I have said it before and I shall say it again: There are few things more rewarding to the critic than doing annual tastings and retastings at wineries whose wines become better and more interesting every year. This is the case with the Chillag and the Ein Teina wineries.
After studying oenology in Piacenza, Italy, and working at the Antinori winery in Tuscany, Orna Chillag released her first wines in Israel in 1998. Now located in the industrial zone of Yehud, the winery uses Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Upper Galilee and the Judean Mountains, and recently planted its own Syrah, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. Production has grown from 4,000 bottles in 2002 to the current 20,000 bottles.
Chillag, Petite Sirah, 2006: From a vineyard in the Jerusalem Mountains at 750 meters above sea level, this is Petite Sirah as Petite Sirah should be. Oak-aged for 24 months, almost impenetrably dark garnet, dense and concentrated, opening with lavender and peppery notes, which yield to chocolate and licorice and only then black cherry, blackberry, cassis and plum flavors. In the background look for tobacco and toasty oak and, on the long, chewy finish, a note of espresso. Drink now through 2016. NIS 240. Score 92.
Chillag, Merlot, Solo, 2006: Oak-aged in French barriques for 18 months and blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins, this wine opens with a floral and licorice nose, and goes on to reveal generous black and red fruits, all complemented nicely by notes of spicy wood. Lingers nicely on the palate. Drink now through 2013. NIS 110. Score 89.
Chillag, Merlot, Vivo, Judean Mountains, 2006: Showing greater complexity than at an earlier tasting. Super-dark garnet in color, reflecting its 12 months in new and one-year-old French barriques with gently spicy cedar notes, this wine opens to reveal purple plums, wild berries and notes of spices on the moderately long finish. Mouth-filling and generous. Drink now through 2012. NIS 80. Score 89.
Chillag, Blend, Vivo, Judean Mountains, 2006: A garnet to royal purple, medium- to full-bodied blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22.5% each of Merlot and Syrah. Oak-aged for 12 months, this wine opens to reveal purple plums, raspberries and notes of milk chocolate and espresso coffee. Drink now through 2012. NIS 80. Score 89
Wines from Ein Teina
Founded by Yotam Ben-Tzvi on Moshav Givat Yoav on the southern Golan Heights, this small winery released its first wines in 2004. Its first year it released 900 bottles, and current production is about 4,000 bottles annually. The winery uses Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes from vineyards in the southern and northern Golan Heights. The wines cost NIS 90 to NIS 100 each. The winery can be contacted at (050 ) 821-7554, or through its webpage www.ein-teina.com.
Ein Teina, Talia's Blend, 2008: Garnet to royal purple, a medium- to full-bodied, gently tannic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, developed in French oak for 14 months. On the nose blueberries and chocolate, which make way for an appealing array of currants, purple plums and licorice, all with a hint of earthy minerals on the generous finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from mid-2011 to 2015. Score 90.
Ein Teina, Syrah, 2008: Fermented entirely on wild yeasts and developed for 16 months in French oak barriques, a deeply extracted wine showing fine balance and structure. On opening attack you'll find spicy oak, which makes way comfortably for generous notes of cassis, red plums, citrus peel and licorice. On the long finish tannins rise along with a hint of saddle leather. Best from mid-2011 through 2015. Score 90.
Ein Teina, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: After undergoing cold fermentation in open vats using a combination of wild and cultured yeasts, the wine was transferred to French and American oak barriques where it was aged for 13 months. Full-bodied, with somewhat chunky country-style tannins and a hint of sawdust on the nose, the wine opens in the glass to reveal traditional Cabernet Sauvignon blackcurrants and blackberries. Tannins, fruits and notes of licorice and citrus peel rise on the long finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from mid-2011 to 2015. Score 90.