Ξ February 21st, 2008 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Tasting Notes, Wineries |
Moshav Agur 17, Judean Hills
In the foothills west of Jerusalem, about half-way to Tel Aviv and a touch south, is Moshav Agur. Moshavim are cooperative communities where, unlike in the collective Kibbutzim, property is privately owned and Agur was originally settled in 1948 by Kurdish Jews fleeing Northern Iraq and Iran.
In 1997 Shuki Yashuv, master cabinetmaker and history graduate, left Jerusalem with his wife and 2 daughters for Agur and in 1999 set up his winery, briefly working with Ze’ev Dunie (who then set up Sea Horse Winery in 2000). Since then Shuki has been steadily increasing the wine production, from a modest 1,800 bottles in the first vintage to 14,000 a couple of years ago and increasing. Agur has local vineyards and also in the nearby Ella Valley, where the Biblical story of David and Goliath is believed to have been played out.
When I visited the winery this month it was Shuki’s wife, Evelyn, who met us at the gate because the man himself was giving a presentation to a group of guests elsewhere on the property, I wonder if it was the “Winemaker Dance” I’ve read about? The more I hear about Shuki the more I’d really have loved to have met him, however Evelyn was the perfect hostess and offered tastes of the 2 main labels from the winery, the 2005 Kessem (Magic) and the 2005 Shmira Meyuchedet (Special Reserve).
Kessem may be Hebrew for Magic but it is also a phonetic acronym, CSM, for the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (with a little Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot for good measure). The wine was well balanced with plenty of berry fruit, and nice firm tannins down the sides of the tongue. It was while tasting this that I picked up on a Scottish accent from Evelyn, and we had a brief chat about my early years in Scotland. As we talked she poured a taste of the Special Reserve, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 18 months in new oak barrels. This was a much deeper drink, strong tannins on the top of the tongue which make me think of at least 2 years on this before enjoying to the full, but the abundance of fruit hiding behind the oak should be worth waiting for.
As I only had room for one bottle in my bag this trip it had to be the Special Reserve, but the Kessem is a lovely wine and for early drinking would be the better choice. The Judean Hills has been called by some as Israel’s winemaking frontier and, with over 28 wineries at the start of 2007, a wine route of sorts is developing there. These are mostly boutique style enterprises, many producing non-Kosher wines for the discerning drinker and, more increasingly, the export market. Agur started exports to the U.S. in 2006 and, with wines like the ones I tasted, I hope they will find a following, and also that one day I get to meet Shuki in person.
On a final note, the Agur web-address is www.agurwines.com, but Evelyn said it wasn’t on-line yet but hopes it will be sorted out soon!