The wines of Northern Israel: Bat Shlomo
VI Magazine, Miquel Hudin, June 2014
While Bat Shlomo is sorta technically not Galilee, it sorta technically is, especially as regional wine maps in Israel are a bit “fluid” and will often lump the Carmel Mountains in to Greater Galilee. But it’s more the fact that I feel the level of quality and the trajectory of the wines is such that it is better lumped in to this northern group than any other. Sitting on the lands of the 19th century moshava (moshav? I’m still learning…) of Bat Shlomo, they lie just a bit south of the Carmel Mountains. The vines are all relatively new and beyond creating a new high quality, Kosher winery, there’s a reason that Elie Wurtman planted them there.
As the history goes, here is where Baron Edmond de Rothschild founded this Israeli settler establishment some 125 years ago and being a Frenchman who owned Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux, he wanted to plant vines there as well. Those original vines were unfortunately long since torn up and replaced with various fruit trees. So, Elie’s plan is to slowly build up new vineyards, build a cellar in the moshava and create a living museum akin to Colonial Willamsburg in the US. A determined fellow, Elie will undoubtedly succeed in doing this.
In the meantime he’s hired Ari Erle to head up the enology and viticulture. Having studied at UC Davis and worked in Napa, he’s a sharp fellow and is doing wonderful things with the wines. The Sauvignon Blanc 2013 was one of the best that I tasted. Very well made with nice acidity and touches of green apple and white pear to the nose. The body was fresh, a touch tart, and nice and clean in to the finish.
The Chardonnay 2012 was something special. While it’s currently being produced from grapes that they buy, Ari has created a wonderfully elegant and restrained wine with wonderful mineral notes to the nose. The body is perfectly balanced with a clean, fresh finish and was one of my favorite wines from the trip–this is coming from someone incredibly tired with New World Chardonnay.
The Betty’s Cuvee 2012 they opened for us is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest being Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. It’s a wine that’s soon to be released and it was readily easy to see that it’d be happy to sit in the bottle for two or three years more. But it expressed a great, earthy body with touches of dried fig and truffle. Again, excellent balance with good, well massaged tannins and a dry, fresh finish.
Whatever Bat Shlomo is doing, I heavily encourage them to keep doing it and I look forward to tasting what will start to emerge from their own vineyards starting with the coming vintage.