On the Up in the Hills

Located in the community of Psagot in the northern Jerusalem Hills, overlooking Wadi Kelt, the Psagot winery was founded by Naama and Yaakov Berg, who planted their first vineyards in 1998. The oak barriques used by the winery are stored in a cave dating back to the period of the Second Temple that contains both ancient pressing facilities and fully modern wine-making tools.

The cave maintains a natural 90 percent humidity, winter temperatures of about 12 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures that never exceed 18 degrees Celsius; its also used as the winerys barrel room. Relying on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Chardonnay grapes, the winerys top-of-the-line wine is a Bordeaux blend named Edom.

Regular varietal wines are produced in the Psagot series and there is also a Port-style wine. The winery also releases a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in years deemed appropriate (2007 and 2009, so far). Production has been growing annually, with the winery expecting to release 100,000 bottles from the 2010 vintage. From the point of both quality and wines that command our attention, this is clearly a winery on the up and up.

A brawny wine

Psagot, Edom, 2009: An ever-shifting blend, this year with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot (61%, 17%, 15% and 7%, respectively), each variety fermented separately until blending. Super-dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with gently caressing near-sweet tannins and just the right amount of spicy oak in the background. On the nose and palate, black currants, blueberry and purple plum fruits, those complemented by hints of Mediterranean herbs and, on the long finish, an appealing hint of bitter citrus peel. Best from 2012-2016, perhaps longer. NIS 110. Score: 90. K

Psagot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, 2009: Full-bodied enough to be thought of as brawny, showing deep black fruit aromatics and still generous notes of spicy oak; both the brawn, the oak and the fruits showing fine balance and structure, needing only time for its elements to come more fully together. On the nose and palate, black currants, crushed berries and figs, those supported by notes of espresso and roasted Brazil nuts. Give this one the time it needs and it will show its long and expressive finish. Best from mid-2012-2016, perhaps longer. NIS 150. Score: 90. K

Psagot, Cabernet Franc, 2009: So distinctly Cabernet Franc in its personality that anyone who tastes and mistakes it for Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot is almost certainly at least half brain-dead. Medium- to full-bodied (leaning to the full), with just chewy enough tannins; a round, supple and complex wine. On the nose and palate, pomegranate, raspberry fruits and floral notes, those supported by generous hints of cigar tobacco and licorice, all going on to a long and generous finish. Best from 2012-2016. NIS 100. Score: 90. K

Psagot, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with silky smooth tannins. On the opening nose dusty oak, with that parting in the glass to show aromas and flavors of red and black currants and bitter citrus peel, those in turn followed by notes of vanilla and smoke, all leading to a long and mouth-filling finish. Best from 2012-2016. NIS 90. Score: 89. K

Psagot, Merlot, 2009: Made entirely from Merlot grapes, moderately-dark garnet in color and medium- to full-bodied, reflecting its 13 months in oak with notes of spicy cedar wood. A distinctly red fruit wine, showing red berry and raspberry fruits, those supported nicely by notes of earthy minerals and lightly peppery spices, all leading to a generous finish on which theres a hint of dark chocolate. Drink now-2014. NIS 75. Score: 89. K

Psagot, Shiraz, 2009: Medium- to full-bodied, with a red fruit nose and gently chewy tannins. On the nose and palate, blueberries, cassis and plums, those on a background of brown spices, dried tomatoes and on the finish, with tannins rising, a hint of pomegranates. Best from 2012-2016, perhaps longer. NIS 110. Score: 89. K