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Israel`s Wines

The wines of Israel are beginning to command attention from the wine industry at large. No longer are the Israeli wines limited to "sweet wines" or ceremonial wines, but they have expanded to successfully include a myriad of international varietals as well. With both Passover and Easter on the horizon, it may just be the perfect time to try a fine wine from Israel. ( from Stacy Slinkard,

The best wines of Israel -2004

It will probably surprise no-one to note in perusing the following list and tasting notes that the leader of this year's list of the best Israeli wines that were released in 2004 was the Golan Heights Winery with eight different wines scoring 90 or higher. Nor will it surprise to realize that all of the releases of Castel, Margalit and Flam enter the list. What will surprise some - but a happy surprise indeed - is that Carmel enters the list with no less than five wines scoring 90 or above.

The list consists entirely of wines released and tasted in 2004 and does not include barrel or advance tastings. Most annual lists of “the best” consist of 50 or 100 wines. This one consists of 71 wines. That may seem a bit odd but it was simply my attempt at fairness, not wanting to arbitrarily drop any of the wines that earned 89 points. Considering that I have tasted nearly every wine released in the country, I cannot help but think that the list is truly representative, at least from one critic's point of view, of what is happening in Israel .

Several brief notes: Within each score category, wineries are listed in alphabetical order and the notation "K" following the score indicates that the wine being reviewed is kosher. The absence on the list of several of the red wines of better boutique wineries does not reflect a falling off in quality of their wines but a slight lag between the release of their 2001 and 2002 wines, the first of which were reviewed in last year's list and the second of which have not yet made their way to market.

I am sure I've missed one or two wines that deserve to be included (book-keeping on the 3500 or more Israeli wines I've tasted or re-tasted this year simply isn't all that easy) so if anyone can point out a wine to which I have awarded a score of 89 or higher during 2003, let me know by email or IM please. Should anyone care to enter into our ongoing discussion of how I score Israeli wines, let me respectfully suggest starting a new thread on that and as always, I will be glad to enter into a dialogue.

Daniel Rogov.

Wines Earning 93 – 95 points:

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom Vineyard, Yarden, 2001 : Dark, almost impenetrable garnet-purple in color, full-bodied and with finely-tuned balance between generous well-integrated tannins and judicious oak, this exquisite wine shows complex tiers of aromas and flavors, those starting on first attack with red currants, berries, and spices, the array expanding to include light earthy and herbal overlays. Rich enough to be thought of as plush and opulent, with a long, complex finish the wine is approachable now but will be at its best only from 2006 and then promising to cellar well until 2015 or longer. One of the best wines ever made in Israel . Score 95. K

Golan Heights Winery, Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, Yarden, 2001 : Loads of character in this rich and plush full-bodied wine. On the first attack, a tempting array of currant, mocha, hazelnut and spices, those later joined by almost jammy plum and berry fruits. Reflecting its 14 months in new and used barriques with seamless tannins, generous but not at all overpowering oak and a long and complex milk chocolate and herbal finish. Approachable now but at this stage give the wine twenty minutes in the glass to open. Best 2006-2014. Score 94. K

Castel, Grand Vin Castel, 2001 : Developing beautifully, this still young wine is now showing earthy currant, black cherry, sage and cedar wood aromas and flavors. Full-bodied and concentrated, the wine possesses great elegance and features long lingering flavors rich in hints of coffee and chocolate. Best 2005-2010. Score 93.

Margalit, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, 2002 : Remarkably concentrated and intense and heavy enough to chew, but through its muscles showing great elegance. Ripe currants, spices and cedar flavors on a complex leathery core and a long intense finish make this a wine difficult to match with food but that will be excellent on its own or matched with fine, aged cheeses. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petite Sirah and 8% Cabernet Franc. Best from 2006-2012, perhaps longer. Score 93.

Margalit, Cabernet Franc, 2002 : Deep royal purple in color, a full bodied and concentrated Cabernet Franc with 12% of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in, with aromas and flavors of spicy plums and earthiness on first attack yielding to an array of currant, anise, chocolate and sweet cedar, all coming together in a long mouth-filling finish. Soft tannins here, plenty of balancing acidity and overall good balance. Best 2005-2010. Score 93.

