Monday, February 23, 2009

Israeli Wine Tasting: Tulip Winery

I saved the fifth winery, the Tulip Winery, for last because I was really taken by their story and they garnered my admiration for its charity and community support. The Yitzhaki family founded this winery in 2003, locating it in Kfar Tikva, near their home in Kiryat Tivon.

Kfar Tikva (translated as "village of hope") was founded in 1964 on the Zaid Hills in the Jezreel Valley, near Kiryat Tivon, in northern Israel. It is a residential community, with about 200 members, for individuals with disabilities and special needs. The community was designed to assist these people realize their full potential, as well as to be able to live as independently as possible.

As their website states: "To its members, Kfar Tikva represents love, camaraderie, learning, therapy, work, laughter, song, and so much more. It is their hometown, and they have reason to be proud of it and of themselves for making it so unique." It is a touching story and I encourage all my readers to visit the Kfar Tikva site and read all about this special community.

The Tulip Winery works closely with the Kfar Tikva community, including hiring some of their members to work at the winery. These members work at all aspects of the wine production process, from harvest to bottling, as well as helping out with sales and vistors to the winery. Tulip also assists the community with renovations and improvements. Tulip is an integral partner to the community, and earn much admiration from me for all that they do. It is a great cause and such a compelling tale.

A couple of the Itzhaki family members at the winery include Itzhak Itzhaki, the "head of the clan” and winery owner, and Roy Itzhaki, younger son and CEO of the winery. Their wine maker is Tamir Arzy, an agronomist who specialized in the vine.

The winery’s vineyards are located several different areas, though mainly the Upper Galilee and Judean Hills. They believe this leads to more unique wines, reflective of different terroirs. The winery currently produces aprroximately 8000 cases of wine each year.

The first wine I tried was their 2007 White Tulip ($19), a unique blend of 70% Gewurtztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. This pale yellow colored wine had a prominent spicy nose that was typical Gewurtztraminer yet on the palate, the taste was much more Sauvignon Blanc with only hint of Gewurtztraminer spice. Plenty of nice citrus flavors, especially grapefruit, without any grassy taste. A crisp wine with a nice finish and the the hint of Gewurtztraminer flavors really added something to the wine. Seek out this wine!

Next up was the 2006 "Mostly" Cabernet Franc ($25), which is a blend of 86% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. The "Mostly" line consists of wines that are predominantly one grape, but with small additions of other grapes. They also have a "Just" line which consists of single grape wines.

This Cabernet Franc was aged for about 14 months in 90% French and 10% American oak and has an alcohol content of 14.5%. Unbelievably to me, this was another Cabernet Franc that I enjoyed, that lacked any green/vegetal flavors. It seems that if I want to enjoy Cabernet Franc, I need to buy it from Israel rather than France, Long Island or California. The wine had nice berry flavors, especially blackberry and black cherry. Nice acidity, a good finish and hints of intriguing spice. Tannins were mild and this wine could be drank on its own or paired with food.

The 2006 "Mostly" Shiraz ($25) is a blend of 64% Shiraz, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot. It was aged for about 14 months in 50% French and 50% American oak and has an alcohol content of 15.2%. This is a bold, rich wine that is quite spicy with black fruit flavors and hints of eucalyptus. It is too tannic and has a lingering and satisfying finish. Another hit wine!

The 2006 Syrah Reserve ($39.99) is a blend of 90% Syrah, 6% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. It was aged for about 16 months in French oak and has an alcohol content of 14.8%. This is similar to the "Mostly" Shiraz except the similarities are more intense in the Reserve. The fruit flavors are more lush and pronounced, the spiciness tingles your palate, and the finish is very, very long. It is more tannic so is a better wine to pair with food. There is also almost no eucalyptus flavor, but instead there is more vanilla. A more expensive wine but one that justifies the price.

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($32) is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petite Verdot. It was aged for about 18 months in new French oak and has an alcohol content of 15%. This is a very dark red wine with rich aromas of black fruit, especially plum. It is a full-bodied wine with lush black fruit flavors (and some blueberry), touches of vanilla, and hints of spice. The tannins are moderate, the wine is well balanced and has a lengthy finish. An excellent example of a Cabernet and a good price for the quality.

The final wine was the 2005 Black Tulip ($45), their top of the line. Look at the wine label carefully, especially the picture on the left side. Unfortunately, I don't currently have a better image of that picture. From the photo at the top of this picture, you can see that the Black Tulip label is very different due to the colorful picture on the label. The winery held a contest among the members of the Kfar Tikva community to design a picture for the label. And the above picture won, a colorful abstract with intriguing geometric shapes.

To me, this contest helps place Tulip's work with the Kfar Tikva community in a certain context. They could have easily created the contest for a label on one of their least expensive wines. But no, they chose to do so with their most expensive wine, the flagship of their portfolio. This speaks loudly to the world of their dedication and caring for this special community.

The Black Tulip is a Bordeaux style blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petite Verdot. All of the grapes were handpicked from vineyardes in the Judean Hills and only the best grapes are used. The 2005 vintage had low yields yet high quality grapes. The wine was aged for about 30 months in new French oak and then aged in the bottle for about 6 months. Only 2900 bottles were produced and the wine has an alcohol content of 15%.

This wine does remind me of Bordeaux, being very Old World in style. It has an almost purple color to it with an enticing nose of plum, black cherry and vanilla. It is a full bodied wine, with firm tannins, and lots of complexity on the palate. I tasted a well structured melange of flavors, including ripe plum, blueberry, vanilla, cinnamon, and cedar. The finish lingered for quite a long time, seemingly transforming in flavor every few months. Absolutely delicious and a wine with much potential to age well. I would pair this wine with food, though there is still a smooth elegance to this wine. I highly recommend this wine and it is well worth its price, it not twice the price.

That wraps up my four-part series on the recent Israeli wine tasting. I hope you now are intrigued enough to seek out some Israeli wines. I will sure be looking for more of their wines to taste. Israel is producing some excellent wines and they deserve more respect than they currently receive. If you cannot find Israeli wines in your local area, you may be able to order the wines I reviewed from Israeli Wine Direct.


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Wine Tasting Guy said...

Great stuff Richard. A nice story, great tasting notes. Fabulous 4 part series. Well done!!!

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