Wine and Spirits / A California Cult Winery (And Kosher, Too)

No half-educated wine lover these days has a problem with kosher wines, but nearly everyone knows that that after a few months in bottle, most mevushal (flash pasteurized) wines tend to offer cooked aromas and flavors, and too often remind one more of oxidized fruit compote than of fine wine. No one is quite sure how Hagafen winemaker Ernie Weir does it, but his are among the very few flash pasteurized wines to have escaped this fate, and his wines, frequently earning scores of 90 or above, tend to be rather long lived.

Some may think that shipping kosher wines to Israel is somewhat akin to selling ice to Eskimos, but in this case the Hagafen wines are a most welcome addition to local shelves. The importer of these wines is Mandel, and to find the store nearest you, call (03) 604-4672.

Hagafen, Chardonnay, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, 2006: Golden straw in color, this medium- to full-bodied white shows tantalizing hints of toasty and spicy oak. Begins with citrus and apple aromas and flavors on a lightly creamy background, and then opens to reveal notes of ripe peaches and citrus peel. A white that will go equally well with fish, chicken or veal. Drink now-2009. NIS 89. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 2006: Light golden straw in color, certainly one of the best dry whites to date from Hagafen. Like many of the Hagafen wines, this one opens with a complex and concentrated nose, in this case showing citrus and grapes, which go on to orange peel and hints of mango and freshly mown grass, with an underlying hint of bitterness set off by lively acidity. Drink now-2010. NIS 60. Score 91. K

Hagafen, Merlot, Napa Valley, 2005: Medium-dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and concentrated fruits. Opens with an appealing note of freshly turned earth, which continues with spicy, almost chili-pepper scented blackberry, currant and plum fruits. Softens and turns gentle and elegant on the long finish. Approachable now but best 2009-2012. NIS 120. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, 2006: Cherry red to garnet in color, floral on the nose, a stylish and supple wine, showing a generous array of cherry, pomegranate and red currant fruits, on a background of green tea and vanilla. Soft tannins linger on a finish of minerals and cedar wood. Drink now-2011. NIS 120. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2005: A well-focused wine, medium-bodied, with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and just the barest tantalizing hints of spicy oak. Opens with black cherry and sage notes, those going on to reveal ripe plum, licorice and mineral notes. Long and generous. Best 2009-2011. NIS 120. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Syrah, Napa Valley, 2003: With its chocolate covered cherry flavors and generous spicy oak, this wine calls out California in a big way, but with its firm tannins, spicy oak, tobacco, and leathery and meaty overlays, it calls out no less the Rhone Valley. In any case, a lovely wine - dark garnet with green and purple reflections, full-bodied with firm tannins now integrating nicely. Long, concentrated and intense. Enjoyable now but with time will show elegance. Best 2009-2012. NIS 120. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2003: Dark garnet, full-bodied with firm tannins and generous near-sweet cedar-wood, the wine opens in the glass to reveal blackberries, currants and citrus peel. Give this one a bit more time, and it will also show chocolate and tobacco notes. Best 2009-2012, perhaps longer. NIS 160. Score 89. K

I recent tasted four recent releases from Noah, which, to the best I understand, is not so much an independent winery as it is a branch of the Hevron Heights Winery. Depending on where I found these wines, prices ranged from NIS 35 to NIS 50 per bottle.

Hevron Heights Winery, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Noah, Tevel, 2005: Aged in barriques for 12 months, a dark garnet blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium- to full-bodied, with blackberry, plum and black cherry fruits on a lightly spicy background. Not complex. Drink now. Score 84. K

Hevron Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Noah, 2006: Dark garnet, medium-bodied, with firm, chunky tannins. A hint of barnyard aromas that linger, and on the palate a note of mold that hides the skimpy berry fruits. Score 69. K

Hevron Heights Winery, Merlot, Noah, 2006: Garnet to purple, medium- to full-bodied, with too flabby tannins and somewhat muddy berry and cherry flavors. Score 69. K

Hevron Heights Winery, Emerald Riesling, Noah, 2007: Straw-colored, light in body, with generous floral and citrus notes. Acidic, thin and cloyingly sweet. Score 68. K

Hevron Heights Winery, Village Superior, Noah, n.v.: Garnet red, medium-bodied, with aromas and flavors of grape and berry juice more than of wine, and finishing with a hint of muddy water. Drink now if at all. Score 65. K