On Monday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the Sommelier Wine Expo in Tel Aviv at the Nokia Arena. You may recall that I wrote about the lovely wine festival in Be’er Sheva a few months back, but the event in Tel Aviv is the big leagues. Dozens of Israeli wineries were represented, each offering at least three wines each. Thankfully I took extensive notes throughout the night because in the morning I did a tally and in my six hours or so at the expo I tasted over 60 – yes, you read that right, 60 – wines. I admit to suffering from a severe case of palate fatigue by the end of the evening, although my notes tell a surprisingly in-depth story of each wine I sampled. For the five wines I thought stood out from the crowd, check out my article in the Jew and the Carrot.
I was joined by fellow bloggers Beth of Beth Michelle, Liz of Cafe Liz, Miriam of Israeli Kitchen, and Yael of Appelsiineja Hhunajaa (Apples and Oranges), as well as Ben of Israel Food Tours. We had a ton of fun tasting wine, eating cheese, comparing notes, and tasting more wine.
I tasted wines from the following wineries: Alexander, Assemblage (a new series by Barkan), Avidan, Bazelet HaGolan, Binyamina, Carmel, Dadah, Domaine Ventura, Galil, Gamla, Gat Shomron, Livni, Mount Blessing, Or Haganuz, Ramot Naftaly, Recanati, Rehasim Dovev (owned by Barkan), Rimon, Sassy, Shoshana, Tanya, Teperberg 1870, Tishbi, Yarden, and Yatir.
Many, but not all were kosher, and the wineries were located all over the country, representing a range of Israeli terroir. Israel is a country of red wine drinkers and as such most wineries produce primarily red wine with just a few whites. I’m a huge fan and proponent of Israeli wine, but the reds tend towards the big, bold, overly aggressive New World style. You know the kind. Those high alcohol fruit bombs that explode in your mouth and are hard to pair with anything but red meat. Honestly, I have nothing against this style, and when done well it can be quite satisfying. But because that is what saturates the market here I was more interested in the unusual offerings: the ice wines and ports, roses and distinct whites. Of course a few excellent reds caught my attention as well. Again, for tasting notes on my top five picks in a range of styles visit my article in the Jew and the Carrot.
In addition to wine, there was also Israeli cheese, chocolate, and olive oil to be sampled. I was really impressed with De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates from Ein Zeven in the Golan Heights. A dark chocolate bark with raisins was particularly up my alley, but I also enjoyed their adorable chocolate cups filled with coffee liqueur. I quite liked the various olive oils from Eretz Gshur in the Golan as well as the array of products from Olia. In particular we all fell in love with their olive oil “butter,” a creamy, whipped concoction that I’m just dying to play with (for a full report check out Yael’s post on it here). I also nibbled on some delicious cheese from Jacob’s Farm, which had an impressive selection available.
All in all it was a great event that was very well produced. It was a unique opportunity to be able to sample so many wines from so many wineries under one roof, and I was impressed with the level of knowledge that each wine steward possessed. Often the winemakers themselves were the ones behind the table pouring the wines and sharing their passion. The 2011 Sommelier Wine Expo was an excellent experience and already I’m looking forward to next year!