

Binyamina, Gewurztraminer, Reserve, 2007: Medium-bodied, light golden in color, with spicy and floral Gewurztraminer traits and appealing citrus and tropical fruits. Off-dry and best as an aperitif or with Asian cuisine. Drink now-2010. NIS 50. Score 86. K

Binyamina, Rose, Yogev, 2007: Rose petal pink with a hint of adobe, a blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Light- to medium-bodied, with generous strawberry and raspberry fruits, a light, easy-to-drink quaffer. Drink up. NIS 35. Score 85. K

Other wineries

Karmei Yosef, Merlot, Bravdo, 2006: Blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in barriques for 12 months, deep garnet to royal purple in color, with once gripping tannins now integrating nicely with spicy wood. Full-bodied, the wine opens to reveal a core of plums, blackberries and blueberries on a background of exotic spices and hints of chocolate and mocha that linger nicely on the palate. Drink now-2012. NIS 120. Score 90.

Carmel, Petite Sirah, Appellation, Judean Hills, 2005: Developed in French oak for 12 months, made from grapes from 40-year-old vines, this almost impenetrably dark purple, still firmly tannic wine opens in the glass to reveal a rich array of dark plum, blueberry, pepper, herbs and spicy cedar notes. Dense enough to be thought of as chewable, but opens to show harmony and grace. Best 2009-2012. NIS 70. Score 90. K

Carmel, Gewurztraminer, Appellation, Upper Galilee, 2007: Medium-bodied, with gentle sweetness backed up nicely by lively acidity. Light golden with orange reflections, an aromatic, unoaked wine showing appealing aromas and flavors of oranges, litchis and rose water, all backed up by an appealing spiciness. Good as an aperitif or as a desert wine. Drink now-2009. NIS 62. Score 88.

Carmel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Collection, 2006: Medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely and with bare hints of spicy and vanilla-rich oak showing berry, black cherry and currant fruits. Not overly complex but good with food. Drink now. Score 86. K

Galil Mountain, Pinot Noir, 2006: Dark cherry-red to garnet, this medium-bodied wine, still relatively firm, shows tannins but reveals fine balance and a complex array of red berry, cherry, blueberry and spices, supported nicely by light toasty vanilla and, on the finish, a hint of minerality. Drink now-2010. NIS 68. Score 89. K

Recanati Reserve, Syrah, 2005: Aged for 14 months in French and American oak, medium-dark garnet in color, with well-focused tannins and moderate spicy wood in fine balance with black cherry, wild berry and cassis fruits with just a hint of smoked meat in the background. At this stage the still-firm tannins hold the wine back a bit. Drink now-2010. NIS 95. Score 89. K

Rogov tastes whites

It’s summer time and that means it’s time to break out the white wines — which are great deals too! In this week’s Ha’aretz, Israel’s premier wine critic Daniel Rogov tries a few whites.

By Daniel Rogov

In Israel, as in California, nearly all the locally made white wines are made from grapes that have their origins in France – Chardonnay from Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, Viognier from the northern Rhone Valley and Gewurtztraminer from Alsace. Not even the old-timer Emerald Riesling is our own, the hybrid grape being a cross of Muscadelle de Bordelais and White Riesling. With the days growing warmer, it’s time to turn from heavier red wines to more lively and refreshing whites, especially for fish, seafood or chicken meals or with cold salads and small cuts of veal or pork.

Golan Heights Winery, Chardonnay, Yarden, Odem Organic Vineyard, 2006: Full-bodied, opening with subtle aromas of figs, pears and apples, going on to show a generous dash of smoky, toasty oak and then blossoming forth with pineapple, citrus peel and minerals, leading to a creamy and bright long finish. Drink now-2013. NIS 60. Score 92. K

Golan Heights Winery, Viognier, Yarden, 2006: As during earlier tastings, this release reminds me of the white wines of Condrieu and shows a thoroughly traditional Viognier personality. Following an aromatic and floral nose, flavors and aromas of ripe Anjou pears, peaches, spring flowers and minerals along with hints of citrus. Lively, clean, fresh and long, the best local Viognier to date. Drink now-2010. NIS 60. Score 91. K

Recanati, Chardonnay, Reserve, 2006: Developed sur lie, partly in new, partly in used, oak barriques, this medium- to full-bodied white shows an appealing buttery nature to highlight green apple, pineapple and nutty flavors and aromas. Complex but lively and with good length. Drink now-2010. NIS 90. Score 90. K

Recanati Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2007: Light straw in color, light- to medium-bodied, showing appealing red grapefruit, passion fruit and kiwi fruit, with hints of spices and grassiness. Good acidity keeps the wine lively and refreshing. Drink now. NIS 59. Score 88. K

Flam, Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay, 2007: An unoaked blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc from the Upper Galilee and 30% Chardonnay from the Jerusalem Hills. Light golden straw in color, medium-bodied, with a deeply aromatic citrus and tropical fruit nose. Opens on the palate to show melon, pineapple and green apples. Crisp, lively, just complex enough and with a long fruity finish. Drink now. NIS 62. Score 89.
Continue reading Rogov tastes whites