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2001 : With a final blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot, the first from vineyards at Kerem Ben Zimra and the second from Manara, this full bodied, deep garnet towards purple wine is developing beautifully. The wine now shows tempting currant, blackberry and raspberry fruits backed up nicely by generous but soft and well integrated tannins and very positive influence of the oak. Despite its relative youth, this well-made and well-balanced wine is drinking nicely now. No rush to drink however as the wine will cellar comfortably until 2008. Score 93. K

Zauberman, Cabernet Sauvignon, Limited Edition, 2001 : Dark royal purple towards black in color, full bodied, concentrated and tannic, with aromas and flavors that include dried plums and cherries, red berries, chocolate, honey, and spices, This powerful, near-massive and complex wine is approachable now if given at least 30 minutes in the glass to open but promises to be at its best starting only in 2006. Best after dinner with well aged cheeses. Score 93.

Wines Earning 92 Points:

Carmel , Merlot, Har Bracha, Single Vineyard, 2002 : Full-bodied, complex and notably tannic, a Merlot with true personality. Dark purple towards black, with the tannins still rather firm at this stage but with the balance and structure that bode well for the future. As the wine comes into its own look for black cherry, currant and plum fruits, those on a spicy cedar-wood background. Give this one time! Best from 2006-2009, perhaps longer. Score 92. K

Carmel , Cabernet Sauvignon, Ramat Arad, Single Vineyard, 2002 : Don't be surprised if you are tempted to applaud on tasting this wine as it is surely one of Carmel 's best efforts ever. Dark garnet red, full-bodied, with abundant but soft, almost sweet and already well integrating tannins. Levels of aromas and flavors that open with black fruits and sweet cedar wood, those yielding to currants, berries and vanilla and finally to a tempting herbal-earthy sensation. Long and complex, the wine is approachable now but will show its real elegance starting in only another year or so. Cellar until 2009. Score 92. K

Carmel, Limited Edition, Appelation Series,2002 : Deep royal-purple in color with orange and violet reflections, a Bordeaux blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, each variety vinified separately and developed for 14 months in French oak before the final blend was made. Medium- to full-bodied, with generous soft tannins integrating well and good balance between sweet and smoky wood, aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, berries, dark chocolate and a long finish, the wine is approachable now but will start showing its most elegant only in 2006 and then will continue to cellar nicely until 2012. Score 92. K

Castel, C, Chardonnay, 2002 : A full-bodied, elegant Burgundy style white, showing citrus, pineapple, green apple, toasted bread and fig aromas and flavors along with a comfortably nutty finish. Drink now-2008, possibly longer. Score 92.

Flam, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2002 : Made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon from Kerem Dishon and Kerem Ben Zimra, blended with a small amount of Merlot from Carmei Yosef, this elegant deep garnet towards black wine already shows good integration between wood, soft tannins and fruit, and generous currant and ripe red fruits. On the finish complex overlays of sweet cedar. Best 2005-2010. Score 92.

Karmei Yosef, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bravdo, 2002 : Full-bodied, young and tight, but already well focused and lively, on a leathery base with a complex array of ripe aromas and flavors of currants, black cherries and a tantalizing hint of anise, this blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, has an appealing hint of bitterness that makes itself felt on the long, fruity finish. Generous soft tannins and good balance. Drink now-2008. Score 92.

Margalit, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002 : A well crafted and thoroughly well-balanced blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc, this full bodied, concentrated and still firmly tannic wine is already showing tempting aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, berries and game-meat. Flavors that match the firm tannins and a long finish make this a complex and sophisticated wine. Best drinking will start only in 2006 and then go on comfortably until 2012-2015. Score 92

Margalit, Merlot, 2002 : Full bodied, deep purple towards inky black in color, and blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to give additional backbone, this ripe, bold and delicious wine shows well integrated tannins that give the wine a welcome softness, that matched nicely by aromas and flavors of plums, currants and black cherries, all followed by a long finish on which spice and cedar flavors make themselves felt. Approachable in its youth but best from 2006-2012. Score 92.

Sea Horse, Elul, 2002 : Deep garnet towards royal purple in color, this full-bodied blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 6% Syrah, shows generous but soft and well-integrating tannins and jammy currant and berry aromas and flavors, set off nicely by spices and toast, all showing very appealing overtones of Mediterranean herbs. Plush and elegant, with a long finish that yields bittersweet chocolate. Best 2005–2008. Score 92.

