Your author is the operator of MyIsraelWineTours. As a lover of both Israel and its wines, I might just have the best job out there. I get to accompany groups and guests to the hundreds of Israeli wineries and share with them the passion and joy that I feel when I taste the labor of love that these vintners put into every bottle. I’ve had the joy of attending numerous events at The Special Reserve and each time I am left nothing less than awestruck with my ability to taste a glass of wine in a whole new light.
This week Andre assembled no less two wine makers from Zichron Yaakov to pour and tell. For those who don’t know, Zichron is the historical heartland of the Israel wine industry and home to Carmel Winery, Israeli’s largest winery and the former employer of gentleman such as Ehud Olmert, Levi Eshkol and a funny haired kid from Poland named David Ben Gurion. We are introduced to the young Yoav Poizner, lawyer by day, winemaker by passion. Yoav is the fourth generation from the Poizner family that has been growing grapes since their arrival in Ottoman Palestine in 1882 with a dozen other Romanian families. While the life of a farmer with early mornings and grueling labor were not for him, in hindsight he admits, it’s probably a more honest vocation than practicing law. So on weekends he spends his time with his father in the Yekev, a small converted building that once housed his grandfather’s prized horses. Even today, the idea that the barn had been turned into a modern winery sends shudders down Yoav’s spin thinking of the slap he would get were his grandfather still with us. Yet, the quality of the wine might help convince saba of the worthiness of their endeavors. Yoav generously poured two different wines, the first being a Merlot that he categorized as more of a Cabernet style wine. Bold and spicy, I was pleasantly surprised by this wine and its ability to keep me guessing just as soon as I think I have begun to understand Israeli Merlot. The second wine was a Cabernet, though I’ll call it a Cab with a twist. Blended with 7% Malbec, it was gentle on the palate and smooth; a delightfully unexpected taste.
The second wine-maker featured was Shlomi Zimnavoda who is also a descendant of the first Aliyah, though he was quick to mention his Polish heritage and decry being lumped in with the others from Romanian. Zimnavoda means ‘winter water’ in Polish, a testament to the fact that ‘the old country’ lives on, both in wine and roots. Shalomi works the land as his family has done for over 100 years, growing grapes and selling them to the Carmel Winery. These days he keeps the best for himself, producing a delicious Carignan that put a smile on the face of all who tasted the low yield, highly rich fruits from these 40-year-old vines. We also tasted his blend, a non-traditional mix of Cabernet, Merlot, Carignan and Petit Verdot, the latter for which he has a special affinity. In the land of too much Cab and Syrah, it’s a wonderful surprise to taste something so ‘yotze dofen’ as this. Shlomi’s wine is very unique in that he ages in massive wood barrels so that the grapes can speak for themselves, rather than being overwhelmed by too much oak.
Both wineries are holding open houses in the coming weeks, Poizner on the 24th of August and Zimnavoda on the 30th. Look for either winery on Facebook or come into The Special Reserve to say hello and sample some of these delicious wines from our neighbors here in Carmel’s wine country. It’s the only shop in all of Israel where you’ll find these boutique wines, a gift to those of us who call Haifa home. Tastings are typically held in Hebrew, though Andre’s impeccable English will accommodate the international crowd as well.
RSVP are requested in advance by calling The Special Reserve at 04 836 1187.
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Look for more wine articles from MyIsraelWineTours in the near future.