Israeli wines are a huge part of the kosher wine market and also a surprisingly diverse segment. Some of the smaller, boutique producers are forging a path of quality, distinctive wines. One such small producer is Yitzhak “Itzik” Cohen of the Ramot Naftaly Winery, in Moshav Ramot Naftali, not far from the border with Lebanon.
These wines are imported by Israeli Wine Direct.
Here are some to seek out:
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Duet, Merlot Cabernet, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2011 ($38): This enjoyable 60/40 blend is a food-friendly, softly textured wine that opens with red cherry and raspberry aromas that play through to the palate along with layers of currants, plum, cedar, spice and herbs all the way through the finish.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Primo, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2014 ($55): This rewarding 70/30 blend of barbera and merlot is still a little tight, but aromatic, complex, balanced, rich and delicious, with clean red berry fruits, spice, tobacco leaf, a distinct earthy (almost gamey) quality, and nearly silky tannins.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Barbera, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2013 ($55): A lovely and satisfying, if unusual, wine. This is an enchanting, simply stellar (albeit slightly heterodox) barbera with good acidity, an alluring earthy note, black and red berry fruits, a little eucalyptus, a little anise, a hint of bittersweet chocolate, and a really appealing gaminess. Allow it to breathe — the oak recedes, the acidity ratchets up appropriately, and the fruit, game and funk start to slow dance beautifully.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Malbec, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2012 ($55): Well-rounded almost gentle, yet earthy, malbec with distinct Mediterranean touches of violets, figs, anise, and just enough light tobacco leaf notes to conjure pleasing images of high-end humidors; with spicy wood and luscious purple plum, cranberry, blackberry and wild dark berry notes. Tannins are still a little tight and grippy, but open beautifully with a little patience. The nose is slightly more complex than the palate, but the wine is no less enjoyable for it.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Shiraz, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2013 ($37): Still a bit feisty but nicely balanced, spicy, fruity (purple plums, crushed blackberries, intense black currants, raspberries and black cherries), stunning and delicious. With wafts of earth, saddle leather, spicy oak, pipe tobacco, anise and roasted meat on the nose, and additional notes of anise and chocolate on the long and spicy finish. This is rich, complex, rounded and a real pleasure from first sip to last.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Shiraz, Special Edition, Israel, 2012 ($25): This is juicy, fresh and lively; easy drinking with soft tannins, forward red berry and plum, a distinctive licorice note and a lovely, lingering spice.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Petit Verdot, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2013 ($55): This is full and rich, yet surprisingly elegant, spicy, fruity (raspberry, boysenberry, blackberry) yet dry, with some nice herbal and lovely savory notes, a kiss of bittersweet chocolate and a distinctive hint of mint on the finish. Though nicely balanced, the tannins, oak and acidity give this a deliciously carnivorous character.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kedesh Valley, Israel, 2011 ($55): Phenomenal. Balanced, elegant, this is complex enough to satisfy those of a ponderous bent, but food friendly and immediately delicious for those seeking wonderful refreshment for a fine meaty meal. With clean dark cherry, currants and dark berry fruits, a dollop of gently stewed blueberry coulis, soft, fully integrated tannins, spicy wood and with a fetching touch of Mediterranean herb and eucalyptus on the finish, too. L’chaim!
Fill Joshua E. London’s cup with your questions about wine and spirits: [email protected].