Last Tuesday I had the pleasure to attend a lovely wine event at Deca, a very nice restaurant considered as one of the best dairy eateries in Israel. The Gvaot winery, located on top of Givat Harel in the Shomron, across the road from Shiloh hosted the event for wine writers for the release of the 2011 Masada, their flagship wine. While usually approachable on release, the Masada wines can improve significantly with a few years of bottle ageing and this was proved with the vertical tasting.
Since this wine's first release with the 2005 vintage, it has showed consistent improvement. Having said that, the blend has changed quite a bit over the years.
There are a bunch of wineries in the Shomron with many of them making decent to very good wines, often because the region is blessed with ideal soils and weather to grow wine grapes. Some wineries, such as Psagot and Shiloh have talented winemakers who produce well-made wines on a regular basis. However, I consider Gvaot as one of Israel's 5 best wineries and as the best winery in the Shomron region. Shivi Drori has been able to show how well he knows his stuff over the years and is consistently improving, implying a distinct style to his wines that is constituted of both old-world approach and creativity with wines that are restrained, avoiding overripeness and show elegance while still proving that he can also be innovative with wines such as the Chardonnay-Gewürztraminer as well as the Chardonnay-Cabernet Sauvignon blanc de noirs blends. I love almost every wine Shivi has made and none of the wines poured this time has disappointed me, kudos to Shivi!
What made the event even more enjoyable was that Shivi Drori, the winemaker, along with his partners Amnon Weiss and Eliav Miller rewarded us with a vertical tasting of all "odd" vintages of the Masada (2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011).
Several other wines were poured as well and I'm glad to share my tasting notes here:
Gvaot, Gofna, Gewürztraminer 2012: Very pale gold in color with on the nose fresh white flowers, lychee and pears. Medium-bodied and dry with on the palate lime, cut grass, grapefruit and fresh apples with stoney minerals and slate, bracing acidity that balances out beautifully some light tropical fruit notes on the long finish. Superb. 12% Abv.
Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Pinot Noir 2009: Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the winery's tiny vineyard at 720 meters above see level, aged for 12 months in old french oak barrels. Dark cherry garnet with on the nose strawberries, cherries, roses, eye-opening fragrances. Medium-bodied with on the palate sour cherries, red currants, strawberries, raspberries, stoney minerals, wet wood with light herbal notes harmoniously marrying the red fruit notes with a touch of toasted oak, the finish is long and elegant with great, balanced acidity and silky tannins. Great as always. 12.5% Abv.
We also enjoyed a barrel sample of the yet to be released 2012 Masada Pinot Noir (95% Pinot Noir from Givat Harel and 5% Merlot from Har Bracha) but I wont post notes before i'll have tasted the final, bottled wine.
Gvaot, Gofna, Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: A blend this year of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot, aged 18 months in french oak barrels, this wine shows dark garnet in color with on the nose concentrated scents of cassis, blackberries and mint with notes of coffee and cigar box. Full-bodied with intense flavors of black forest fruit, cherries, black plums, tobacco leaves, graphite, cedar and dark chocolate all carried well by bracing acidity with still searing tannins that have yet to integrate on the long and plush finish. Destined for elegance, this wine will be around and will evolve for the next 5-7 years. 14% Abv.
Gvaot, Masada 2011: This year's release is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Petit Verdot, aged for 22 months in nerw french oak barrels. Dark purple in color with on the nose black fruit such as plums, cassis and cherries with light notes of toasted oak and coffee. Medium to full-bodied with black fruit as well as some green notes such as bell pepper and leafy tobacco with more blackberries and cassis on the mid-palate as well nice minerals and roasted coffee beans with bracing acidity and tannins that rise and coat the mouth on the long finish. This is is still very young but will certainly age gracefully over the next 7-9 years. 14.2% Abv.
Gvaot, Masada 2009: Poured from a magnum bottle. A Bordeaux-blend made of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot, aged for 21 months in new French oak barrels. Deep garnet with light purple reflections with on the nose ripe black and red fruit as well as notes of toasty oak, cardamon and dark chocolate. Full-bodied with on first attack ripe and concentrated red currants and blackberries followed by blueberries, spicy oak and some earthy minerals with notes of what seemed to me as pepper-flavored dark chocolate rising with great balancing acidity and still searing tannins on a very long finish. A beautiful wine that will benefit from further ageing for about a year before reaching its peak which it should hold for another 4-5 years. 13.6% Abv.
Gvaot, Masada 2007: Poured from a magnum bottle. A Bordeaux blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon flushed out with Merlot and Cabernet Franc and aged 21 months in new French oak barrels. Dark purple towards garnet with on the nose jammy blue and black fruit as well as cigar box. Full-bodied and deeply extracted with on the palate loads of ripe blackberries and almost jammy blueberries with a hint of licorice followed by sweet cedar wood and vanilla as well as baker's chocolate with balancing acidity and near-sweet tannins coating the mouth on the long and luscious finish. This wine is a bit of an exception here as it is more israeli in style and riper but quite tasty as it is well-balanced. Has still about 2 years to go. 14.1% Abv.
Gvaot, Masada 2005: This was the first release for this wine and it is very different from the vintages that followed. WOW! 98% Merlot from the Har Bracha vineyards flushed out with 2% Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery's Givat Harel vineyard and aged for 20 months in new french oak barrels. Dark garnet with on the nose mushrooms, raspberries, truffles, white pepper, floral notes and a lovely touch of barnyard funk. Full-bodied with on the palate black cherries and raspberries, black truffles and leather with a hint of guarrigue and minerals, loamy dirt and graphite with really nice acidity and good tannins along notes of pipe tobacco, white pepper and dark chocolate on the long, dry and silky finish. This was a treat, a mature wine that has aged beautifully and with a structure strong enough for a couple more years before fading. This could be mistaken for a fine Pomerol if tasted blind, awesome wine! 13.9% Abv.