The chosen wines
Not long ago I paid a visit to the Binyamina Winery for a round of tastings. With an enormous investment being made in equipment, modernization of the winery and vineyards, there is little that doesn't impress me. More than that, the team of senior winemaker Sasson Ben Aharon and winemaker Asaf Paz is a winning combination, each giving his input to the winemaking philosophy of the winery and each showing his particular skills. Binyamina is now a winery to be taken very seriously indeed.
The winery releases several series: Avnei Hachoshen, (known on the English language labels as The Chosen), Reserve, Yogev, Tiltan and Teva.
Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah-Petite Verdot, Ya'alom, Choshen, 2007: An identical blend to the 2006 release - 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Syrah and 20 percent Petite Verdot, developed in new French oak for 20 months. Full-bodied, with still gripping tannins and generous sweet and spicy cedar wood waiting to settle down but showing fine balance that bodes well for the future. On first attack red currants and ripe plums, yielding gently to black fruits, all sitting comfortably on a light peppery background. Long and generous but needs time. Best from mid-2011-2016. NIS 140. Score 91. K
Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Merlot, Sapir, Choshen, 2007: Almost as good as the excellent 2006. Dark garnet, full-bodied and concentrated, showing spicy cedar wood and soft tannins integrating nicely. On the palate blackberries, plums and blueberries, with a tempting illusion of sweetness on first attack that recedes as the wine opens and shows black cherries and hints of tobacco and garrigue. Long and generous. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2015. NIS 135. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tiltan, 2005-2006-2007: Wines from three vintages, each developed separately in oak before final blending. Opens with rich chocolate notes on the nose, carrying over to the palate along with ripe black fruits, licorice and an appealing hint of earthy herbaceousness. Full bodied, with a long finish. Drink now-2014. NIS 135. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon, The Cave, 2006: Don't ask me why (because I will not be able to explain it) but tasting this wine recalled nothing more than some of the better Concha y Toro releases from Chile. The wine is blended with 3 percent Petit Verdot, full-bodied, surprisingly soft and round, opening with red fruits that turn in the glass to blackberries and currants. In the background an appealing note of a forest floor after a light rain. Drink now-2014. NIS 190. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Gewurztraminer, Reserve, 2009: Lithe and refreshing with fine acidity balanced well with grapefruit, floral and spice flavors that are both lively and complex. Off-dry but with mouthwatering acidity that stands up nicely to the fruits and spices here. Long and generous and will go not only with Asian and North African dishes but on its own as an aperitif. Drink now-2012. NIS 45. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Rose, Yogev, 2009: A comfortable move away from tradition by making this rose from a blend of 60 percent Malbec and 40 percent Carignan. Light cherry red in color, light to medium-bodied, with an abundance of cherry, dried berry and watermelon rind fruits. Look as well for hints of chantrelle mushrooms and spices that linger nicely on the palate. Makes me think of Coteaux de Provence and thus it must be good. Drink now. NIS 45. Score 88. K
Binyamina, Blanc, Yogev, 2009: An unoaked blend of 70 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 30 percent Chardonnay. Pale golden straw in color, with fresh acidity in fine balance with fruits. On the nose and palate citrus and citrus peel, mango and an appealing hint of freshly cut grass. Drink now or in the next year or so. NIS 45. Score 87. K
Binyamina, Zinfandel, Reserve, 2008: Dark royal purple, opening with a sweet and floral California Zinfandel nose but then moving on to also show aromas of berries and cherries. Made from 14 year old vines, developed in 300-liter American oak hogsheads selected for their extra-fine grain to let the wood remain in fine balance with the fruits. Ripe and rich, with generous blackberry, peppery and sage notes, those followed by a tempting note of licorice that rises on the long finish. Drink now-2014. NIS 95. Score 90. K
Binyamina, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2009: Pale wet straw in color, fully faithful to the variety, opening with notes of grapefruit and lime, accompanied by notes of stony minerals and yes, even the traditional hints of cat's pee and asparagus. Aromatic and long. Drink now-2011. NIS 60. Score 89. K
Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Teva, 2009: Garnet to royal purple in color, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and a hint of smoky wood, parting to reveal generous blackberry, cassis and light peppery notes. At its best with entrecote steaks or 300-gram hamburgers. Drink now-2012. NIS 38. Score 88. K
Binyamina, Merlot, Teva, 2007: Developed in stainless steel vats with oak staves, deep royal purple, with fine extraction of color and noted but gentle tannins and a light smoky wood influence. Flavors of blackberries, currants and garrigue come together nicely. Not overly complex but delicious. Drink now. NIS 38. Score 87. K