Not very long ago, I made my way to Moshav Ramot Naftaly in the Upper Galilee to taste wines from three different wineries. With its panoramic view of the Hula Valley on one side and the fertile Kadesh Valley on the other, this is a place from which the vista is so exquisite and the air so crisply clean that it takes away the breath of any city mouse like me.
My tastings took place at three wineries - Na'aman, Ramot Naftaly and Amram. The wines cost between 75-90 per bottle.
As at past tastings, Na'aman wines reflect a sophisticated country-style nature. More than that, they show what in stereotypical terms might be thought of as "masculine" wines - that is to say, concentrated, intense and muscular, though with the muscles showing themselves in a gentle and mannerly fashion. A visitors' center is now open and best contact for the winery is by telephone to 050-7944881.
Na'aman, Black Velvet, 2008: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (60 percent, 30 percent and 10 percent respectively ) come together in a medium- to full-bodied, firmly tannic wine that blossoms slowly in the glass to reveal generous blackberry, currant and tobacco notes, showing fine balance and structure that bode well for the future. The best to date from the winery. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2012-2016. Score 91.
Na'aman, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: Well extracted, showing deep garnet, blended with 6 percent Malbec. Full-bodied, with generous soft tannins and notes of vanilla and cinnamon from the oak in which it aged. On the nose and palate currants, blackberries, purple plums and dark chocolate, and on the long finish, hints of raspberries and red licorice. Approachable now but best 2012-2015. Score 90.
Na'aman, Pink Floyd, Rose 2010: Deep rose petal pink, with a red fruit nose, showing medium-bodied and deep with a generous but not overpowering 13 percent alcohol level and even a bare and tantalizing hint of tannins. On the nose and palate red currants, cranberries and a hint of bitter earth on the finish. Not your usual run-of-the-mill rose but one that will go as nicely with lamb chops as it will with grilled salmon. Drink from release-2012. Score 88.
Ramot Naftaly Winery
With a handsome visitors' center now operating, current production is about 10,000 bottles annually. The wines have been kosher from the 2009 vintage. Best contact for the winery is by telephoning 04-6940371.
Ramot Naftaly, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: Medium- to full-bodied, with gently caressing tannins a round and smooth blend of 60 percent Shiraz and 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose, roasted herbs and red fruits and in the glass currants, raspberries and tempting notes of espresso. Tannins and fruits rise nicely on the finish. Drink now-2014. Score 90.
Ramot Naftaly, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: Deep garnet, full-bodied, with generous tannins needing time to integrate but showing fine structure and balance. Oak-aged for 24 months but happily reflecting that with gentle notes of spices and smoke, opening to reveal an array of black currant, blackberry and wild berry fruits, supported nicely by hints of roasted herbs. Long and generous. Drink from release-2014. Score 90.
Ramot Naftaly, Petit Verdot, 2008: Deep purple in color, medium-bodied, with softly caressing tannins, showing both red and black berries on a background of toasty oak. Lively but not exaggerated acidity and notes of spices with fruits and tannins rising on the long finish. Needs a bit of time for its elements to come together. Best from 2012-2015, perhaps longer. Score 90. K
This winery releases three series - the barrique-aged Premium and Bresheit, and Ramot Naftaly, which is made in large glass containers together with oak chips. Best contact for the winery is by telephone to 04-6940039.
Amram, Cabernet Sauvignon, Premium, 2008: Oak aged for 18 months (12 months in new barriques and then for six months longer in three-year-old oak ), showing super-dark garnet, full-bodied, with generous soft tannins and notes of spicy oak. Opens with a spicy nose, goes on to reveal traditional Cabernet Sauvignon aromas and flavors of blackberries and blackcurrants, those complemented by notes of Oriental spices. Long and round. Drink now-2014, perhaps longer. The winery's best to date. Score 89.
Amram, Merlot, Ramot Naftaly, 2007: Deep garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins and notes of spicy wood. Generous black fruits on the nose and palate, complemented by notes of tobacco and earthy minerals. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 86.