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Rogov
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 Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, Advance and Re-Tastings
It is now more than twenty years since I first wrote, to the amazement of some and to the dismay of others, that "one day in the not-too-distant future we will be seeing some fine vineyards under cultivation in the Negev desert". That day has come, not only for large wineries such as Barkan and Carmel and medium-sized wineries such as Tishbi, but for a growing host of boutique and artisanal wineries as well. This past Thursday (8 Mar 2007), I devoted an entire day to visiting and tasting the wines of six of the smaller wineries in the area, several located on kibbutzim, several on moshavim and several in isolated individual farms tucked away on the heights of the Negev.

The wines I tasted were from the following wineries: Carmey Avdat, Yuval Ben-Shoshan, Sde Boker, Kadesh Barnea, Shdema, and Rota. My thanks to the regional council for helping to arrange these visits, to each of the winemakers for their courtesies and especially to Alon Tzadok whose good company and broad knowledge of the desert accompanied me throughout the day.


Carmey Avdat

Founded by Eyal Izrael after working together for several years with Yuval Ben Shoshan, this small winery is based on a private farm not far from Kibbutz Sde Boker in the heights of the Negev Dessert. The vineyards of Cabernet Sauignon and Merlot grapes are planted in a wadi and relying on water from 1,500 year old water terraces built by the Nabbateans. The winery´s first releases from the 2005 vintage were of 4,500 bottles and from the 2006 vintage, 6,000 bottles.

Carmey Avdat, Cabernet Sauignon, 2006 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet towards purple in color, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and a generous but gentle wood influence. On the nose and palate berries, black cherries and currants, those with light earthy-herbal overlays. Drink from release-2009. Tentative Score 85-87. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Carmey Avdat, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Dark royal purple in color, medium- to full-bodied with soft tannins and generous spicy wood, those integrating nicely to show currant, berry and herbal aromas and flavors. Drink now-2009. Score 86. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Carmey Avdat, Merlot, 2006 (Barrel Tasting): Dark, youthful purple in color, medium- to full-bodied, with still gripping tannins and already showing a generous wood influence but those in good balance with fruits and acidity and boding well for the future. On the nose and palate berries, cherries, cassis and an appealing chocolate and peppery overlays that linger nicely. Drink from release-2009. Tentative Score 86-88. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Carmey Avdat, Merlot, 2005: Deep ruby towards garnet, medium bodied, with silky smooth tannins and showing appealing berry and black cherry fruits on a spicy and lighty oaky background. Lingers nicely on the palate. Drink now-2009. Score 87. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)


Yuval Ben-Shoshan


Established by agronomist Yuval Ben-Shoshan on Kibbutz Bror Hail in the Negev Desert, this winery released its first wine from the vintage of 1998. Grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, are currently drawn from the area of Kerem Ben Zimra in the Galilee. The winery’s production is currently about 4,000 bottles annually. Note: These wines were not tasted at the winery but at two other locations.

Yuval Ben-Shoshan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Avdat, 2004: Showing so much better than at an earlier tasting that one wonders if this was a separate bottling. Aromatic, medium- to full-bodied, and with well integrating tannins complemented nicely by soft tannins and minerals. Look for aromas and flaors of blackberries, currants, and Oriental spices. Score 85. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Yuval Ben-Shoshan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Avdat, 2003: Medium-bodied, with acidity on the rise and showing first signs of oxidation. Dominated by dusty wood, barnyard aromas and a too strong sensation of bitterness, with only a few berry fruits remain. Well past its peak and no longer scoreable. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Yuval Ben-Shoshan, Merlot, Avdat, 2004: Aged in American oak. Light, diluted ruby in color, lacking body, with only the vaguest hint of tannins and stingy, almost watery berry and black cherry fruits. Drink up. Score 78. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Yuval Ben-Shoshan, Merlot, Avdat, 2003: Dark garnet, medium-bodied, with tannins now integrating nicely and showing soft and round with tempting plum, black cherry and smoky and vanilla flavors from the oak. Well balanced and drinking nicely. Drink now. Score 86. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)


Sde Boker

Located on Kibbutz Sde Boker in the heart of the Negev Desert, this small winery was founded in 1998 by former Californian Zvi Remick (a member of our Forum) who studied winemaking at California’s Napa Valley College. Relying on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carignan and Zinfandel grapes grown in the desert, production currently varies between 3,000-5,000 bottles annually.

