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Friday, August 6, 2010

Israeli Wine Festival Intoxicates Jerusalem

Yesterday was the third and last night of the Israeli wine festival held at the newly rennovated Israel Museum in Jerusalem. An admissions fee of 60 shekels got me a high quality wine glass and free drinks all night from some of the best wineries in the country. 

The festival, featuring a live jazz band (which was fantastic this year), sushi bars, chocolate stands and French cheese platters served with warm bread, has been a success for years now, and has grown bigger and more popular over the years.  I don't see what's not to like.  An evening of wine tasting, good music and organized public drunkeness for 60 shekels...plus I get to keep the glass? It's a no brainer.

This was my second year at the festival which draws visitors and wineries from all over the country. The vineyeards set up beautiful stands outdoors, the bigger Israeli wineries setting up what look like small, airy wine bars, stocked with young bardudes and barchics outfitted in black collard shirts and ties ready to spew out every detail about the wine you are tasting.

The old cultured folk who actually care about the Israeli wine they are drinking and wander around with pen in hand making notes about each bottle are typically over 50, arrive early, and dress well.  By the time 10:00 rolls around, the mayhem begins welcoming throngs of kids who don't know and don't care what you pour into their cups- they'll drink it and they'll ask for more.  They come for a good deal on an evening of all night open bar and leave shit-faced.

Last year, Yotam and I arrived around 9-ish and stayed till it closed at 11:00pm.  We left with over 4 wine glasses each- glasses that had been abandoned or forgotten by careless tasters- and awoke the next morning with massive hangovers. But it was worth it. With our sneaky glass lifting, we had moved up in the world; we no longer drink our wine out of coffee mugs and plastic cups.

This year, Yotam and I arrived at 7:00pm sharp just as the doors were opening and dusk settled over the city.  We left early too: by 10:00pm the place was packed and wineries were running out of wine.  The hangover hit us just as hard.

Both last year and this year, the wine festival saw a huge number of young, Modern Orthodox American Jews. Huge.  Each winery was well-prepared with at least one native English speaker behind each counter to field the questions from inquisitive Shwartzes, Rosenbergs and Cohens.  I felt like I was at Brandeis University.  It was a sea of heads topped with suede yarmulkas. I hadn't seen so many untucked pastel colored cotton polos in one place since I visited my high school friends in Baltimore in 2003.

Aside from the stampede of American Jews, the evening was fantastic.  Some of the wines were especially tasty, and the Jerusalem weather was refreshingly breezy. 

Here are my favorite wine picks (no, sadly I'm not getting paid for these reccomendations, but maybe if you click on their links and they notice the traffic, they'll find me and send me some free bottles):

Tzuba 2006 Metzuda
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec.
Tzuba Winery is made in Kibbutz Tzuba, located in the Judean hills right outside of Jerusalem. This blend is smooth and aromatic, with a bit of a fruity aftertaste.

Teperberg 2007 Sangiovese Silver
A light, young red that is perfect for the summer, easy to drink and smooth going down.

Pelter 2007 Cabarnet Sauvignon
I really don't like judging wines from the lables, but really, Peter's lable design is classy, pretty and clean.  So is their website. I can't compare this wine to their others since they'd run out of everything but the Cabarnet by the time we got to their stand, but this was a real winner and I'm usually not a Cabarnet girl.  It's rich with fruity and oaky flavors and a nice after-bite.

Rimon Wines

I'm not going to pick one, since they only had three to taste from - one desert wine, one  dry wine and one sweet port wine.  All of their wines are made entirely from pomegranites- no grapes are used at all- which makes them unique and interesting, although very sweet. Theirs are special occasion wines that I imagine go well with a platter of chocolate covered strawberries or bananas and cream.

[fyi: I'm leaving out a fantastic dry Riesling and a wonderful fruity wine blend of four wines which I'll update once I'm home with the details of each in front of me. ]

The Segal wines were especially dissappointing as were the Recanate reds, Yarden and Gamla Chardones from Ramat HaGolan, and the Binyamina Rose which fell very very flat.

Here are some pictures of this year's and last year's festival, courtesy of walla.co.il, mouse.co.il and gojerusalem.com.

View from above, near the jazz and food

Visitors are free to taste as many wines as they like

This picture is from the 2005 festival, but I had to post it. How awesome is that shirt?!

Israeli Wine looking sexy
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