I Love Reviewing Fine Wine – A Non-Kosher Israeli Chardonnay

Most wines that we review are not Kosher. But this is the first time that this aspect appears in the article title. Why? In part to help dispel the notion that all Israeli wines are Kosher. The word Gat is Hebrew for a wine press such as their pre-Roman version shown below. Harel Vineyards is located in the foothills of the Judean Mountains, where people have been making wine for about three millennia. They do so on almost 50 acres (about 19 hectares). Their first wines were the 2001 vintage and they do about 50 thousand bottles a year. Our companion wine is a French Chardonnay, which costs less than one fifth as much. It too isn’t Kosher. By the way, I hope you don’t mind that I broke my $50 minimum for a wine to be featured in this column.. I don’t.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Clos de Gat Chardonnay 2009 14.3% alcohol about $48.

Let’s start with the marketing materials. “Description : Mark Squires of the E Robert Parker web site also admired this Chardonnay, awarding it 90 points. (June 2011) Tasting Note As is the wont of the winemaker, fermented entirely on wild yeasts, developed in French oak for 12 months, deep gold with a distinct green tint. Deeply aromatic, the opening nose replete with lime and tangerines, showing fabulous depth of aromas and flavors that blossom in the glass as the wine opens. Round and almost thick, full-bodied but with plenty of fine acidity. On first attack navel oranges and summer fruits, parting to make way for notes of fresh figs, spices and gently subdued oak – all in fine balance and all lingering on a super-long and near creamy finish. If this one does not call to mind a fine Burgundian Montrachet, nothing will. Approachable and fully enjoyable now, but best from 2012-2016. Score – 94. (Daniel Rogov, at the Haaretz web site, Feb. 3, 2011)” And now for my review.

At the first sips this wine was slightly honeyed and tasted burnt with a fine length. When I nibbled on some Japanese rice crackers it was mouth filling. In the presence of a dry, honey garlic barbecued chicken breast this liquid’s oak came out of the woodwork so to speak. It was pleasant with notes of caramel and toast. When it encountered dry General Tao barbecued chicken thighs the oak in my glass started to dominate the situation but the experience was still pleasant. A medley of sautéed red, yellow, and orange peppers made me ask myself if I liked such expressive oak. Commercial potato salad softened and sweetened Chardy.

The next meal began with homemade vegetable soup flavored with caraway seeds. Our Israeli friend responded with a dash of oak and caramel. It was long and multilayered. Then came the centerpiece; homemade chicken breast nuggets in a medley of spices. Now the beverage’s burnt taste came to the fore and I noted cherries. Quinoa darkened the drink. Fresh pineapple initially had no effect. The burnt taste came through but the wine became uni-dimensional.

The final meal started off with a potato appetizer in puff pastry. Whitey responded with a burnt and yet floral taste and was quite long. Then came boxed stuffed manicotti with ricotta and mozzarella cheese in tomato sauce that I augmented with lots of grated parmesan cheese. The wine was definitely oaky and tasted of burnt caramel. Its acidity was somewhat harsh. Fresh strawberries simply muted this wine. The other dessert was Praline filled bittersweet Swiss chocolate squares. In response the libation did not have much to say, but it was long.

Final verdict. In spite of some fortuitous pairings I won’t be buying this wine again. You don’t pour the rest of a $50 bottle of wine down the drain. I finished it with some unnoted meals. But I do know that they were far from memorable. We will be reviewing a similarly priced red from the same producer in this column next month.

Levi Reiss authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but prefers drinking fine wine with the right foods and people. He teaches computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com features a weekly review of $10 wines. Visit his Italian travel website www.travelitalytravel.com.

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