I Love Wine And Food – A Chardonnay From Israel

Ella Valley Vineyards was founded in the Judean Hills of northern Israel in 1997. While preparing the ground for planting the vines they discovered remnants of a settlement from the Second Temple Period (that’s at least two thousand years ago) including an ancient wine press. This winery produces about 200,000 bottles a year and sells about two thirds of their grapes to other wine makers. They hand harvest the grapes at night to prevent any fermentation before the grapes reach the winery. Their wines are raised partly in oak barrels and partly in stainless steel. This particular wine comes from two vineyards, on situated at 350-400 meters (about 1000 feet) and the other at 700 meters (about 2000 feet). High elevation means the grapes have a long time to ripen without becoming too alcoholic. This wine is kosher for Passover but is not mevushal (flash pasturized).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Chardonnay 2007 KP (Ella Valley Vineyards) 14% alcohol about $20

There were no marketing materials so let me quote in part Daniel Rogov, arguably the premier Israeli wine critic. “…showing a gentle hand with the wood, with the nose and palate opening with hints of honey, flaky pastry and minerals, and goes on to show yellow plum and citrus blossoms. Well structured, long, and elegant…” And now for my review.

At the first sips the Chardonnay was lightly acidic tasting of tangerines. In fact it had lovely acidity. The initial meal centered around a commercial chicken schnitzel. The wine was feathery with fine oak that was a little overdone. When I added some Louisiana cayenne pepper sauce the wine didn’t change much but the oak got worse. The side dish was boxed zucchini pancakes made with onions and carrots. The wine was applely and now the oak was better under control. With fresh pineapple the oak predominated.

The following meal started with a Middle-Eastern specialty kube; ground beef in crushed bulghar jackets in a lightly acidic broth brimming with Swiss Chard. The Chardonnay tasted of bananas. It was slightly sweet with pleasant acidity. The meal continued with a purchased barbecued chicken breast in a light soya sauce. The wine was quite long and somewhat sweet, tasting of tangerines. With the dessert of fresh strawberries the wine had great acidity and fantastic length.

My final meal was an Atlantic salmon steak that had been marinated in a honey soya sauce mixture. The Chardonnay was elegant, subtle, and long. The side of potato patties shortened the wine but it was still quite present, mostly tasting of tangerines.

Before the cheeses I tried this wine with Matjes herring. The Chardonnay was elegant and lengthy offering oak on the finish. The first cheese was a 4% creamed cottage cheese. The wine tasted of light citrus and honey. The second cheese was a Wisconsin Swiss. The Chardonnay was nutty (like the Swiss) and acidic. It had good length and balance with some citrus. Dessert was a French lemon pie with a buttery crust. This Chardonnay thinned but its lemony taste accompanied the pie. But the wine really couldn’t keep up with the pie, it was wasted.

Final verdict. The Internet tells me that this wine is available for $20 in the United States. Frankly, I would buy it at that price and try to avoid the oaky pairings. But my local price in the upper twenties is a deal breaker.

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