There are moments when winemakers get upset with the critics, mistakenly thinking we are "picking on them." Producers of wine should realize two things, the first being that honest critics publish what they truly think, regardless of whether the wines being reviewed are out-and-out superb, just plain bad or somewhere in the middle. Second, they should understand that sometimes their actions confuse even the most diligent of critics. Such is the case with the 2009 Tishbi Brut, which I recently tasted.
I am confused as to why, since the 2000 vintage, the decision was made to produce this sparkling wine entirely from French Colombard grapes. Indeed, French Colombard (or simply Colombard, as it is known in France ) is a frequently planted grape. A cross between Gouais Blanc and Chenin Blanc, the grape proves excellent for the production of Cognac and Armagnac. In the vast majority of cases, however, this grape is used primarily as a blending agent and then largely to provide an acidic base to many of the cheap Californian and Australian jug wines.
In short, the wine stands up rather poorly against Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier or other perhaps "more noble" white varieties. As for making sparkling wines from French Colombard, this is done largely in the United States by wineries like Korbel, which makes a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and French Colombard that sells for about $8.00.
Tishbi, Brut, 2009: Made in the methode Champenoise - that is to say, with first fermentation in stainless steel and second fermentation in the bottle. From a technical standpoint, the wine is crisply dry, but because it shows all of the flowery traits of the variety and is generously fruit forward with summer fruits, many will mistake the wine for off-dry (confusion between fruity and sweet being quite common ). A short mousse, but fine bubbles that linger nicely. Drink now or in the next year or so. NIS 85. Score 84. K
Founded in 2003 by Motti Goldman and Amram Sourasky, and located on Moshav Bnei Atarot, the Villa Wilhelma winery draws its red grapes from vineyards in the Upper Galilee and from Karmei Yosef at the foot of the Judean Hills. Wines are released in three series, Grand Reserve, Timeless and Villa Wilhelma.
The winery recently released their three Timeless wines, oak-aged for 780 days, 929 days and 1,120 days. Just how the winemaker decided when each was at its best eludes me, as does the fact that he's chosen to go against the belief held by the vast majority of winemakers in Israel - that many wines simply cannot withstand super-long aging in new oak before becoming bombastic and lacking in balance.
Villa Wilhelma, Timeless, 780 Days, 2007: A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. Developed in new French and partly American oak for 789 days (26 months ). Deep garnet in color, on the nose spicy oak and hints of black fruits, parting in the glass to make way for raspberries and cassis. From mid-palate on black currants, spices and a hint of espresso. Generously but not overpoweringly oaky. Drink now-2013, perhaps longer. NIS 145. Score 87.
Villa Wilhelma, Timeless, 929 Days, 2006: Made precisely in the same manner as the wine reviewed above, but aged in oak for 929 days (31 months ). On the nose more than generous spicy and smoky notes of oak and cedarwood, and what strikes at one moment as black fruits and another of cigar box and tobacco. A "blockbuster" of a wine, concentrated and intense showing a generous oaky overlay that parts slowly to reveal sur-ripe, almost jammy currants and blackberries, complemented by notes of sweet cocoa and roasted herbs. For those who enjoy their wines on the distinctly oaky side. Drink now-2013. NIS 165. Score 85.
Villa Wilhelma, Timeless, 1120 Days, 2006: The same blend, developed in new oak for a whopping 1,120 days (37 months ). Dark garnet in color, full-bodied and with firm tannins and very generous oak that don't seem to want to yield. Think of this as an oak bomb if you like, the sweet and smoky oak so dominant that the purple plum and cassis flavors seem far too jam-like. Drink now-2013. NIS 190. Score 82.