Last night, four food-blogging ladies hit Israel’s major wine exhibit, Sommelier. Set in the enormous rooms of Heichal HaTarbut, Tel Aviv, the exhibit offered food and wine professionals tastings of over 200 wines.
I can’t say I tasted all of them. Noooo…some weren’t kosher.
Like this grappa. But the bottles looked so beautiful, I photographed them anyway.
My three friends Sarah Melamed, Yaelian, and Liz Steinberg, and I did our very best to explore the possibilities. As group elder, I advised eating against all reasonable standards – lots of fat and starches – in order to taste and yet stay sober. Which we did. Eat, I mean. Sobriety, we’ll talk about later.
There was a stand displaying a gourmet brand of olive oil, which we would have been wise to taste first.
Only later did I remember a piece of folk wisdom from Jerusalem’s Bucharian community: to manage a couple or three shots of vodka on Shabbat morning, line your stomach with a quarter-cup or so of melted fat – sheep’s tail fat – from the cholent.
With all due respect – euw. But the principle is sound. Line your stomach with fat. Olive oil works fine; forget the sheep’s tail fat.
Instead of being wise, we were carefree. Platters of fine kosher cheeses, and crackers, stood on low tables everywhere. We picked at the plates but eventually ordered a platter, gathered around, and noshed. It was great that the platter and forks were made of biodegradable paper.
I bought some wonderful, sharp goat’s cheese once I located the dairy (Jacob’s farm). It was almost as delicious this morning at breakfast as it was last night. But then, everything delicious tastes more so with wine.
We circulated, accepting sips of this organic Merlot, that mellow Chardonnay, the other well-blended combination of Cab, Merlot, and Syrah.
As always, my heart went to the Dalton winery, and my taste buds rejoiced in their Merlot D.
We all fell in love with a pomegranate wine from the Granada boutique winery. It’s free of the sweet-sour taste common to other pomegranate wines, very good and light.
Yael is the white wine lady. For every sip of my Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, she sipped a Viognier or Chardonnay. Being Scandinavian, she soon felt the heat as the rooms started to fill.
Liz and Sarah were open-minded and tried white and red equally.
We all loved the new Tabor 562 red and white Brut wines, which are dry and bubbly. They’re fermented under pressure in closed containers to retain the C02 – a new, and effective method. This isn’t fine champagne, but it’s a fun wine. Sarah commented, ” This is a wine for the outdoors,” and I agree. Having 11% alcohol, it’s lighter than many other Israeli wines; great to take on a picnic.
Our friend, wine steward Irene, told us that Israeli wines are usually higher in alcohol than most American and European wines. Many have as much as 15% alcohol by volume. Here Irene is showing us the Golan Heights organic Merlot from the Odem vineyard.
In general, there seems to be a trend moving towards more natural and even organic wines. Several winery managers, notably Reuven Rubin of the Golan Heights winery, gave us examples of green consciousness: recycling production water to irrigate crops; spreading the used-up grape skins on the vineyard soil as mulch; getting part of their energy needs from windmills; recycling all plastic bags and cardboard boxes.
There were few totally organic wines, but they were very good. Golan Height’s organic Odem vineyard produces a light, fruity Merlot that was a delight.
Another growing wine trend is kosher wines. The religious community has acquired a palate. The industry has woken up to that fact. New numbers of kashrut-observant Jews want to fine wines, and we’re getting them.
The owner of one boutique winery confessed,
“It’s good business to go kosher, and as of next vintage, all my wines will be. But as a non-observant Jew, I’ll have to stand to one side with my arms folded while everyone else will be doing the work. That’ll be hard.”
I can understand that. But I’m sure he’ll like the revenues.
It was fun to circulate, sipping a new wine every few feet – and picking at great cheese when tempted. The most fun was being “in a pack,” as Liz said. Much more fun with girlfriends than going alone. It also gave us the freedom to just start conversations with strangers with friends observing from a distance and ready to join if it looked really interesting. Here Yael and Liz photograph a cheese platter in one of the resting nooks.
The Tishbi winery offered a display of delicious jams made from wine.
I hate to tell you how many hours we were at the exhibit. But I will anyway. We spent five hours walking around, tasting, resting once in a while in one of the many nooks created just for tired visitors-
– chatting with each other and with friends (and total strangers) that we found there. All of us, I am sorry to say, felt somewhat…altered, after a while.
But the atmosphere was pleasant and we were comfortable till the hall became too crowded, towards night.
It’s amusing how by the last hour or so at these events, everyone – visitors and staff and managers – is walking around with a big, mellow smile on their face. We broke up at about 7:00 and went home to dinner.
It had been, as Sarah said, “awesome fun.”