Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wines of Shiloh


Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon Shor 2007   NIS 85
Shiloh Chardonnay 2010                          NIS 80
Shiloh Rose 2007                                       NIS 75

In my last blog I mentioned that I took my parents to the Shiloh Biblical Park a few months ago before our appointment at Gvaot Winery and whilst there, saw some wines being sold in the café from Shiloh Winery.

The Shiloh Winemaker, Amichai Luria
This Chol HaMoed Pesach I really wanted to visit the Shiloh winery so was in contact with the wine maker, Amichai, at Shilo  who told me that he would be happy to receive us in the afternoon even though the winery was officially closed. In the end it didn’t work out but I did get to go back to the Biblical Park with my family and took the opportunity to buy some more wines there.
View from the top of Shiloh

The Park had put on special Chol HaMoed activities and we all had a smashing time there. If you haven’t been to Shiloh yet, please go. Even observant Jews, unless they are very well versed in Tanach, know little of the time when the Mishkan was situated in Shiloh. I very much enjoyed their presentation showing what life was like in Shiloh during Pesach and it made me realise how little I knew of the period. Archaeological digs are continuing at a fierce pace, uncovering new thing from Pre First Temple period all the time. Exciting times indeed.

So, despite having not visited the winery yet I thought I must tell you about these wines:
I bought three wines. A Cabernet Sauvignon, A Chardonnay and a Rose.
Shilo Ranges

The Wine shelf in the Shilo Cafe
(Note. Actual prices were cheaper than labeled here)

As far as I can tell, Shiloh produces two main ranges plus a few blends and non-reds, not categorised within a particular range name. I’ve seen their quality Shor range in shops in Yerushalayim. Then they have what they call their “Secret Reserve” range. The Café was selling a Cabernet Sauvignon Secret  Reserve priced from NIS 135 to NIS 235. Those who are familier to this blog will know that I have a general rule not to review wines over NIS 120 as I consider this outside the average wine lover’s price range. I have been known to make an exception but try and stick to this rule as much as possible. The other reason why I did not purchase the Secret Reserve was that they were all from the 2008 Shmitta year which I don’t buy unless I know exactly how they have been looked after and in what circumstances they were produced.
The Website
They have an informative website in Hebrew, English and Spanish.
I noticed a quite few English mistakes here and there but its valiant effort.
I loved the wonderful idea of adding links to most of their wines which open a PDF file containing a large photo of the bottle plus a flat version of the back label in English. If only all wineries would do this. I’ve taken snapshots of some of these PDFs and included them in my review as the bottles I bought were in Hebrew.
HechshirimKashrus Certification
Unlike their next door neighbour, Gvaot, who are content with just the local Binyamin region hechshir, Shilo Winery boasts Local Rabbanut Supervision as well as American OK and Badatz Chatam Sofer Bnei Brak.
I was particularly impressed with their statement on their website regarding Terumah and Ma’aser and they deserve high praise indeed:

Shiloh winery allocates First Tithe to a family of Levites with a long-standing tradition. On every third and sixth year, the winery allocates unmarked bottles for Tithing for the Poor, with the help of Social Services and reliable charity collectors.”


Now on to the wine reviews:


Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon Shor 2007.
The front label has an unpretentious elegance about it which tells us exactly what this is. A no nonsense, not overly expensive really descent bottle of wine. I liked the little touches on the bottle which connect the product to the Shiloh region. Very tasteful design and certainly not OTT unlike some other wineries in the same region.

The label informs us that this Cabernet Sauvignon has been matured in oak casks for 15 months.
We took this bottle out of the wine cooler, set for 14C and opened it without delay upon returning from Shul Friday night.( I was in a particularly good mood as the Shaliach Tzibur had not davaned Carlibach for a change and instead stuck to a traditional Kabolas Shabbos). We noticed straight away a lovely fresh spicy aroma emanating from the top of the bottle.
We waited around 10 minutes for my middle son to come home after chatting with his mates outside shul where upon we commenced with the traditional Shalom Aleichem, Aishes Chayil and the kid’s brochos. Now it was time for Kiddush. Smiling faces and very hungry we all made our way to the dining room table.
I poured the wine noting a dark clean blackcurrant red berry colour (more reminiscent of a Merlot) and that lovely fresh spicy aroma again. Kiddush was said slowly and regally and at last it was time to taste this Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a medium bodied, full flavour wine packed full of mixed forest berries plucked straight after a heavy rainfall. Underneath this though was an exhilarating taste of fresh leaves like myrtle or some other strongly aromatic plant and beneath that, a base of sweet hazelnut. This wine has incredibly silky smooth tannins which reminded me very much of the elegant style of its neighbour, Gvaot, only slightly lighter in body.

