Sunday, February 22, 2009

Israeli Wine Tasting: Margalit Winery & Pelter Winery

Margalit Winery, founded in 1989, was the first boutique winery in Israel and is owned and operated by Yair Margalit and his son Asaf. The winery is located close to the Mediterranean, about halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Their two vineyards are located in the upper Galilee Mountains and the village of Binyamina.

They only produce approximately 1600 cases a year, all of the grapes having been hand harvested and using only free run juice. They have a passion for Bordeaux grapes so concentrate on growing those.

The 2005 Margalit Cabernet Franc ($54.99) is 100% Cabernet Franc and has an alcohol content of 14.9%. I was a bit hesistant about this wine as I am usually not a big fan of this grape because it often has a green/vegetal taste I dislike. But to my pleasant surprise, this wine lacked those flavors. In fact, it reminded me far more of a Syrah. It was a dark red in color with a nose of berries and a touch of spice. On the palate, the spice was much more prominent, like a spicy Syrah, though there were also nice black cherry, plum and raspberry flavors. The tannins were moderate and the finish was long and enjoyable. Plenty of complexity, a nice structure and very satisfying. This was a Cabernet Franc that I very much enjoyed.

The 2006 Margalit Enigma ($75) is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and has an alcohol content of 14%. This was a dark red wine with an interesting nose of dark berries and mocha. It was a very rich, full bodied wine, a powerful wine although the tannins were very smooth. Complex flavors of blackberry, spice and chocolate. Very long finish for an exceptional wine, albeit at high price. Though this wine is probably comparable to similarly priced Bordeaux.

The 2006 Margalit Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($90) is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Sirah with an alcohol content of 14%. Another dark red wine and this had an enticing nose of ripe plum and blueberry. Both of the smells also came out on the palate, lush fruit that just pleased me immensely. There were plenty of spice notes as well, tantalizing the palate, daring you to guess all the varied flavors. The tannins seemed moderate, much less than expected. The finish lingered very satisfactorily, the fruit seeming to go on and on. An exceptional wine, sensual and hedonistic. Another pricey wine but again, probably worth the price.

The Pelter Winery is another family affair, having been founded by Tal Pelter in 2002 on the family farm in Moshav Zofit. But, Tal realized they would soon outgrow that space so the winery was moved to a temporary location and will soon be permanently located in the northern portion of Ramat HaGolan. The vineyards, almost nine acres, are located on the Golan.

The winery produces two basic brands: the Pelter series, which are supposed to be quality value wines, and the T-Selection series, their higher-end, low production wines. They currently produce between 30,000 and 40,000 bottles each year.

The 2008 Pelter Unwooded Chardonnay ($21) was quite delicious. It had a fine yellow color and a nose of tropical fruits. On the palate, there was plenty of citrus flavors, especially lemon and a bit of peach. It was crisp with a lengthy finish, just the type of Chardonnay I prefer and I would definitely recommend this wine.

I previously tasted the prior vintages of the next two wines, and had enjoyed them both. The new vintages were just s pleasing. The 2008 Pelter Sauvignon Blanc ($19) was very similar to the 2007 Pelter Sauvignon Blanc except that I did not detect any grassy notes on the 2008. The 2007 Pelter Trio ($25) was also comparable to the 2006 Pelter Trio, the only real difference being that the new vintage was a few dollars cheaper.

The most expensive of the Pelter series was the 2006 Pelter Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz ($32) a 50%/50% blend that spent about 18 months in French and American oak. This was an interesting blend of black fruits and spice. Tannins were fairly strong, making this preferably a food wine. Good complexity, nice balance and a long finish made this a very good wine.

Again, I faced a wine with some trepidation, another Cabernet Franc. Yet the 2006 Pelter T-Selection Cabernet Franc ($44) lacked any green/vegetal smell or taste. I was shocked that I had found two Cabernet Francs at this tasting which I actually enjoyed. This wine spent about 14 months in French oak and reminded once again of a spicy Shiraz. There were nice berry flavors, especially some black cherry, as well as hints of cinnamon and Christmas spices. Complex, long finish, and quite delicious.

The final Pelter wine was their 2006 Pelter T-Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($38), which spent about 20 months in French oak. This wine had plenty of fruit flavors but not in the style of California fruit bomb. I expected more tannins but this was a silky, velvet wine with lush tastes of plum, blackberry, blueberry, chocolate and spice. A hedonistic wine that is well worth the price. This was one of my favorite wines of the tasting.

More reviews to come tomorrow.


dhonig said...

The 2005 Margalit Cabernet Franc got an 89 from Wine Spectator. Can you x-post to The 89 Project? Have you joined yet? Pls DM me on Twitter- @dhonig2

Wine Tasting Guy said...

Love reading all the Israeli wine stuff!

Having tasted most of the wines you wrote about I would (humbly) say that your notes are right on.


Anonymous said...

Margalit's books are my 'bibles' for wine making. I have to admit that being in California I have not had a chance to try his wines, yet. I am going to have to locate some of these now.