Posts Tagged ‘tishbi’

Thanksgiving with Smith-Madrone, And a Few More Delights

December 9, 2018 4 comments

Holidays are all about pleasure. The pleasure of the company. The pleasure of food. The pleasure of wine. As the very least, they should be.

Let me tell you about the pleasures of my recent Thanksgiving – in one picture:

Turkey with Smith-Madrone wines

If this would be an Instagram, I could end my post here, but in this blog, I can add a few words, right?

Let’s talk about the wine first. Everyone has their ideas as what is the best Thanksgiving wine. Some talk about how difficult it is to pair any wine with the Thanksgiving table, due to the large variety of dishes and often prevalent sweet flavors (this is not universal, of course). I have a very simplistic view of the wine and food pairing – give me tasty food and good wine, and if they don’t work together – no problems, I’m happy to consume them one by one. Difficult or not, pairing is not the focal point of my Thanksgiving wine selection. I really have only one strong preference for the Thanksgiving wines – they should be all American. Thanksgiving we celebrate here in the USA is all about this country, and so the wine should match that. And thinking about American wines, you understand how easy it is nowadays to have all-American wine experience.

How many of you heard of Napa Valley? Okay, I see that look, this was a stupid question, I know. But let me go on. How many of you heard of Spring Mountain District? Okay, I see your facial expression changing to say “hmmm, I’m not so sure”. And the last question – how many of you heard of Smith-Madrone? Okay, don’t feel too bad, at the end of the day it is one of the about 400 wineries located in the Napa Valley, so of course, one can’t know all of them. But – this is why I’m talking about it – this is the winery you might want to get better acquainted with.

Smith-Madrone is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, started by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith in 1971. Smith-Madrone property is about 200 acres, with some parts of the vineyards planted more than 100 years ago, all located near the top of the Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The name Smith-Madrone combines the family name with the name of the evergreen Madrone trees, prominently growing at the property. Well, instead of me trying to regurgitate the past and present of the Smith-Madrone winery, let me direct you to this article – it is a good story, well worth a few minutes of your time.

Smith-Madrone wines

When was the last time you had Napa Valley Riesling? If you answered “never”, it could’ve been my answer too – until I discovered this Smith-Madrone Riesling. Riesling is simply not a common grape for the Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone produces the absolutely beautiful rendition of the famous grape. It might be due to the mountain fruit – all the Smith-Madrone vineyards located at the altitude of 1300 to 2000 feet, with slopes reaching 34%. Sustainable dry farming and winemaking practices also play a role, but one way or the other, the 2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (12.9% ABV, $32) was just delicious. varietally correct both on the nose (honeysuckle, a touch of tropical fruit, lemon, apples) and the palate, which was beautifully balanced with golden delicious apples, a touch of honey and acidity. To make me ultra-happy, the Riesling is sported a distant hint of petrol, which is my pet peeve.

2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (14.4% ABV, $40, 10 months in French oak) was equally beautiful. Again, the wines of that styling I call in my book “classic”. A touch of vanilla and apples on the nose, a distant hint of butter, continuing with the same vanilla and white apples on the palate. Clean acidity, noticeable minerally undertones, restrained, balanced – a very classic example of “how to do chardonnay right”.

With the risk of sounding very boring and repetitive, I have one more classic wine for you – 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (13.9% ABV, $52, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 70% new French oak, 30% one-year-old French oak for 18 months). How classic was this wine? Bordeaux-classic. The mountain fruit was shining, showing great restraint. This was not an exuberant typical Napa Cab – lean, tight, well-structured, with cassis both on the nose and the palate, the wine was very enjoyable now, and it will be equally or more enjoyable in 30 years.

So that was my main wine story on the Thanksgiving day. The rest was about the food – starting the smoker as 9 am in the 21°F weather (about -6°C), and then watching the turkey slowly getting to the right temperature. The silver lining of that cold weather was the fact that instead of 4-4.5 hours in the smoker, it took about 6 hours to get that big bird to the right doneness – and slower cooking results in more tender and more flavorful meat. A glass of Smith-Madrone Riesling was adding to the cooking enjoyment.

After celebrating Thanksgiving at our house, we went to see our close friends in Boston. What I love about that house is that there are always a few of the older wine bottles laying somewhere on the shelf. You never know what you will find in the older bottle, but that is what makes it fun, isn’t it?

The first bottle I opened was 2007 Tishbi Cabernet-Petite Sirah Shomron Israel (12% ABV, 70%  Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah). Judging by the pronounced brickish, almost orange, color, my first thought was “this probably fully turned”. And it was not! Complex nose of dried fruit and herbs was supported by plums and prunes forward, but balanced palate. Good amount of acidity, tertiary aromas – this was a very enjoyable glass of wine. Only one glass, I have to say – by the time I wanted the second, the wine was gone.

Without much thinking, I pulled another wine, realizing later that I opened another wine from the same vintage – 2007 Marani Kondoli Vineyards Saperavi-Merlot Kakheti Georgia (13.5% ABV). This wine couldn’t be more different from the previous 2007 – dark garnet color, not a sign of any aging, tight, fresh, blackberries and blueberries on the nose and the palate, firm, fresh and young. I’m really curious about how much longer this wine could’ve last.

One last wine to mention – 2010 Massandra White Muscat Crimea Ukraine (16% ABV). Massandra winery roots go back to the old Tsar’s Russia in late 1800, but their cellars hold wines from the 18th century (if you are not familiar with Massandra wines, here is an article by Jancis Robinson). Massandra is best known for sweet fortified Muscat wines, like the one we tasted. To me, this 2010 was most reminiscent of a Sherry, and not necessarily an ultra-balanced one. But then the same Jancis Robinson’s article says that Massandra wines require 45-60 for the full maturity, so I guess the wine tasted within the expectations…

Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley, Israel, Georgia, and Ukraine – not a bad wine play for the holiday, what do you say?

