(By Gabriel Geller)
I just recently visited Gvaot winery where I met with the co-owner as well as winemaker Dr. Shivi Drori.
Shivi has been making some terrific wines since he started this boutique winery, just a decade ago in 2005, producing about 35,000 bottles a year. Gvaot's wines have been constantly improving to a point that I can claim with confidence that it is now the best winery in the Shomron (Samaria) and definitely counts among Israel's best wineries.
This is one of very few wineries in Israel that can claim to be an estate winery as it is located in the middle of it's vineyards, on top of a hill called Givat Harel, near the villages of Shiloh and Eli. Even if you aren't into wine, I highly recommend you to come and visit as the views and surroundings are absolutely breathtaking and worth the trip alone!
I was there with some dear friends of mine, true wine lovers who live between New York, Miami and Jerusalem and currently staying in Israel where their older son is training at one of the country's major wineries to become a winemaker. Smart as he is and being gifted with a great nose and palate, I'm sure that one day, in a not too distant future, we will be able to sample some delicious Israeli wines made under his hands.
Back to Gvaot, we were offered a tasting of all the latest wines which have been re-branded with new names and labels for the 2012-2014 vintages. The Herodion label has been dropped and from now on, the wines will be simply called by the grape variety (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc.). The Gofna Reserve as well as the Masada labels will be maintained. There will be a Masada Pinot Noir as well which I've already tasted twice in the past but I will publish a tasting note only when I'll have tasted the final, bottled version.
Gvaot, Dances in White 2014: This isn't the first time that Shivi makes such a blend but this one is stylistically very different from it's 2010 predecessor. A blend of 60% Chardonnay, that was fermented separately (but not aged) for about 3 weeks in oak barrels, and 40% Gewürztraminer. Very pale straw in color, the nose is dominated, at least now, by the Gewürz component with aromas of litchi, ripe pears, and rose petals. Light in body and crisp with floral notes of citrus blossom as well as rose water, litchi, pears and peaches. The wine has good acidity and a tart, spicy and refreshing finish. 12.5% Abv. Very nice summer wine, delightful.
Gvaot, Rosé 2014: Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine gained it's pink taint by short maceration with the skins. Nice, light rose pink in color with on the nose cherries, peaches and strawberries. Light in body with on the palate, tart sour cherries, fresh strawberries, fresh apricots and tangerines with medium + acidity and a short, albeit juicy finish. 13% Abv. Already one of my favorite rosé wines.
Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Pinot Noir 2012: Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Cherry red in color with on the nose candied cherries,a hint of dates that mostly blows off with aeration, pomegranate, strawberries and a touch of toasty oak. Medium-bodied with on the palate ripe red sweet cherries, strawberries, red currants, with medium + acidity, earthy minerals and a hint of coffee with tannins that gently dry the mouth on a moderately long finish. 13% Abv.
Gvaot, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: So this is one of the wines that used to be part of the now defunct Herodion series, the wines being now called solely after the main grape variety they're made with. A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, aged for 12 months in mostly French oak barrels. Very dark garnet in color with on the some black forest fruits, cassis, green pepper, toasty oak and tobacco. Full-bodied and concentrated with lots of black fruits, freshly cured tobacco leaves, high acidity, spicy cedar and dark chocolate with almost chewy tannins on the long and rich finish. Softer and not as elegant as Gvaot's wines usually are but quite a rich wine with layers of flavors and lots of power. 14% Abv.
Gvaot, Merlot 2012: A blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 12 months in mostly French oak barrels. Dark Bordeaux red, with ripe, fresh red fruits on the nose such as raspberries and plums as well as some green foliage, oak and coffee roast. Full-bodied with again lots of ripe raspberries, plums, black pepper, mocha and earth, bracing acidity, with hints of roasted herbs and vanilla as well as mouth-coating tannins on the long finish. Stylistically similar to it's Cabernet sibling but with a distinct Merlot personality, a wonderful Merlot. 14% Abv.
Gvaot, Vineyards Dance 2012: A Bordeaux-blend with Petit Verdot taking the lead? Now that's unusual and I love it! A blend of 35% Petit Verdot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and flushed topped with 5% Malbec, aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Very dark garnet towards purple with an intense nose of black fruits, Mediterranean herbs and hints of saddle leather and oak, more new world, classic Israeli wine but well made and under control. Very full-bodied with nice sweet controlled black and red fruits, some roasted meat, herbs, medium + acidity, peppermint and chocolate with ripe tannins on the long and plush finish. A big wine! 14,5% Abv.
Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Blockbuster alert!!! A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Dark, brooding, inky black purple with a great nose of ripe black fruits as well as anise, cigar box and dark chocolate. Full-bodied and deeply extracted with a velvety texture, with savors of ripe cassis, black cherries, blackberries and cedar, this wine is a powerful beast with bracing acidity and firm, near-sweet tannins that rise and coat the mouth on the very long finish. Looking for a wine to pair with a huge cowboy steak? This is the one! 14% Abv.
Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Petit Verdot 2013: A brand new wine as this is the first release of a varietal Petit Verdot for Gvaot. The nose features some typical ripe but controlled black fruits, touches of green, vegetal notes, as well as blueberries and plums with some spices such as freshly ground pepper. Full-bodied and fleshy but with a more typical elegant texture with ripe raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, green foliage, abundant, almost biting acidity that needs to integrate and settle down, black and chili pepper with more juicy fruit and roasted coffee beans as well as firm tannins on the long and mouth-filling finish. This is young and needs about a year for it's elements to integrate and come together as more coherent whole but this promises to be one of the very best kosher Petit Verdots out there. Bravo! 14% Abv.
Gvaot, Masada 2012: The flagship wine of the winery. As almost every year, a Bordeaux-blend made primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Merlot and Petit Verdot and aged for about 20 months in French oak barrels. Deep, almost impenetrable black purple, with on the nose ripe cassis, blackberries, hints of licorice and freshly brewed espresso. Full-bodied and deeply extracted with on the palate fleshy ripe black fruits such as cassis, blackberries and black cherries with notes of Mediterranean spices as well as some green pepper and earthy undertones with bracing acidity and searing, chewy-powdery tannins coating the mouth with hints of fresh pipe tobacco and baker's chocolate on a very long, elegant and plush finish. Very young but promising wine with a big structure, another blockbuster that easily competes with the very best wines of Israel. 14.5% Abv