Wines Earning 91 Points:

Barkan, Pinotage, Judea Reserve, 2001 : The first Pinotage released in Israel, not only a rousing success in its own right but one of the best wines ever from Barkan.Deep garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with generous but soft and well integrated tannins, and very appealing plum, black cherry, currant and oak aromas and flavors, those playing nicely on the palate to reveal hints of smoked meat and sweet herbs. Soft, spicy and delicious, the wine is drinking very nicely now and should cellar comfortably until 2006-2007. Score 91. K

Carmel , Cabernet Sauvignon, Kerem Ben Zimra, Single Vineyard, 2002 : Deep garnet-purple towards black, full-bodied, reflecting its 14 months in new and used French oak with generous tannins and spicy oak but those in excellent balance with berry, plum and currant fruits, those set off nicely by hints of vanilla and eucalyptus. On the long finish of this round and complex wine look for finish tobacco and green olives. Approachable now but best 2005 – 2009. Score 91. K

Chateau Golan, Sauvignon Blanc, Royal Reserve, 2003 : Made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the northern Golan, fermented in stainless steel and then partly oak aged, a multi-layered wine, showing at first citrus and pineapple, those yielding nicely to pear, floral and herbal aromas and flavors. Generous alcohol (14%) but that balanced by natural acidity. Long, mouthfilling and elegant. Drink now-2007. Score 91.

Clos de Gat, Syrah, 2003 : A blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, this dark garnet, medium-bodied wine has soft, already well-integrating tannins. Well balanced and structured, spicy, with an earthy overtone to its plum and wild berry flavors, and with a light leathery hint on the long finish. Best 2006-2009. Score 91.

Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardnnay, 2003 : Brilliant Chardonnay, ripe and complex, with spicy pear, spice, apple and hazelnut notes. Reflecting its 10 months sur lie development, this deep golden wine fills the palate with complex and long lingering flavors and just the right hint of toasted white bread and yeast. A good dose of oak here but that well integrated. Drink now - 2008. Score 91.K

Flam, Merlot, Reserve, 2002 : Showing every bit as well as during barrel tastings, my earlier tasting note holds firmly. Deep royal purple, full-bodied, and with excellent extraction, this dark, rich and luxurious wine has an array of flavors that open in the glass to reveal spicy currants, wild berries, mocha and herbs. Still somewhat tannic, reflecting its 15 months in oak, the wine needs time to integrate and in the near future will begin to show anise and light tar overtones on a long smooth finish. Best 2005–2010. Score 91.

Flam, Superieure, 2003 (Advance Tasting): A blend of 77% Syrah and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, each fermented separately in French oak before blending. Medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and a generous earthy-herbal Syrah background coming together nicely with plum, tobacco and blackberry fruits. Round, long, and elegant.Don't be surprised is this one reminds you of a Rhone Cornas. Best 2006-2009. Score 91.

Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarden, 2001 : Delicious, full-bodied Cabernet, with good balance between wood, tannins and fruits. Still young but already showing plum, wild berry and currant fruits, a judicious hand with the oak and appealing overlays of vanilla, cedar and violets. Drink from release-2010. Score 91.K

Golan Heights Winery, Syrah, Yarden, 2001 : Medium- to full-bodied, with youthful tannins still quite firm but even now showing excellent balance, this dark garnet wine opens in the glass to reveal black cherry and plum fruits together with appealing earthy, floral and licorice flavors that arise and then linger nicely on the finish. Best 2005-2009. Score 90. K

Golan Heights Winery, Pinot Noir, Yarden, 2001 : Ripe and complex, this medium bodied Pinot was aged for 16 months partly in new French oak barriques and partly in barrels in which Chardonnay had been aged earlier. Smooth and harmonious, with cherry and raspberry fruits backed up nicely by lightly floral and spicy oak Give this one time to develop and it will show hints of earth, leather and perhaps chocolate. Drink from release-2008. Score 91. K

Karmei Yosef, Merlot, Bravdo, 2002 : Ripe, bold, well-focused and delicious, with layer after layer of blueberry, plum and currant fruits, this medium-bodied wine boasts soft tannins, and a rich, long aftertaste. Among other things that set this wine apart from the too-many internationalized Merlot wines appearing from around the world, are hints of mocha and Mediterranean herbs that seem to dart in and out on the palate, all culminating in a long near-sweet finish. Score 91.

