I attended the sprawling Travel Show at the Javits Center this past Saturday, more as a travel writer than a wine lover. Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov at the show, but this year, there were no major seminars on wine. I did, however, happen upon a little talk and tasting by Israeli winemaker Jonathan Tishbi.
I have been hearing buzz about wines from Israel for the past year, both on the internet and through a writing buddy who insists I should visit the vineyards there. Historically, winemaking originated in the middle east, yet many of us westerners have rarely given a thought to wines from that part of the world.
So, with my curiousity piqued and my throat parched, I plunked down in one of the folding chairs and listened to Tishbi, a dignified older man in a conservative dark suit, describe his winery in halting English. A Shiraz was passed around, which tasted like its alcohol was very high. Tishbi described the growing conditions for his grapes: they receive little rainfall and his vines therefore produce less fruit and smaller grapes with more concentrated flavor. Next a blend of cabernet, merlot and cabernet franc was distributed in plastic Dixie-cups. It’s aged about five years, the fruit is well-balanced, and it has a nice amount of tannin, although a little too oaky for my taste. We ended with a sticky: an Israeli desert wine that is reminiscent of ruby port. At this point, Jonathan raised his own plastic cup in “L’Haim” and we toasted him back. I’m glad to have had this brief introduction to wines of Israel and I expect to see and taste more of them in the coming years.