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The Recanati winery, established in 2000, is located in the Hefer Valley in the north part of the Sharon region. It relies on grapes from its own and contract vineyards, primarily in the Upper Galilee. Until late 2007, its senior winemaker was Lewis Pasco, and now it's the equally talented Gil Shatzberg, formerly of Amphorae.

The winery produces several series - the top-of-the-line, age-worthy Special Reserve (often blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and two varietal series, Reserve and Recanati, which now include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah-Zinfandel, Chardonnay and most recently Sauvignon Blanc. Production is about 750,000 bottles annually and moving higher.

Recanati recently released a major selection of wines, including three reserve wines from the 2006 vintage whose labels are illustrated by paintings by Yossl Bergner. The set of three wines, in an attractive box, each signed by the artist, was released in a limited edition of 500 sets, at NIS 500 each. Recanati is not the first to use the works of well-known artists on their labels. Chateau Mouton Rothschild did it, and in Israel, for years Segal used such labels. The set is available at Derekh Hayain and selected wine shops. I advise buying a set of the specially labeled wines as a collector's item and a bottle each of the normally labeled wines for drinking.

Recanati, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2006: Dark garnet toward royal purple, medium- to full-bodied (leaning toward the full), with generous, near sweet tannins, and on the nose and palate a generous array of blackcurrant, blackberry, spice and mocha notes. Juicy and long. Drink now-2011. Score 90. K

Recanati, Merlot, Reserve 2006: Full-bodied, firm texture, with tannins integrating nicely and showing appealing blackberry, blueberry and currant fruits, supported by a hint of mocha. Chewy, round and long. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K

Recanati, Cabernet Franc, Reserve, 2006: With its once-firm tannins integrating nicely, medium-dark garnet, full-bodied and reflecting its 14 months in oak with generous but not imposing sweet cedar. Dark berry, black cherry and plum fruits highlighted by notes of tobacco, bell pepper and bittersweet chocolate, all lingering nicely on the finish. Drink now-2012. Score 91. K

Recanati, Chardonnay, Reserve, 2008: Developed partly in year-old barriques and partly in stainless steel, on its lees for six months, light gold in color, medium-bodied, with an appealing note of spicy oak to highlight the citrus and summer fruits and light hints of pepper and juniper berries. On the long and generous finish a tantalizing note of bitter citrus peel. Drink now-2012. NIS 90. Score 90. K

Recanati, Special Edition, 2008: A new blend for this wine - 40% Shiraz and 30% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and a gentle note of spicy wood and vanilla reflecting its six months primarily in American oak. A seductive wine, smooth and polished, opening nicely to reveal blueberry, black cherry and plum fruits, plus appealing hints of toasted coconut and bitter orange peel on the finish. Easy to drink while showing complexity and elegance. Drink now-2012. Very good value at NIS 70. Score 90. K

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2005: Royal purple, full-bodied, with firm, still rough-edged tannins, those integrating nicely with light spicy wood and fruits to show fine balance and structure. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot, this is a big, rich and bold wine, with concentrated layers of currant, blackberry, anise and cedary oak flavors. Drink now-2013. Score 93. K

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2006: A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot. Full-bodied, firm tannins integrating nicely and showing currant, blackberry and cherry liqueur aromas and flavors. Generous toasty oak here still holding firmly, but that, with the tannins, are settling in nicely to show a simultaneously intense but round and elegant wine. Approachable and enjoyable but consider holding this one for a year or so. Best from mid-2010-2013. Score 90. K

Another recent tasting was of two new releases from Barkan, now the second largest winery in Israel, producing 7.5-9 million bottles. With 1,500 contiguous dunams owned jointly by the winery and the kibbutz, Barkan is the largest single vineyard in the country and is developing a vineyard of 150 dunams at Mitzpeh Ramon.

Barkan Superieur, 2006: Full-bodied blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot aged for 18 months, mostly in new French barriques. Dark ruby to garnet, opens with generous oak and firm tannins, those subsiding in the glass and opening to reveal a light note of vanilla from the wood and then traditional Cabernet blackcurrants and blackberries, along with notes of blueberries and mint and at one moment there seemed to be a hint of lead pencils and at another a cigar box note. Well-crafted. Drink now-2013. NIS 225. Score 90. K

Barkan, Carignan, Reserve, 2007: True to Carignan characteristics: an exuberant wine with a distinct Mediterranean flair. Dark royal purple, medium-bodied, reflecting its 10 months in French oak with generous but well-integrated soft tannins and sweet cedar wood. Opening in the glass to reveal blackberry, wild berries and plums on a background of spices and dark chocolate. Blended with 8% Cabernet Franc, made from 20-year-old vines and boasting an appealing note of minerals that comes in and lingers nicely on the finish. Drink now-2012. Excellent value at NIS 77. At its best with lightly spicy food and charming enough to make it worth buying a case of 12. Score 89. K