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Kerem Dishon, 2001 : Deep royal purple in color, with blackberry, black currant and plum fruits, this full-bodied wine was aged in oak for 18 months. Showing good balance between fruits, wood and moderately firm but well integrating tannins, this complex wine has a long, deliciously near-sweet finish. Drink now–2008. Score 91. K

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered, 2002 : Rich and ripe, with a complex array of currant, plum and berry aromas and flavors, those well focused and set off nicely by smoky, dusty oak. Well focused, round with no sharp edges the wine reflects its 18 months in oak with generous but soft tannins and just the right feel of the oak. Long and mouthfilling, the wine is drinking nicely now-2008. Score 91. K

Tabor, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Mes'cha, 2001 : A full bodied blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot, made from grapes from Malkia in the Upper Galilee, aged partly in new oak, partly in one year old barrels for 14 months. Young and tight, with excellent focus and tempting flavors of currants, spices and cedar flavors along with a leathery note that runs throughout. As rich on its near-sweet nose as on its fully dry palate and with a long fruity finish, this is the best wine made by this winery to date. Drink now-2008. Score 91. K

Yatir, Yatir Forest, 2001 : As youthful on the nose and palate as it is in its dark ruby toward purple color, this medium to full-bodied blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot is already showing good integration between soft tannins and oak, and rich, still quite forward aromas and flavors of currants, wild berries and cherries. Lots of spicy oak and plenty of minerals here, but with the kind of balance that bodes well for them to soften and further integrate as the wine develops in the bottle. The wine is approachable now, but will be richer, softer and have greater length as it ages. Best 2005–2009. Score 91. K Spicy oak and plenty of minerals here, those integrating nicely and yielding a luxurious and elegant wine. Drink now-2009. Score 91. K

Wines Earning 90 Points:

Alexander, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001 : Spicy, earthy overlays complement rich plum and berry flavors and just a hint of vanilla. Soft tannins already integrating well in this full-bodied wine. Drink now-2007. Score 90.
Alexander, Merlot, 2001: Intense, deep and elegant, with a solid core of cherry, currant and light oak, this medium to full-bodied wine is now showing excellent depth and complexity. Drink now-2006. Score 90.

Amphorae, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2002 (Barrel trasting): This medium bodied deep garnet blend of 50% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, each fermented separately in new French barriques is already showing tempting aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry and cassis fruits, those melding together nicely with generous but well balanced wood. On the long finish look for hints of bitter-sweet chocolate and mocha. Drink now-2007. Score 90.

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2002 : Bright garnet in color, throwing green and orange reflections, this medium- to full-bodied red is packed with lush raspberry, blackberry, black cherry and currant fruits, those matched nicely by sweet spices, dark chocolate and, from mid-palate light hints of smoked bacon. A tantalizing hint of bitter herbs comes in on the moderately long finish. Drink now-2007. Score 90. K

Bazelet HaGolan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001 : Dark garnet towards ink-black in color, this full bodied still firmly tannic wine shows rich Cabernet aromas and flavors of blackcurrants and blackberries, generous spiciness and nice earthy-olive hints, all on a broad background and with a long finish. Drink now-2007. Score 90.

Carmel , Cabernet Sauvignon, Kerem Zarit, Emek Kadesh, Single Vineyard, 2002 : Showing even better now than at earlier tastings. Dark cherry-red, this medium- to full-bodied wine shows soft tannins and generous vanilla and smoky overtones from the oak barrels in which it aged. First impressions are of sweet berries and eucalyptus, those yielding to currants and blackfruits, vanilla, black tea and a light spiciness that lingers nicely on the moderately long finish. Warm, round and well balanced the wine is drinking nicely now and should cellar comfortably until 2008. Score 90. K

Chateau Golan , Syrah, Cuvee Naturel, Royal Reserve, 2001 : Surprisingly intense, tannic and concentrated for a medium- to full-bodied wine but now opening beautifully. Deep purple in color, reflecting its 14 months in French oak with spices and a generous dash of vanilla, those complemented nicely by jammy black fruits. Enjoyable now but best from 2005-2007. Score 90.