After a well-needed cup of coffee, our tasting started with a vertical of the Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced from 1999-2005. Wines noted as "tasted twice" were re-tasted in my own tasting room on Friday 9 March)


Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet towards inky purple in color, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely and showing generous but not imposing spicy cedar wood. Look for aromas and flavors of black fruits, Oriental spices and green olives, all ligering nicely. Drink from release-2010. Tentative Score 87-89. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 (Advance Tasting): Now showing dark garnet towards purple, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely. On the nose and palate traditional Cabernet blackcurrant, blackberry and spices, with hints of smoky wood and vanilla rising on the finish. Drink now-2009. Score 88. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003: My most recent tasting note holds firmly: Medium to full-bodied, with good balance between wood, soft tannins and tempting blackcurrant, cherry and spicy aromas and flavors. Long and generous. Drink now. Score 88. (Re-tasted twice with consistent notes 8 and 9 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001: My most recent tasting note holds firmly: Dark royal purple in color, this well-balanced, medium to full-bodied red reflects its 23 months in oak casks with abundant vanilla, toasty oak and cedar flavors, those with currant and berry fruits. Drink now–2008. Score 88. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000: Dark garnet towards purple, with its once ample tannins now fully integrated, this medium-bodied red shows an appealing array of plum and currant fruits, those matched by hits of pepper and black olives. A hint of sweetness beginning to make itself felt. Drink up. Score 85. (Re-tasted twice with consistent notes 8 and 9 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999: As it was in its youth, a country-style wine, medium-bodied, with somewhat chunky tannins and green olive and herbal flavors. Deep garnet showing a hint of browning, well past its peak now but for the first fifteen minutes in the glass continues to show clean plum and cherry fruits. No longer scoreable. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Merlot, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Bright ruby towards garnet, with soft, gently mouthcoating tannins and showing a moderate wood influence. On the nose and palate plum, berry and black cherry fruits, those complemented nicely by hints of sweet herbs. Drink from release-2010. Tentative Score 86-88. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Carignan, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Blended with about 12% of Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium-bodied with still somewhat aggressive tannins waiting to settle down and showing appealing aromas and flavors of rose petals, red currants and spices. Drink from release-2009. Tentative Score 85-87. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2006: Deep garnet red in color, medium- to ful-bodied, with spicy aromas and flavors of currants, cherries, anise, herbs and pepper. Well balanced and well focused, with tangy red fruits and smoky oak on the finish. Drink from release-2010, perhaps longer. Tentsative Score 87-89. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Sde Boker, Zin-Zin, 2005 (Advance Tasting): A dessert wine made from late-harvested Zinfandel grapes. I´ll admit to being rarely fond of late-harvest Zinfandels but this one wooed and won me. Opens with aromatic blackberries, raspberries and brambles, that joined by a bit of toasty oak. On the nose and palate raspberries and mint, those all on a lightly tannic, moderately sweet background with plenty of acidity to keep it lively. Sweet but not at all cloying. Drink from release. Score 88. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)


Kadesh Barnea


This Negev Desert winery was established in 1999 by Alon Tzadok on Moshav Kadesh Barnea and has its own vineyards near the ruins of the Byzantine city of Nitzana, near the Egyptian border. Releases to date have included only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines and the winery is now developing further vineyards containing Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Sauvigno Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. Production for the 2004 and 2005 vintages was about 5,000 bottles. The winery made a major jump in 2005 and 2006 with releases of about 25,000 bottles annually. The wines, released in three series (Alon, Gilad and Kadesh Barnea) have been kosher since the 2002 harvest.

The winery is one of the first in the country to be conducting experiments (but not yet releases) on making wines from vines irrigated by the brackish water that underlies much of the Negev dessert.

