Recanati Winery in Galilee
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Recanati Winery in Galilee

Like many of today's wine producers in Israel, Recanati Winery is very new on the map; a group headed by Lenny Recanati founded the winery in 2000. If the name somehow sounds Italian, it is; the family has connections with the Italian town of Recanati on the Adriatic coast. Though the winery itself is situated in the Hefer Valley near the Mediterranean coast, the winery sources its grapes from the high altitude Upper Galilee area a short distance to the north. UC Davis grad Gil Schatzberg is head winemaker. The winery produces young red and white blends under its Yasmin label, which I did not taste, varietals under its Recanati and Reserve labels, and a Special Reserve. I tasted six wines and follow with kind words for them all, especially considering the prices, Special Reserve included. All the wines are Kosher.

Nearly all varietal grapes used by Recanati are of French origin, yet the winery stresses, in describing their Reserve wines, that “the enological philosophy behind these wines is the production of a wine that is neither 'old world' nor 'new world' - but rather 'Middle Eastern,' that faithfully represents the growing region of the grapes.”

The 2006 Recanati Reserve Chardonnay, at $22 and 100% Chardonnay, was the only white I tasted. The wine is made from single vineyard grapes from the Manara Kibbutz in Upper Galilee, initially cold fermented in stainless steel then transferred to French oak barrels for further fermentation and sur lie aging. The light straw wine gives aromas of white flowers, peach and apricot. On the palate the dry wine brings grapefruit, mango, some pineapple, and a touch of buttery pie crust. The finish is fruity and well balanced.

The 2005 Recanati Diamond Syrah, $17, is 100% Syrah, aged a year in French and American Oak. Red plum jam and raspberry greeted my nose on this one, with a background of baking spice and pepper. In the mouth the wine has the classic feel of a light, dry Syrah with soft tannins, moderate acidity, red berry fruit, a touch of cedar wood and a well-integrated, mouth-involving finish.

The 2006 Recanati Reserve Cabernet Franc, $22 and 100% Cab Franc is, as one would guess, the product of a decidedly cool climate high altitude vineyard in Upper Galilee. The wine is aged 15 months in French, Hungarian and American oak. A deep tomato red, the wine has aromas of chocolate, berries, green bell pepper and mint, with raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, prune and plum jam on the palate. Tannins are very well melded in this medium-bodied wine. The finish leaves you with a touch of sweet oak, with chocolate and mint.

The 2005 Recanati Reserve Petite Syrah/Zinfandel (the ratio is 80% to 20%) is $22. The two varietals come from different vineyards (the Petite Syrah from Lower Galilee and the Zin from Upper Galilee), are fermented and oak aged separately before final blending with subsequent eight month aging of the blend. This wine is rich, fruity and dark. Blackberry jam leads the nose. The wine is dry, with some tangy acidity, soft tannins, and flavor notes of blackberry, plum chocolate and cedar. The finish is long and sweetly woody with a smoky edge. Recanati positions it as a “characteristic Israeli wine,” and it certainly has the character to merit such a category.

The 2005 Recanati Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is $22 and 100% Cabernet. The grapes are sourced from the high altitude Kerem Ben Zimra and Manara vineyards. The wine is aged 17 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels. A deep ruby in color, the wine has an equally deep nose: deep black fruit, mountain herb, cocoa, cigar box, mocha with similar wealth on the palate. I found this a good, full-bodied Cabernet, with excellent balance between tannin and acidity, both of which qualities sustain the wine through a lengthy finish that leaves a vanilla/chocolate tinge at the finale.

The 2004 Recanati Special Reserve, at $45, is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot, vinified separately before blending and aging 19 months in 80% new French oak. The wine is a deep purple with chocolate, black cherry, cassis, mint and clove on the nose. Full-bodied to be sure, the wine involves the palate with well-extracted fruit—cassis, black plum and blackberry—rounded out by fennel, cigar box, cocoa, clove and nutmeg. The tannins are firm and involving, the finish long and balanced. Despite the winery's understandable patriotism, I couldn't help but note “Margaux” on the sheet when I tasted this wine, especially in regard to the lengthy, meditative finish. I certainly hope Recanati takes this adjective as the compliment it is meant to be.

Verdict: A truly fine and varied wine line

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With no ingigenous wine grapes, Israeli winemakers have a hidden bonus: an empty palatte of international varietals they can combine with Israel's rich array of climates and soils.

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

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

Israel's Recanati Winery in Galilee.

Israel's Recanati Winery in Galilee.

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