Why do I love wine? One of its special characteristics is that it reflects culture. Distinctive soil, specific topography and climate notwithstanding, wine from a particular country or area mirrors tradition, complements regional cuisine, and offers a palate profile that is usually a combination of all of the above. For me, enjoying a glass of wine prompts a desire to learn about or travel to the country of its origin and to have a conversation with the people who live there. Recently I was sent a few bottles of kosher wine (as samples) from Israel…just in time for tasting before the High Holidays of the Jewish religion.

Naturally, I was intrigued. I haven’t had many wines of Israel, although those I had were outstanding. Receiving the selection of wines presented a perfect opportunity to discover a bit about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, explore (virtually, of course) the country of Israel, and remember the scores of my dear friends who continue to observe these holidays.

 

Wines of Israel

Photo Credit: www.domainenetofa.com

Rosh Hashana, (September 22), marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that ends in Yom Kippur (September 30), also known as the Day of Atonement. As I understand it, tradition states that “God judges all creatures during the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year; Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah. Those who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah” or repentance”.

Jewish traditions during this time include attending synagogue with services that include specific texts, songs, and customs. The sounding of the shofar, a trumpet crafted from a ram’s horn, signifies a call to repentence and a reminder that God is their king. Celebratory meals are served; many feature traditional apples dipped in honey (the apples have healing properties and the honey suggests that the new year will be sweet) and traditional braided bread (challah) baked in a round shape to indicate the circle of life.

And wine.

 

Wines of Israel

www.winesisrael.com

The people of Israel have practiced viticulture since Biblical times, but only recently have the wines met international recognition – I look forward to learning more. The three kosher wines I tasted were beautiful red blends that deserve notice not only during the High Holidays, but from every wine lover at any time of the year.

Tabor Special Edition 2012 ($35) – From prime vineyards located at 700 meters in Upper Galilee, Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (30%), and Petit Verdot (20%), grapes were handpicked and de-stemmed by hand. The blend was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and after bottling, was aged another year in the cellar. Rich, intense aromas of blueberries, sweet spice, and cherries burst from the glass. Balanced with vibrant acidity and velvet-like tannins, notes of blackberries, butterscotch, cloves, and herbs led to a lasting fruit and spice driven finish on this full-bodied wine. Just lovely.

Wines of Israel
Psagot Edom 2013 ($35) – The Psagot winery is located in the northern Jerusalem Mountain range with vineyards 900 meters above sea level. On the bottle, the distinctive raised replica of a coin from the period of the “Great Revolt” (66-73 CE); it was discovered during excavation of the cave that is now the winery’s barrel room. The stunning Edom 2013 is a balanced blend of Merlot (63%), Cabernet Sauvignon (16%), Petit Verdot (11%), and Cabernet Franc (10%). Bright, fresh purple fruit and lavender notes wafted from the glass – these aromas were mesmerizing and provided a beautiful entry. On the palate, exotic spice, plums, blueberries, red berries, and blackberries were woven with lively acidity and striking tannins. Complex and structured, I appreciated each sip from the first to the last.

Wines of Israel
Latour Netofa 2012 ($35) – Rhone varietals Syrah and Mourvedre were grown in Domaine Netofa’s vinyeyards found in the Lower Galilee. Aged in French oak barrels for seven months, luscious flavors blended in the bottle produced a fascinating wine. Red fruit and earth took center stage as their rich aromas opened after decanting for about thirty minutes. On the palate, snappy acidity and gripping tannins provided structure to a profile of juicy red berries, plums, and earth. Complex, smooth, and luscious, this was a wine to enjoy now or hold for a few years.

Wines of Israel
 The traditional greeting during this time, “L’shana tovah”, translates as “for a good year”. Indeed, all of us will enjoy just that with these remarkable wines of Israel.

L’Chaim! ~ Cindy

NOTE: I’d love to hear from readers who have observed Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Please share your traditions, wines, and more in the comment section below.

 

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