Kadesh Barnea, Merlot, Alon, 2006 (Barrel Tasting): Dark royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, with still gripping, near-sweet tannins yielding slowly to reveal generous wild berry, currant and spices on first attack and, from mid-palate on to Mediterranean herbs and an appealing hint of black olives. Drink from release-2009. Tentative Score 84-86. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Kadesh Barnea, Merlot, Alon, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet towards royal purple and medium-bodied. Opens with a light medicinal aroma but that passes quickly to reveal aromas and flavors of berries, black cherries and plums. High acidity and chunky tannins make this a country-style wine, best for early drinking. Drink from release. Tentative Score 83-85. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Kadesh Barnea, Merlot, Gilad, 2005 (Advance Tasting): Blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in oak for 10 months. Bright garnet in color, medium-bodied, with soft tannins, spicy oak and showing appealing plum, currant and tobacco. A bit acidic but that keeps the wine easy to drink. Score 86. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Kadesh Barnea, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 (Barrel Tasting): Garnet towards royal purple, medium-bodied with soft tannins and spicy oak. On the nose and palate forward berry, currant and black cherry fruits. Not complex but promises to be a good quaffer. Drink from release. Tentative Score 82-84. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Kadesh Barnea, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alon, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Developing in American oak, already showing generous wood but that comfortably balanced by soft near-sweet tannins and good acidity. Aromatic, opening to reveal berry, cherry and cassis fruits, those matched by hints of bell peppers and chocolate. Drink from release. Tentative Score 84-86. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Kadesh Barnea, Cabernet Sauignon, 2004: Showing somewhat better than at a barrel tasting. Medium dark garnet in color, medium-bodied, with chunky, country-style tannins. Blended with 15% of Merlot, an easy to drink quaffer with appealing berry and black cherry fruits. Drink now. Score 83. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Kadesh Barnea, Gilad, 2005: A blend of 80% Merlot and 105 each of Shiraz and Petit Verdot. Dark garnet in color, medium- to ful-bodied with near-sweet tannins integrating nicely. Opens quietly but develops in the glass to reveal appealing and generous aromas and flavors of plums, blueberries and currants, those with overlays of white pepper and mint. A bit gripping now. Best 2008-2010. Score 86. K (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)


Shdema

Set on Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev Dessert, this small winery released its first wines from the 2004 vintage. Relying on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes from their own vineyards and with shiraz and Petit Verdot soon coming on line, winemaker Omri Kaluski is currently producing about 2,500 bottles annually.

Shdema, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: Garnet towards brownish-purple, medium-bodied, with coarse tannins and far too generous smoky wood that hides the fruits. Already showing first signs of oxidation. Score 68. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Shdema, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Dark purple in color, medium-bodied, with high acidity and coarse, almost stinging tannins and minimal berry and black cherry fruits that struggle to make themselves felt. Tentative Score 72-74. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Shdema, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sde Boker, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Not fully clear dull garnet, medium-bodied with soft tannins but showing muddy and bitter and with only stingy black fruits. Tentative Scor 74-76. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Shdema, Merlot, 2005 (Barrel Tasting): Dull garnet in color, medium-bodied, with barnyard aromas and showing diluted. Tentative Score 68-70. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Shdema, Merlot, Sde Boker, 2005: Dark garnet, medium-bodied, with soft tannins, moderate wood influence and appealing currant and berry fruits accompanied by hints of pepper. Drink from release. Tentative Score 83-85. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)


Rota

Founded by Erez Rota on a farm on the Negev Heights this artisinal winery released its first wines in 2002. The winery and its beautifully planted and tended vineyards are set on an isolated but physically beautiful farm, surrounded by dessert mountains and with electricity produced only several hours daily. First releases in 2002 were of 1,000 bottles. Production from the 2006 vintage were of 3,000 bottles and plans for the 2007 harvest are for the release of 12,000 bottles. Grapes under cultivation are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Muscat of Alexandria and the winery also receives grapes from the Ella Valley.