Without a doubt, this Shiloh is perfect for Kiddush. However you must also try it with food so if you have more than 4 or 5 at your table, be ready to open a second bottle to enjoy with your meal.

This particular Friday night, our hors d'oevre consisted of a Tuna salad with apples, spring onions, celery, lemon juice and mayonnaise. (I suppose you could call it a Waldolf salad where the walnuts are replaced by tuna). This was consumed with homemade wholemeal flour challa with sultanas baked with a glaze of eggs and sprinkled with garenim (sun flower seeds, shells removed obviously). Some wines with a heavier body would have drowned out the taste of the food. Not so with this wine. The Shiloh seemed to enhance the taste of everything, lifting the food to a higher level.

I confess that If this would have been a blind tasting then I would have said that this wine was a Cabernet / Merlot blend as I thought that I detected at least some influence of Merlot grapes. However there is no mention of any other grape on the back label so I have to conclude that I am wrong.
If I had to make one incy wincy criticism then it would be the aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong, the aftertaste was there but it could/should have been longer. Considering all those multiple layers of taste and aromas in this wine I’m surprised at the modest finale. Having said this, everyone at the table gave the big thumbs up for this one.

Since writing this review, we have downed a further three bottles of this stuff. What more proof do you need? Highly recommended!

Shiloh Chardonnay 2010
Although in general I really love the label designs of these Shiloh’s, I must admit to being a bit puzzled by the drawing of a silhouette of a fisherman with his rod in the water. Now, what’s that all about? Is it to tell us that the wine maker wants us to drink this with fish? That’s the only thing I can think of unless it’s some kind of inside joke?

Indeed, the back label does actually recommend this with grilled fish.

The back label further informs us that this wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Before coming across this Shloh, I had not found a 100% pure Chardonnay from the Shomrom Binyamin region which I would recommend. (The excellent Gvaot white which I reviewed previously doesn’t count as this was a blend of Chardonnay and (red) Cabernet Sauvignon).
We removed this Chardonnay from the wine cooler set at 14C and opened it just before Kiddush for Shabbos lunch.
The colour was a bright, almost luminous, yellow lemony green.
I poured the wine and my nostrils were met by a fresh tangy smell of green apples, pineapple and fresh oak.
Kiddush completed, I took a large mouth full and my taste buds were pleasured by an explosion of lemons, green apples, pineapples and kiwi. First the lemon and apples and then the kiwi, in that order. There was some creamy banana there as well. Underneath all this was a definite mineral water and mountain pebbles taste. Then came the lovely smooth, buttery, light fresh oak taste with more lemons, green apples and kiwi. A simply deliciously refreshing aftertaste and without a doubt, the best Chardonnay by far that I have tasted from this region. Yasher Koach Shiloh wines for a superb job!

A word of advice. Please do not drink this wine at too cold a temperature despite the label advising to serve it chilled. I am convinced that had we drunk this straight from the fridge then we would have missed out on all those exquisite layers of taste and texture. 14C to 16C is problably about right.

Last point. I've looked for this Chardonnay in all my usual places in and around Yerushalayim but have not found it anywhere. I managed to get another bottle only because I revisited Shiloh last week. If you happen to see it, don't pass it by.

Beautiful bottle, shame about the taste

Shiloh Rose 2007
I loved the bottle and label design on this one. Very unusual and artistic. It’s a shame that the wine was such a disappointment. Perhaps the Rose 2007 is already past it’s drinking date. Interestingly, the Rose was not listed on their website. Perhaps an experiment gone wrong?


We opened the bottle during the meal and were not impressed by the strong aroma of perfume. This was not the perfume of flowers but of an artificial chemical smell of Flower toilet air freshener. The colour was also somewhat artificial. It was a Rose colour but there was something wrong about it. Taste was bland with a slightly dry aftertaste. For comparison, we immediately opened a bottle of Teperberg 1870’s  “Efrat” White Zinfandel straight from the fridge costing a third of the price. Beautiful perfume of fresh flowers and fruit with a touch of peach. Deliciously refreshing taste with zero aftertaste but for NIS 25 a bottle, you don’t expect much from this. One thing’s for sure, it was immensely tastier than the Shiloh Rose.
Conclusions
Let’s ignore the Rose shall we and just consider the other two wines. Shiloh Winery does not produce the finest wines in Israel although they are up there with the best.  Having said that, due to their general seriousness when it comes to all the halachos (Jewish Law) of wine making, their excellent prices, their very attractive labels and most importantly of all, the fresh exciting taste and high quality of their wine, all combine to make Shiloh my current favourite winery.

1 comment:

  1. The Shor reds are excellent, though even more pricey in the USA. If less, ie $20 per bottle, I'd stock my pantry shelves.

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