Wine and Spirits / Winning Wines From the Big Boys of Binyamina

A collection of recently released wines are worth our attention this week, the first group from Binyamina Wineries. Now the fourth largest winery in the country, producing about 2.6 million bottles annually, the winery has undergone considerable modernization and winemakers Sasson Ben-Aharon and Assaf Paz are going a long way in raising the quality of their upper and lower level releases.

Binyamina, Zinfandel, Reserve, 2008: Dark royal purple, opening with a sweet and floral California Zinfandel nose but then moving on to also show aromas of berries and cherries. Made from 14-year-old vines, developed in 300 liter American oak hogsheads, selected for their extra-fine grain to let the wood remain in fine balance with the fruits. Ripe and rich, with generous blackberry, peppery and sage notes, followed by a tempting note of licorice that rises on the long finish. Drink now-2014. NIS 100. Score 90. K

Binyamina, Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot, Yogev, 2009: Oak-aged for about six months in second- and third-year barriques to intentionally impart only a gentle feel of the impact of the wood. Medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins, but the red berry and cherry aromas and flavors have far too much of a jammy note. Drink now. NIS 57. Score 84. K

Binyamina, Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest, 2009: Deep, almost bronzed gold in color, with some of the grapes impacted upon by botrytis cinerea, the "noble rot" that is responsible for many of the world's best dessert wines. Full-bodied and nearly thick in texture, with an appealing light note of botrytis funk to highlight aromas and flavors of honeyed dried apricots. Low in alcohol (9 percent ) and with fine balancing acidity to keep the wine lively, a tempting dessert wine. Drink now-2016, perhaps longer. NIS 85 for 375 ml. bottles. Score 92. K

Set on Kibbutz Tzuba in the Judean Hills, the winery's first releases from the 2005 vintage were of 30,000 bottles. Founder Moti Tzamir was largely responsible for the production of the wines of 2005 and 2006, and with South African-born vintner and winemaker Paul Dubb now firmly in charge, the winery currently issues wines in three series: the top-of-the-line Hametzuda that will be produced only in selected years; Tel Tzuba of varietal and blended wines, and the popularly priced Hama'ayan. The winery also produces a red dessert wine.

The winery's grapes all come from the kibbutz's own vineyards, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Malbec and Pinot Noir grapes as well as white grapes Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc represented. You can email them at winery@tzuba.org.il

Tzuba, HaMetzuda, 2007: Showing even better than at barrel tastings. Dark garnet with purple and orange reflections, a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec (60 percent, 25 percent and 15 percent respectively ). Full-bodied and concentrated, with still firm tannins and generous wood waiting to settle in but already showing balance and structure that bode well for the future. On first attack purple plums and notes of mocha, yielding comfortably to an array of blackberry, cassis and orange peel, and on the long finish, notes of red cherries and red licorice. Long, generous and mouth-filling. Best from 2011-2015, perhaps longer. NIS 87. Score 92. K

Tzuba, Shiraz, Hametzuda, 2007: Made entirely from Shiraz grapes, gently oak aged and with generous mouth-coating tannins. On first attack huckleberries and blueberries, parting to make way for blackberries and a temptingly peppery background. Full-bodied, well-focused and concentrated. Tempting now but has the structure and balance for cellaring. Drink and enjoy now if you will but best from 2011-2014. NIS 87. Score 90. K

Tzuba, Pinot Noir, Tel Tzuba, 2007: Pinot with a distinctly Mediterranean flavor. Dark ruby in color, medium- to full-bodied, with generously caressing soft tannins. On first attack floral, mineral and raspberry fruits and then to black cherries, green tea and notes of both licorice and saddle leather. A multi-layered wine. Drink now-2012. NIS 78. Score 89. K