Every year I visit well over 125 local wineries. Truth be told, while some produce excellent wines, a good are mediocre or worse. From time to time, the critic must visit the country's best wineries, and not too long ago I visited the Pelter winery on Kibbutz Ein Zivan in the Golan Heights.
Winemaker Tal Pelter, who studied oenology and worked at several wineries in Australia, uses Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Tempranillo, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay grapes. Most are grown in the Golan and the Upper Galilee, with some coming from the Jerusalem Mountains.
The winery, clearly one of the very best and one of only four in the country to produce a Champenoise-style sparkling wine, has two series of wines: T-Selection and Pelter. The winery has also just released its new flagship wine, "I," from 2008. Current annual production is about 85,000 bottles, and every recently released wine that I tasted comfortably earned 90 points or more.
Pelter, "I," 2008: The winery's new flagship wine, this is a Bordeaux blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot aged in French oak and deeply extracted. The wine opens with raspberries and chocolate on the nose, and goes on to a complex array of aromas and flavors, including currants, plums, black olives and citrus peel. Despite the blend, this is not so much a Bordeaux wine but rather a deeply elegant wine with a distinctly Mediterranean note. Full-bodied and concentrated, it needs time for its elements to come together. Approachable now but best from mid-2012 to 2018, perhaps longer. NIS 210. Score 94.
Pelter, Cabernet Sauvignon, T-Selection, 2008: Showing every bit as well as it did at barrel tastings. If I had to find a single word to describe this wine, it would be "scrumptious." As noted earlier, this wine is full-bodied and dark garnet, with soft, gently caressing tannins and notes of spicy wood finely balanced with fruits. On first attack, look for black and red berries and chocolate, which yield comfortably to black currants and notes of mint and freshly clipped Mediterranean herbs. Long and generous. Best from 2012 to 2018. NIS 140. Score 94.
Pelter, T-Selection Petit Verdot, 2008: Super-dark garnet, oak-aged for 14 months, full-bodied, with fine concentration and gently mouth-coating tannins and notes of sweet and spicy cedar. On first attack look for black currants and blackberries, which yield comfortably to purple plums and citrus peel and underlying hints of ripe Kalamata olives and a potpourri of Oriental spices. Fruits, wood and acidity are in fine balance here; the wine shows a generous and mouth-filling finish with notes of licorice. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from mid-2012 to 2019. NIS 160. Score 93.
Pelter, Shiraz-Grenache, T-Selection, 2008: A blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Grenache, oak-aged in primarily French barriques. Dark ruby to garnet, this wine has soft tannins and gentle spicy oak notes in fine balance with red currant and wild berry fruits. Smooth, round, and on the long finish, hints of cigar tobacco and Mediterranean herbs. Drink now through 2015. NIS 140. Score 90.
Pelter, Trio, 2008: Dark cherry red to garnet, this is a medium- to full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Reflects its oak-aging with notes of sweet and spicy wood, showing soft tannins and lively acidity. Opens to show aromas and flavors of currants, red and black berries, and on the long finish, dried herbs. Drink now through 2013. NIS 75. Score 90.
Pelter, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010: Light straw in color with green and orange reflections, this unoaked, medium-bodied wine opens with notes of navel oranges and red grapefruit, which make way for tropical fruits, stony minerals and a tantalizing hint of freshly mown grass. Crisp acidity makes the wine simultaneously complex and easy to drink. Drink now through 2012. NIS 70. Score 90.
Pelter, Chardonnay, 2010: As it is every year, this is a medium-bodied, unoaked white, damp golden straw in color, opening to show an appealing array of citrus, tropical fruits and white peaches on a background of flinty minerals. All this comes together as a refreshing and elegant whole. Drink now through 2013. NIS 70. Score 90.
Pelter, Gewurztraminer, 2010: Lightly off-dry but with fine acidity, which keeps the wine lively and refreshing. Opens to show traditional Gewurztraminer aromas and flavors of rosewater and litchis, which are complemented nicely by notes of green apples, ripe pears and green almonds. Lingers long and comfortably. Drink now-2014. NIS 85. Score 90.
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