Margalit Winery, Ceasarea, Israel
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Margalit Winery, Ceasarea, Israel

Margalit Winery, from the Ceasarea region on Israel's Mediterranean coast, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, is a family-run operation specializing in red Bordeaux blends. I had the pleasure of tasting three of these “boutique” wines under the watchful eye of Asaf Margalit, who runs the winery with his father, UC Davis-educated Yair Margalit. After a technical education in Israel, Asaf worked for Jekel Vineyards in California, a distinction I note since I review much of Jekel's output. The winery owns two vineyards: a cool-climate spread in Upper Galilee planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and some Petite Syrah, and a hotter climate property closer to home planted with Cabernet Franc.

As would be expected of a boutique winery, these wines tend to be pricy, and there is a reason. Grapes are hand picked using small buckets to protect the clusters. The grapes are crushed but not-pressed; the winery uses only the free run juice for the initial fermentation in stainless steel. Between the fermentation and the maturation stage, the new wine macerates with the skins for an extra week or two. The wine then ages a year in small oak barrels, 95% French and 5% American, using a rotation system that ensures that one-third of the barrels are always new oak. The wines are un-fined and only coarse filtered before bottling.

The 2006 Margalit Cabernet Franc, $60-$70, is 95% Cabernet Franc buttressed by 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is a shimmering medium purple in color, with blackcurrant, rose and violet on the nose. The dry wine is medium-bodied plus with flavor notes of black cherry, blueberry, a floral tinge, a taste of earth and mountain herb. The acidity works ardently in this wine; the tannins are well-rounded. The finish is gentle and long, yielding a final tinge of that violet and rose, with a smidgen of the earthy flower bed thrown in. Sophisticated and highly civilized.

The 2006 Margalit Enigma, $70-$80, is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. This wine is a medium to deep ruby. The aromatics are superb, bringing a nose of rose, violet, raspberry and cherry. Medium- to full-bodied, this dry wine features soft tannins, very nicely integrated acidity, and palate notes of cassis, blueberry, chocolate, tobacco and some mint and clove. The wine finishes extra long with a nice touch of bitter roasted walnut at the end to meld with the stamina of the fruit.

The 2006 Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon, $60-$70 is 90% Cabernet with 10% Merlot. The wine is inky dark, nearly opaque. Distinctive Cabernet cassis attacks the nose at first encounter, but of course there is more: black and red berries with clove, nutmeg, licorice and concentrated vanilla. The wine is decidedly full-bodied but “bigness” is not the whole story. Both tannins and acidity meld well together to create a gentle side and to showcase a wealth of flavor notes: black cherry, dried cherry, blackberry jam, allspice, cinnamon and bitter chocolate. The finish is long and fruity.

All three of these wines bring real structure and backbone to the table; you can opt to drink them now but can certainly profit by cellaring them three to five years in the case of the Cabernet Franc, a few years longer in the case of the Enigma and the Cabernet Sauvignon.


Verdict: Solid Bordeaux Styles to Savor and Cellar


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Despite thousands of years having a cultural connection to wine, Israel at the same time is one of the younger wine producing nations.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


Margalit Winery's Yair and Asaf Margalit.

Margalit Winery's Yair and Asaf Margalit.


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