Chateau Golan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Royal Reserve, 2002 : Still young but already showing medium to full-body, good balance, concentration and length, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and about 9% Cabernet Franc offers an appealing array of ripe cherry, currant, red plum, jammy strawberry and spicy flavors overlaid by light toasty oak, and a moderately long, near-sweet finish. Look as well for a hint of tobacco on the finish. Drink now–2007. Score 89.

Flam, Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc, 2004 : The first white wine from Flam and a rousing success. Unoaked and retaining the fresh and unalloyed aromatic flavors of both varieties (70% Chardonnay, 30% Sauvignon Blanc), this crisply dry, medium-bodied wine shows delicious citrus, pear and summer fruit aromas and flavors, those with tempting overlays of melon, herbs and flowers. Harmonious and expressive, meant for drinking in its relative youth. Score 90.

Flam, Classico, 2003: A medium-bodied blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with soft already well integrated tannins, a well balanced dose of wood, aromatic red berries and currants all coming together nicely with light smoky vanilla and a hint of spices. Drinking nicely now but the wine will improve in the bottle and should hold nicely until 2007. Score 90.

Golan Heights Winery, Chardonnay, Yarden, 2002 : Light gold in color, medium to full-bodied, this complex, oak aged white offers up abundant pear, spice, hazelnut and citrus flavors, those with hints of minerals, spicy oak and earth on the aftertaste. Best from release-2007. Score 90. K

Golan Heights Winery, Heightswine, Yarden, 2002 : Made from Gewurztraminer grapes, light golden in color, medium-bodied, and with excellent balance. Plenty of natural acidity to back up the sweetness and keep it lively while allowing the peach, apricot, and quince fruits to make themselves nicely felt. Honeyed and floral, generous and round. An excellent dessert wine. Drink now-2008. Score 90. K

Golan Heights Winery, Merlot, Yarden, 2002 : Deep ruby towards garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft already well integrating tannins and generously spicy oak. No fear though as with time in the glass even at this early stage of its development, the wine shows tempting sweet black plum and wild berry fruits on an appealing herbal and chocolate background. On the medium-long finish look as well for black cherries. Best from release sometimes in 2005-2009. Score 90.K

Meishar, Cabernet Sauvignon, 730 Reserve, 2001 : Dark cherry red towards garnet, this medium- to full-bodied Cabernet was blended with 4% of Merlot to round it out. Generous tannins balanced nicely with wood and fruits. Aromas and flavors of red currant and berry fruits together with smoky oak, anise and, on the long finish, chocolate and moccha. Drink now-2007. Score 90.

Meishar, Merlot, 2002 : Blended with 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon, this deep ruby towards garnet and full-bodied red shows good balance between firm but already well-integrating tannins, wood and fruits. Look for appealing plum, berry and blackcurrant fruits together with generous overlays of smoke and spices. Drink 2005-2009. Score 90.

Meron, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000 : Dark, ripe, intense and spicy, with good blanace between already well integrating tannins and sweet cedar flavors from the oak, those coming together nicely with cassis,berry and plum fruits. Look as well for hints of Mediterranean herbs on the mouth-filling finish. Perhaps the best ever from Meron. Drinking nicely now but best from 2005-2009. Score 90

Recanati, Reserve, Petite Sirah-Zinfandel, 2003 (Advance Tasting): My earlier note holds firmly: Deep garnet toward purple, this concentrated, full-bodied and generously tannic wine has expressive spicy plums and black cherry fruits, those complemented nicely by spicy, earthy overlays as well as a light hint of asphalt that develops on the finish. Needs time for the tannins to settle down. Drink from release–2008, perhaps longer. Score 90. K

Saslove, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adom, 2001 : Medium- to full-bodied, with generous soft tannins and an appealing array of currant, blackberry and raspberry fruits, those matched nicely by spicy wood and hints of Mediterranean herbs on the finish. Best 2005-2008.. Score 90.
Segal, Unfiltered, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001: Full-bodied, reflecting its 22 months in oak with generous vanilla and toasty oak, this still young, concentrated and complex wine is now quite tight and somewhat on the green side. What it needs is bottle aging, and when it does come into its own, look for tart plum, black cherry and berry fruits together with spice and anise aromas and flavors, leading to a long and complex fruited finish. Drink now–2008. Score 90. K