Here you go, my friends. I will leave you with some beautiful wines to look for. And how was your Thanksgiving, if you still remember it? Cheers!

Tishbi Winery Experience – Wine, And Lots More

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Continuing the “Israeli Experiences” series, I want to talk about a great experience at Tishbi Winery.

While the Tishbi family had been in the “grapes business” since 1882, the actual Tishbi Winery was founded in 1984 in the foothills of Carmel mountain in the area called Zichron Yaacov. in addition to the vineyards in the Zichron Yaacov area, Tishbi also owns vineyards in the North and South areas of Israel.

First, we had to walk around the Visitors Center (which is brand new and modern looking), as there was a huge group (about 100 people we were told) participating in the tasting. Very nice modern facility, spacious and airy. Of course, the first thing we saw was wine:

Riesling (as you can see, it is called “French Riesling” to distinguish from Emerald Riesling which is another Riesling variety growing only in Israel):

Sauvignon Blanc:

Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve ( this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc and it comes from Sde Boker vineyard located in Negev Desert):

Barbera/ Zinfandel (!) Port (very interesting to see Zinfandel grape somewhere outside of the US):

The next thing we noticed after all the wines was … chocolate! Not just random chocolate bar as a condiment – the shelves full of Valrhona Chocolate. It appears that Tishbi recently became one of the biggest distributors of the Valrhona chocolate in Israel. As part of the tasting, you can experience a special pairing of various “single cru” Valrhona chocolates with Tishbi’s wines.

Finally, we managed to escape the Visitors Center and found out that we can have a tasting in the cafe next door, which we did. Here are some of the note for the wines we tasted:

We started with 2011 Tishbi Gewurztraminer, which was very nice, clean and simple, without strong bite which Gewurztraminer often has. 2008 Tishbi Special Reserve Chardonnay had a good body, good white fruit expression with a hint of vanilla, but it was a bit too sweet to my taste.

Those were the only white wines we tried, and then we switched to red. The first red was very surprising to me – 2011 Tishbi Cabernet Syrah. What is so surprising in the Cabernet? Well, note the year – it is last year’s harvest, and this Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t spend any time in the oak barrel! Moreover, it was poured from the stainless steel tank, which was located right there in the cafe. You can bring your own bottle and get it filled with this Cabernet Syrah blend for about $5 – this is the real deal, move over two buck chuck. I also would like to note that this was a very good wine – clean, with good fruit expression and perfect acidity. After that we tried a number of Tishbi Estate wines from 2007 vintage. 2007 Tishbi Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had a beautiful classic nose, but was a bit too sweet on the palate. As an added bonus I need to mention that it had Ruby Cabernet grape as part of the blend – which is a new grape for my grapes count, so I’m advancing to 361 now. 2007 Tishbi Estate Merlot was simply perfect – a great balance of all the components. 2007 Tishbi Estate Syrah was also very good, with pepper notes on the palate, full body, good concentration of tannins. 2007 Tishbi Estate Petite Sirah had good dense fruit and full body, coupled with the perfect acidity.

Last but not least we tried 2006 Tishbi Barbera Zinfandel Port wine. This wine spends a year and a half in the oak barrels before it is released. The wine was excellent, with good fruit and perfect balance, not overly sweet – and it also paired very nicely with the Valrhona chocolate (which is somewhat expected from the port). By the way, below you can see the process of pouring of that 2011 Cabernet Syrah:

At this point we took a little break, and had the nearly perfect cup of cappuccino:

When we went back to the Visitors Center, we noticed something we overlooked before – a full distillery! Located right there in the Visitors Center, there is a still pot which is used to produce Tishbi Brandy:

And here is an illustration which explains the distillation process:

Here is the end result of the distillation – Tishbi 16 years old Brandy:

We were lucky, as we were also able to try that 16 years old brandy (typically you can try it only if you buy a bottle – considering that it costs about $450 for the bottle, you can imagine that I wouldn’t be trying that Brandy otherwise). I can’t help but to comment that I think the price is a bit high (okay, way too high).


All in all, we had a great time at Tishbi – if you are visiting Israel, it is well worth a trip. Otherwise, you can find Tishbi wines in the stores in the US, and I would definitely recommend them. That concludes my report, folks – cheers!

Shana Tova and a Question: What Wine Will Be On Your Table Tomorrow?

September 7, 2010 3 comments

Tomorrow many of us will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Wine is (could you guess?) one of the important traditional elements of the Rosh Hashanah table.

I remember that about 10 years ago, if anyone would be talking “Kosher wines”, 9 out 10, if not more often, the only Kosher wine available in US would be Manishewitz, barely drinkable fruit juice. Today situation is soooo different. Israel produces tremendous number of great wines (absolute majority are Kosher) from various mainstream grapes, such as Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and more. Today Israel has its own boutique wineries, which have status similar to the California cult wineries, such as Screaming Eagle, Colgin and others – if not yet in price, definitely in availability. Try to find wines from the wineries such as Flam, Domaine du Castel, Yatir or Vitkin – and if you will succeed, make sure you will taste them as you will be very thankful you did. But even the mainstream Israeli wines, coming from the wineries such a Dalton, Galil Mountain, Benyamina, Tishbi, Yarden and many others (Israel has more than 200 wineries at this point), which are readily available in your neighbourhood wine store, will make a great addition to any table.

So what wine will be on your table tomorrow? If you didn’t decide yet, make an effort, find one of the Israeli wines and let me know how did you like it. If you plan to have any other wine, I’m still eager to know what will it be. And even if Rosh Hashanah is not your holiday, get your friends together, share the bottle ( wine meant to be shared!) and raise the glass to life.


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