(By Gabriel Geller)
Along with Castel and the Golan Heights Wineries, Yatir is probably one of the most famous israeli wineries in the kosher wine world.
Established some 14 years ago in Tel Arad as a joint-venture with Carmel, this terroir-focused winery produces some of the best and most interesting wines in the country.
Since 2006 Yatir winery is 100% owned by Carmel however they are given full independence with regards to winemaking decisions.
All their grapes are grown in the neighboring Yatir forest, the largest planted one in the country. There's a famous story with regards to that forest. In the 1950's, the then Israeli Prime minister David Ben Gurion wanted to plant a forest in that desert and dry area of the southern Judean Hills, between Hevron and Beer Sheva. The first scientists that were hired to work on that project told Ben Gurion, according to the story, that planting a forest there was impossible. Ben Gurion's reaction was: "then let's change the scientists!".
Whether that story is based on facts or not is irrelevant as the planting of that forest was proved successful. And the cherry on top, it has sort of created a unique terroir that is perfect for growing world-class wine grapes, thanks to the tempered air given by the trees surrounding the vineyards and by the high temperature variation between day and night. These unique conditions allow Australia's Adelaïde-trained winemaker Eran Goldwasser to make delicious and high quality wines and indeed, Yatir have achieved international recognition for their wines collecting multiple awards and the highest scores given to Israeli wines by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, the world's most famous wine magazine.
Yatir's wines are generally new world in style but showing great control and balance between the ripe (but not overripe) fruit, oak and lively acidity, all allowing the wines to age gracefully for 8 to 10 years, sometimes longer.
Following are my tasting notes for Yatir's latest releases, that is to say 2010 for the reds and 2013 for the white:
Yatir, Viognier 2013: 50% of the wine was aged for 6 months in old oak barrels. Light straw in color with on the nose some citrus blossom, nectarines and fresh flowers. Medium-bodied with on the palate ripe pomelo, lemon pith, star fruit and a touch of apricot with slate and minerals, great balancing acidity as well as a touch of orange zest on the moderately long finish. 14% Abv.
Yatir, Red Blend 2010: A blend this year of 39% Shiraz, 27% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Malbec, aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Dark purple, in color with on the nose ripe blackberries, plums, some tar, a bit of heat that blows off quickly after some swirling in the glass, asphalt and olives. Full-bodied and well-extracted with on the palate blackberries and plums with a touch of of roasted meat, black olives, great balancing acidity with searing tannins, juicy cherries and coffee on the long finish. 14,5%. Abv.
Yatir, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: Also aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Dark inky purple in color with on the nose cassis, toasted oak, ripe boysenberries and wild blueberries as well as black cherries and fine dark chocolate. Full-bodied, rich and layered with on the palate again cassis and black cherries followed by hints of wet dirt, intense yet balanced acidity with chocolate covered cherries, cedar and searing tannins on a very long and plush finish. 14.5% Abv.
Yatir, Petit Verdot 2009: Flushed out with 15% Merlot and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Dark, inky purple in color with on the perfumed nose a mix of velvety floral notes of lavender and violets enveloping a bouquet of ripe forest fruits including blackberries, blueberries and raspberries as well as cherries, toasty oak and some hints of toasted oak and leather. Very full-bodied and powerful with multiple layers of ripe red and black fruit, some earthy mineral notes of graphite as well as touches of smoked meat, herbs and notes of olives with excellent acidity and mouth-coating tannins that have yet to integrate on a very long finish. 14,5% Abv.
Yatir, Forest 2010: A Bordeaux-blend this year of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot aged for about 13 months in French oak barrels. Dark purple in color, the nose is loaded with ripe black fruit, roasted herbs and toasted oak with a hint of freshly brewed coffee. Very full-bodied with multiple layers of extracted ripe black fruit such as blackberries and a hint of blueberry jam, fleshy plums and cassis, followed by licorice, notes of cracked black pepper, pencil lead, balancing acidity and mouth-draping tannins gripping the mouth with a touch of tar and dark chocolate-covered espresso beans on the very long and supple finish. A great wine that is much more approachable on release now than were its older brothers at the same stage in their lives but with a solid structure that should allow it to develop further complexity for the next 4-5 years or so. 14% Abv.