Tabor, Merlot, Bazelet, Adama, 2001 : Medium to full bodied, with a deep garnet color, and reflecting its aging in French and American oak, this medium to full bodied red is aromatic, round and mouth- filling. Currant, spice and black cherry flavors, smooth and polished tannins and a rich finish with fruits that fan out beautifully on the palate. Drink now-2006. Score 90. K

Tabor, Chardonnay, Mes'cha, 2003 : Medium to full bodied, deep golden straw in color, this medium- to full-bodied white reflects its 4 months in oak with hints of smoky and spicy oak together with rich, lightly creamy layers of pear, honey and apricots. Complex and long, a step forward for this winery. Drink now-2006. Score 90. K

Tishbi, Special Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ben Zimra, 2002 : Showing better now than at a barrel tasting. Deep purple in color, ripe, bold and concentrated, the wine has solid and still firm tannins, those well balanced by oak and fruits. The chewy tannins, deep currant, oak and spicy aromas and flavors make the wine one that will profit from bottle time. Drink now–2008, perhaps longer. Score 90. K

Zauberman, Cabernet Suvignon, 2000 : The first Cabernet from this winery (known until now exclusively for its Merlot wines), but an interesting success. A success in that this well-balanced, dark, rich and concentrated wine shows good currant, plum, vanilla and herbal aromas and flavors that are well balanced by tannins and wood. Interesting in that it seems to have rich bitter and sweet overtones, much as one finds in an Italian ripasso-style wine. Long, mouthfilling and thought-provoking, the wine is drinking well now but will be at its best only from 2005-2009. Score 90.

Wines Earning 89 Points :

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Superieur, 2000 : Made from grapes harvested on the Golan and in the Upper Galilee and aged first in new oak and transferred later to used oak, this full-bodied and concentrated, deep royal towards purple wine offers up generous blackcurrant, blackberry and chocolate aromas, all with an appealing overlay of Mediterranean herbaceousness. Drink now-2006. Score 89. K

Barkan, Chardonnay, Reserve, Negev Project, 2003 : Medium-bodied, this unoaked white reflects its desert terroir with a stony dryness that at one moment calls to mind unoaked Chablis and at another a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. White peaches, green apples and citrus fruits on an appealing herbaceous background. Unusual and delicious. Drink now–2007. Score 89. K

Barkan, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2003 : Showing even better now than at earlier tastings. Medium- to full-bodied, light golden straw in color with green reflections and melon, gooseberry and apple fruits on a mineral-rich background. Appealing spiciness and lively acidity carry through to a moderately long finish. Drink now-2006. Score 89. K

Barkan, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Negev Project, 2003 : Subdued ruby in color, medium-bodied, with soft, well-integrated tannins and appealing berry and black cherry fruits backed up by light herbal and earthy sensations. Best now-2007. Score 89. K

Bazelet Ha Golan, Millennium Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000 : Medium to full-bodied, this deep ruby towards purple wine shows good balance between still firm tannins, oak, and fruits, those including generous and concentrated layers of currants and berries. Look for mint, minerals and earthy flavors on the long finish. Drink now-2006. Score 89.

Bustan, Merlot, 2000 : Dark royal purple in color, this medium to full bodied red shows good balance between soft tannins, sweet cedar, plum and blackberry aromas and flavors. Softening nicely on the palate this round, flavorful wine is drinking nicely now – 2007. Score 89. K

Castel, Petit Castel, 2002 : Dark ruby towards garnet in color, this medium-bodied red shows soft, well-integrated tannins and generous currant and wild berry fruits together with generous touches of sweet cedar, spices and herbs on the moderately long finish. Drink now-2008. Score 89.

Dalton, Merlot, Reserve, 2002 : Smooth and elegant, with a core of ripe plum and black cherry fruits, those on a background of toasty oak, spices and very appealing hints of sage and tea. As the wine continues to develop, look for a leather note on the long finish. Drink from release-2006. Score 89. K

Galil Mountain , Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 : Inky black in color, medium- to full-bodied and with tannins now residing and integrating nicely to reveal good balance. Tempting currant, cranberry and rhubarb aromas and flavors make this long, round wine almost elegant even at this early stage. Drinking very well now- 2008. Score 89. K

