Sunday, March 12, 2006

A taste of Israel

Yesterday, a friend of mine brought a Israeli wine for dinner. I had never tasted a wine from that country before and I was curious to see what it would taste like. While not so long ago, most of the wines produced in Israel were reputed to be thick, sweet and unsophisticated, I am reading that today, the wine scene is booming with an increasing number of new quality-focused wineries.

The wine was from Domaine Castel. It is a winery located in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem, and named after a nearby Crusader fortress. The estate vineyards are situated at an average altitude of 700m on slopes facing the Mediterranean sea and deep valleys enjoying cooler summer temperatures and shorter hours of sunshine. The premium red wine of the Domaine is the Castel Grand Vin, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It is aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels, as well as unfined and unfiltered. The winery also produces a Chardonnay and another Bordeaux blend called Petit Castel.

Last night, we drank the 1999 Domaine du Castel Castel Grand Vin with braised lamb shanks. The wine exhibited a dark purple color and opulent aromas of black fruits. On the palate, it was ripe and full-bodied with spicy dried fruit flavors on the finish. It went really well with the rich flavors of the lamb.

I love discovering new wines, especially when they are good, and for me, this wine compared very favorably to many Cabernet Sauvignon blends from better known wine regions of the world.

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