Wines of the Week: Vitkin Winery
Assaf Paz, who is the owner and winemaker of Vitkin, is well known as one of Israel's best since his days working with Carmel and Binyamina (as well as with Barkan-Segal, for a short time). He played a major role in creating some of Carmel's award-winning Single Vineyard wines (Ramat Arad, Zarit, Kayoumi) under Israel Flam and Lior Lacser.
Later on, during his tenure at Binyamina, he helped in crafting the famous and successful brand The Cave, an upscale Bordeaux-blend set to compete against Castel's Grand Vin and Carmel's Limited Edition. As opposed to these, Assaf created a wine that was not as sophisticated but which was far more approachable and ready to drink on release while providing the full-bodied, rich and luscious fruit that many people enjoy.
And to my great enjoyment, in the mid 2000's Assaf also upgraded significantly the quality of Binyamina's top QPR Reserve series (fka Special Reserve) with some fantastic Zinfandel, CabSav and Shiraz as well as the amazing Late Harvest Cluster Select Gewürztraminer (many are either no longer made or not produced anymore).
While working for the big boys, Assaf decided to open his own boutique winery on the side: Vitkin, named after Kfar Vitkin, the village in which it is located, a bit north of Netanya, and about a 35 minutes drive from Tel Aviv. Vitikin is a winery with quite some chutzpah. Indeed, like Jezreel and Netofa, Assaf's focus has been essentially on Mediterreanean varietals such as Carignan and Petite Sirah for the reds and Grenache Blanc for the whites. He does not make any Cabernet Sauvignon nor Merlot.
However, where he has even more chutzpah, Assaf also makes some delicious Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir which are varietal that are not even remotely Mediterranean yet with an Israeli kind-of-twist.
The winery has been steadily growing over the past 15 years or so and therefore he naturally decided to get kosher certification in 2015, which was a shmitta (sabbatical) year in Israel and therefore only very limited quantities were exported.
Vitkin’s rosé as well as their white blend are both delightful, so check them out, spread the love and be on the lookout for future releases!
Vitkin, Pink Israeli Journey, 2016
We are now in the middle of July, at the peak of the summer aka Rosé season. I enjoy many rosés a lot, while some, not so much. Vitkin's is a rather Provence-style blend of 90% Carignan and 10% Grenache, both Mediterranean varieties. This is a delightful wine with notes of tart strawberries, red currants and cherries. Crisp, light-bodied with plenty of mouth-watering acidity, it is very well-balanced and would pair really nicely with sushi, wings or dark chicken cutlets on the grill.
With only 12.5% Abv it is also great on its own, on your porch (relaxing), in the backyard (refreshing) or by the pool (wishful thinking)... One of the very best rosés, and the price is right!
Vitkin, White Israeli Journey, 2016
Now this is definitely an appropriately named wine: White Israeli Journey. A wine that takes you on a journey, as while smelling it, you may think you're in the fields of spring flowers and summer fruit orchards in the Galilee.
This is a light to medium-bodied, very aromatic and eclectic blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Gewürztraminer and French Colombard. While the Gewurz makes only up for a tiny portion of the blend, its typical aromas of rose petals, litchi and white peaches are clearly dominating, followed on the palate by notes of citrus fruit, and green apple. The acid backbone is not as strong as in the rosé and therefore makes food almost mandatory to enjoy this wine to its fullest. I would recommend mild-flavored hard cheeses such as Gruyère, Emmentahl or Pecorino or soft ones like goat cheese as well as sautéed mushrooms, grilled eggplants topped with tahini and pomegranate seeds or low-fat fish, halibut or Chilean sea bass in a lemony sauce.
This is a very unique white wine with lots of character, one that should trigger the curiosity and interest of any wine lover, whether looking for a kosher wine or not!
Photography by Tzvi Cohen.