Rota, Merlot, 2006 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with firm tannins and spicy French oak integrating nicely. Opens on the palate to show generous red currant and raspberry fruits, those matched nicely by hints of white pepper and green olives. Generous and long. Drink from release-2011. Tentative Score 87-89. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Rota, Merlot, 2004 (Advance Tasting): Super-dark garnet in color, with orange and green reflections, a deeply extracted wine, with mouth-coating tannins and a judicious hand with spicy oak. Opens with a bit of bottle stink but that passes quickly to reveal a deeply aromatic wine with an appealing array of red and black berries, currants, Oriental spices and chocolate, all of which linger comfortably on a long, fruity finish. Best 2008-2011. Score 89. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Rota, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 (Advance Tasting): Blended with 5% Merlot, showing soft tannins and gentle spicy wood integrating nicely. Medium- to full-bodied, with blackcurrant and blueberry fruits, those complemented nicely by hints of black pepper, chocolate and mint. Drinking nicely now but best 2008-2011, perhaps longer. Score 90. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Rota, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shua, 2003: My earlier tasting note holds firmly: Deep garnet towards purple, medium-bodied, with near-sweet tannins and clean aromas and flavors of plums, black cherries and cassis. Simple but appealing. Drink now. Score 84. (Re-tasted 8 Mar 2007)

Rota, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2006 (Barrel Tasting): Deeply aromatic, dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied and showing soft, mouthcoating tannins and a judicious hand with spicy oak. On the nose and palate berry, black cherry and cassis fruits, those complemented by hints of pepper, anise and light earthiness. Brink from release-2011. Tentative Score 87-89. (Tasted 8 Mar 2007)


Lewis Pasco
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 Re: Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, Advance and Re-Tastings (Rogov)

Nice thorough report, Daniel.

I have an "interest" in the wines of Sde Boker, as Zvi Remak is a close personal friend and fellow ex-Californian. Nice to read about the development of the winery here. I have typically found Zvi´s wines to be surprisingly soft, minimally manipulated, and food friendly - not any easy task in the high desert climate there which tends to produce thick skinned small berry grapes.

That Zinfandel should show promise in that climate is no surprise. I too am not generally fond of late harvest Zins, but when I tasted it (out of barrel, as I recall) some time ago I too was most pleasantly surprised by its elegance and balance .

Way to go, Zvi!

Jan Schultink
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Tel Aviv

 Re: Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, Advance and Re-Tastings (Rogov)

This "desert" theme is a potential asset for Israeli wine export I think. I don´t there are that many wineries located in deserts around the world, maybe a good marketing "story" to stand out from the crowd?
y
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 Re: Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, ... (Jan Schultink)

Jan,

There are wineries in Arizona, but I´m not sure that they are using "wines from the desert" or something like this.

Yaron.

http://www.arizonawine.org/



http://tastingwines.blogspot.com/
Rogov
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 Re: Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, ... (yaron)

The vineyards in Texas and Arizona are generally located on high and quite fertile mesas, similar in terroir to parts of Napa.

Best
Rogov


alek
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 Re: Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, ... (Rogov)

Rogov hi,

I tasted today two wines from Carmey Avdat: Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 and Merlot 2005 (both purchased recently at the winery by a friend).

The first one was rather unappealing, with almost no acidity, resembling stewed fruit. The second one was better, but also aroused stewing fruit sensations. Do you (or anybody esle on the forum) have TN for these two wines?

Thanks,

Alek.

Rogov
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 Re: Visit to Six Wineries in the Negev: Barrel, ... (alek)

Alek, Hi...

The wines you ask about might carry one of two labels: Yuval Ben-Shoshan or Carmei Avdat as this was still one of the years when the partners of what two wineries were still working together. Whatever the label, following are my most recent tasting notes.

Best
Rogov


Yuval Ben-Shoshan/Carmei Avdat, Merlot, Avdat, 2005: Ruby towards garnet in color, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and a hint of sweetness that overlays the black fruits here. Drink from release. Score 76.

Yuval Ben-Shoshan/Carmei Avdat, Cabernet Sauvigon, Har´El, 2004: Dark royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, with chunky country-style tannins and aromas and flavors of fruit compote. Lacks appeal. Drink from release. Score 76.


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