Set in the central Coastal Plain, the Vitkin Winery, established by Doron and Sharona Belogolovsky, released its first wines from the 2002 vintage. Bordeaux-trained winemaker Asaf Paz relies on Carignan, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Viognier, French Colombard, Johannisberg Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat grapes, some from their own vineyards, others from vintners in the Judean Hills along with several other parts of the country.
This exciting winery, located on Moshav Kfar Vitkin, is currently producing about 45,000 bottles annually in two series. Its Vitkin series is comprised of age-worthy varietal wines, while the Israeli Journey wines are blends meant for relatively early drinking.
Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2007: Dark garnet toward royal purple, full-bodied, and with generous but silky tannins integrating beautifully. Oak-aged for 15 months, but showing a gentle hand with spicy oak and cigar tobacco notes. On the nose and palate blackberries, black cherry and roasted herbs, all leading to a long, stylishly aromatic finish. Drink now-2014. NIS 115. Score 92.
Vitkin, Pinot Noir, 2008: Medium-dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied and generously aromatic, reflecting its 10 months in oak - which had previously been used to develop Viognier - with gently gripping tannins and light spices. Made by a double selection of the grapes - half early harvested and half moderately late harvested - showing black cherry, spiced mushrooms and light earthy mineral overtones. On the long finish, notes of near-sweet cedar and roasted nuts. Needs a bit of time to show its elegance. Enjoyable now but best from mid-2011 to 2015. NIS 85. Score 91.
Vitkin, Carignan, 2007: Super-dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with gentle notes of spices and vanilla from the oak in which it aged for 15 months, and tannins now yielding comfortably. On the nose and palate raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, with a light peppery note that lingers nicely. On the long finish tempting notes of minerals and licorice. Drink now-2013. NIS 95. Score 90.
Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2007: Made from old vine grapes (30-40 years old ), a super-dark garnet wine with fine balance between spicy wood, acidity and fruit. Opens with the traditional rich huckleberry, boysenberry and blackberry notes that we have come to associate with the better wines of this variety, matched nicely by notes of minerals and dark chocolate. Once firm and somewhat chunky tannins now settling in nicely to produce a powerful but round and elegant wine. Drink now-2012, perhaps longer. NIS 115. Score 90.
Vitkin, Johannisberg Riesling, 2008: Somewhere in style between the Rhine and Alsace, light gold in color, medium-bodied, with finely tuned balance between fruit and acidity. On the nose and palate, generous spices that add charm to white peach, grapefruit and white mulberries. Taking on an appealing light Riesling petrol note. Drink now-2012. NIS 85. Score 90.
Vitkin, Red Journey, 2008: Deep ruby towards garnet in color, with a rich floral and berry nose, showing medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins and equally gentle notes of spicy wood. A blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc, oak-aged for 10 months in mostly used barrels. Opening to show ripe berries and plums, going on to reveal notes of roasted herbs, black pepper and on the long finish, vanilla. Round and generous. Drink now-2011. NIS 70. Score 88.
Vitkin, White Journey, 2008: A blend of 55% Viognier, 35% French Colombard and 10% Gewurztraminer, the Viognier aged in new French oak, the others sur lie in stainless steel tanks. Flowery on both the nose and palate, with crisp and refreshing acidity, and opening to reveal generous ripe summer fruits. Lively and refreshing. Drink now. NIS 65. Score 88.
Two wines from Psagot
Located in the northern Judean Hills, overlooking Wadi Kelt (Nachal Prat ), the Psagot Winery was founded by Na'ama and Ya'akov Berg, who planted their first vineyards in 1998. The winery's oak barriques are stored in a cave containing ancient pressing facilities, which maintains 90% humidity and temperatures at up to 18 degrees Celsius. Relying on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Chardonnay grapes, Psagot's top-of-the-line wine is a Bordeaux blend named Edom. Regular varietal wines are produced in the Psagot series. The winery is currently producing about 90,000 bottles annually.
Psagot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, 2007: Almost impenetrable inky-dark garnet in color, full-bodied, with generous oak waiting to settle down and reflect the wine's inherently good balance. On the nose and palate ripe currant, blackberry and citrus peel notes, complemented by notes of sweetened chewing tobacco and mocha. Drink now-2013, perhaps longer. NIS 90. Score 90. K
Psagot, Edom, 2007: A Bordeaux blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. Showing medium- to full-bodied (leaning toward full ), with its once firm tannins and generous spicy wood and acidity now integrating nicely. Opens in the glass to show generous spicy black fruits, yielding to notes of cassis and Mediterranean herbs. Long and generous. Drink now-2013. NIS 110. Score 89. K