Winning Wines to Bring in the Jewish New Year

A look at some lesser-known wines worthy of your attention for Rosh Hashanah.

Grapes
Sure, they look good like this, but they taste even better in a bottle.

Rosh Hashanah falls during the grape harvest for good reason: it's time when one circle closes and another opens. It’s a time for novelty. With that mind, we'll examine a few small and very small wine producers – those who don’t benefit from public relations or big advertising budgets, or exposure at the larger stores. This is due to either their lack of resources or small output. True, their wines aren’t necessarily cheap, but they have a personal touch and quality that meets the kind of brand criteria I would set in advance of this festive season.

Ahat (One), 2014

Nitzan Saverski only produced 1,923 bottles of her inaugural wine as part of her new initiative, Ahat (One), and this dry white marks her out as one to watch in coming years. Saverski has a master’s degree in viticulture and enology, and formerly worked with the Barkan Winery. After a hiatus, she returned to the arena with Ahat, with the goal of establishing an independent winery in the near future. Ahat 2014 was produced at the Hagiva Winery in the north, using Viognier and Roussillon grapes grown in the Elah Valley, southwest of Jerusalem. On first taste, it’s clear that she's a vintner who truly understands the raw materials she works with and can speak their language. Her interpretation of these grape species has led her to produce a precise wine, one with the sharpness and freshness of citrus fruit, alongside a deep aspect that comes from intelligent and delicate work with oak barrels. A nice wine, quietly powerful with attention to detail. Were it not for a wish to avoid outdated stereotypes, it would be tempting to label it a “feminine” wine (120 shekels – $30.50; can be bought at www.ahatwinery.com).

Bar-Maor, Riesling, 2014

Rami Bar-Maor is a rising force in the local wine industry, due mainly to his extraordinary passion and desire to push boundaries – even at the risk of making mistakes along the way. For the 2014 crop, he collected – for the first time – Riesling grapes from vineyards that were planted by the Margalit Winery at Givat Ada (near Haifa). When I visited his Binyamina winery a few months ago, Bar-Maor was his usual skeptical self about the quality of the wine lying in his vats. The final result, though, is surprising and overwhelming. It's a blend of lemon, minerals and sweetness, emerging suddenly with a dry, sharp finish that's highly acidic and leaves the palate refreshed. Produced in a limited edition and boasting a beautiful label, it's well worth laying your hands on (90 shekels, available at the winery or in wine stores).

Mia Luce, Rosso, 2012

Mia Luce is a “garage winery” (in other words, a very small, home-based operation), run by Kobi Arviv, a young and promising vintner who's the third and lesser-known vintner at the Recanati Winery. Like the wines he produced in earlier years, his Rosso 2012 is based mainly on Carignan grapes from the Judean Hills, this time with a small addition of Syrah grapes from the Upper Galilee. The secret of this wine’s charm lies in the balance of its components, allowing it to avoid being too heavy. Arviv manages to bring out the wilder, spicier and juicier characteristics of the Carignan and Syrah grapes, while preserving a crisp texture. This produces excellent acidity, utilizing a restrained use of the wood that doesn’t dominate the flavor. This is one of the best Carignan wines I’ve tasted this year. For optimal enjoyment, it should be opened several hours in advance of drinking (140 shekels, from the winery at kobiarviv@gmail.com).

3 Vines, Syrah, 2011

The 3 Vines Winery was established by Einat and Yossi Ben-Barak in Ramot Naftali, back in 2003. The Upper Galilee winery, which produces 5,000 bottles annually, has several vineyards. The Syrah grapes come from one of these, and are planted in the nearby Kadesh Valley. This Syrah wine, containing 13.2 percent alcohol, surprises by being both mild yet spicy. One sip reveals an elegant wine, perfectly balanced and superbly executed, which emphasizes the quality of the delicately ripened fruit in a manner that's hard to find in a hot region such as ours (100 shekels, purchased by ordering from the winery or in stores).

Kfira, 2012

Roni Shapira’s Kfira Winery appeared during the first wave of boutique wineries to hit Israel in the early 1990s, but then disappeared. Shapira's making a comeback with three new wines, produced in a new winery called Geshem. He won’t say which grapes he used, but the sensations evoked on the palate point to Bordeaux blends. This is a rich, thick wine with shades of green, a significant number of tannins and bitter flavors that lean toward chocolate-espresso. Despite some initial harshness, the wine opens slowly in your glass. It’s recommended that you open the bottle on the morning of the festive evening meal to enjoy the full effect (135 shekels, marketed by Premium Wine: 052-8331519).