Galil Mountain, Merlot, 2003 : Deep garnet in color, full-bodied and rich in currant, berry and grapefruit, smoky and earthy overlays and generous soft tannins, this soft, luxurious and mouthfilling wine delicious wine is drinking nicely now and will cellar comfortably until 2008. Score 89. K

Meishar, Tacsum, 2003 : Perhaps the winemakers were in a playful mood when they named this dessert wine “Tacsum which is “ Muscat ” spelled backwards. Made from Muscat-Canelli grapes that were sun-dried and then frozen before pressing, this is a wine as much in the Italian appasimento style as it is an ice-wine. Not so much full-bodied as it is “thick”, the wine shows unabashed sweetness and a dark, burnished bronze color. Good balancing acidity and flavors of apricots, ripe peaches and honeydew melon keep it lively. Drink now-2009. Score 89.

Recanati, Reserve, Syrah, 2003 : Aged in new French and American oak, dark ruby toward purple in color, this medium-bodied, moderately tannic and well-balanced wine shows enchanting aromas and flavors of jammy fruits, those with spicy, peppery and licorice overtones, all reflecting the judicious use of oak. Drink now–2008. Score 89. K

Saslove, Sagol, Private Edition, 2000 : Dark royal purple in color, this medium- to full-bodied, wine spent 14 months in French oak barrels. With soft, well integrated tannins, a gentle influence of smoky oak and generous blackcurrant and plum fruits backed up nicely by Oriental spices, vanilla and chocolate this well balanced and moderately long wine is drinking nicely now and should cellar well until 2006. Score 89.

Saslove, Aviv, Marriage, 2003 : A deep royal purple, full bodied blend of 60% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Merlot, with generous but almost sweet tannins coming together nicely with vanilla-rich American oak, spices and appealing berry, currant and black cherry fruits. On the pleasingly long finish look as well for hints of cigar tobacco. Approachable now but best from 2005-2009. Score 89.

Savion, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002 : Deep youthful garnet towards royal purple in color, with still firm tannins that need time to integrate but with good balance between currant, berry and plum fruits and spicy wood, this tempting wine needs some time to show its elegance. Best 2005-2009. Score 89.

Sea Horse, Take 2, 2003 : A fascinating blend of 90% Zinfandel with about 9% Petite Sirah and 1% of Cabernet Sauvignon, this medium- to full-bodied wine reflects its 8 months in American oak with good balance between tannins, wood and fruits. Look for a predominantly Zinfandel personality, round and juicy with spicy berry and cherry flavors on which you will find a firm tannic edge and a moderately-long tar and anise. Drinking nicely now but best starting in about another year and then cellaring nicely until 2008. Score 89.

Sea Horse, Petite Sirah, 2002 : Dark, dense and rich, with aromas and flavors of wild berries, minerals and leather, those backed up nicely by crushed black pepper. Lots of tannins here but those well in balance with the wood and fruits. Drink now-2007. Score 89

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marom Galil, 2001 : Inky purple to black in color, medium to full-bodied, and reflecting its 18 months in oak with generous sweet and smoky oak, those well balanced by firm but well integrating tannins and a rich array of black currant, cassis and wild berry fruits. Long and complex. Drink now–2007. Score 89. K

Tabor, Chardonnay, Bazelet, Adama, 2003 : Golden straw in color, with green reflections, this supple wint has a pleasing earthy accent to its citrus, hazelnut and pineapple notes. Give the wine time to open in the glass and it reveals ripe pear flavors as well. Enough complexity and depth and a just long enough finish to hold our interest. Drink now-2005. Score 89. K

Yatir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, 2001 : A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, this medium to full bodied wine shows a dark royal purple color, soft already well-integrated tannins and generous black currant, plum, berry and earthy-mineral aromas and flavors. Look as well for hints of spicy oak that develop from mid-palate. Drink now-2006. Score 89. K

Yatir, Sauvignon Blanc, 2003 : Light gold in color, with orange and green tints, this well balanced white was aged sur lie, that is to say with the yeasts and other sediments that settle in the barrel during fermentation. Full bodied, with traditional Sauvignon Blanc aromas and flavors of fresh-mown grass and herbs matched nicely by quince and pear fruits as well hints of pepper, walnut and vanilla, all leading up to a long mouth-filling finish. At this stage still somewhat dominated by the oak in which the wine aged, this one needs some time to show its grace and harmony. Best now-2008. Score 89. K



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