Monday, January 24, 2011

My First Israeli Wine, Chardonnay from Pelter Winery

When is the last time you had a wine from somewhere new to you? How many wine drinkers can honestly say that it was recently?

I'm like most and aside from the domestic wines I consume, I stick to a few well-established areas. France/Spain/Italy, Chile/Argentina, and Australia/New Zealand are the bulk of both my collection and my daily drinking selection. Rather than being opposed to tasting wines from outside these areas, I just tend to stay within a comfort zone I've established.

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Right. So I got some wines from Israel recently. I've never had Israeli wine before, and for many, I suspect that is true as well. Collectively, if the rest of the Israeli wines are as good as the 2009 Pelter Unwooded Chardonnay, we're missing out. Consumers might be intimidated by the obscurity of the Israeli wine industry or the fear that the wines are all Kosher, with the associated horror stories behind that designation. That isn't a knock on Kosher wines at all, just an acknowledgement of consumer lack of information. The 2009 Pelter I tasted tonight doesn't have any kind of Kosher designation on the bottle, anywhere. This leads me to believe the winery is not Kosher, whether that's good or bad though, I leave up to you.

After getting my hands on some fresh basil, pesto seemed like the logical thing to make. Of course, that calls for some pasta and garlic bread too. While not necessarily a pairing I'd think of right away, the thought of unwooded chardonnay proved too much of a temptation. If the Pelter Chardonnay had been aged in oak barrels instead of steel tanks, the flavor composition could have been very different and this pairing would not have worked out at all.

That being said, I should now talk about the wine itself. The juice is pale, seriously pale. We're talking as pale as a Sancerre! Not that golden-straw color a glass of Kistler or Rombauer might have, far from it. Hell, this is almost as pale as a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.

Since the bottle says the varietal is chardonnay, it should come as no surprise that this wine smells like chardonnay. Beautifully aromatic, I'd liken the nose to fresh summer flowers, lemon tart, lime juice and a whiff of fresh sea-breeze. When you buy this wine, I recommend an experiment: smell the wine when it's chilled and make a note of how lively and zingy it is, then later on, take another whiff as the wine has warmed a bit. I think you will find a fascinating difference.

Bright is a word I like to use to describe a wine's personality, so I'll use it on the 2009 Pelter. To me, a "bright" wine has acidity that washes across the palate, making the wine accessible but also complex. In the Pelter, the acidity shines, at once refreshing while also a structural element. Within the acidity, a smooth, round core of lemon creme. Limes, tropical fruit and the subtlest mineral tones create a complexity I admit to being unprepared for. In other words, a wine that is lip-smackin' good!

How should I sum up a wine I am so impressed with? Since I cannot literally force you to buy this wine, there's no way to ensure you give it a chance. Look beyond the region, throw aside whatever pre-conceived notions you might have. Drink the 2009 Pelter Chardonnay and then go back and note that it's from Merom Golan, Israel. 706 cases were produced. In the United States (especially California), buy it at Israeli Wine Direct. They've got the best price I could find. As for me, I rate this wine an A- and a STRONG buy recommendation.

Beau Carufel


  1. Glad you enjoyed the wine and couldn't agree more on giving Israeli wines another chance. Israel has made huge strides in quality over the last five years and is currently producing hundreds of world-class wines across its varying wine regions. Some of the top Israeli producers well worth seeking out and giving a try (some kosher, some not) include Castel, Yatir, Clos de Gat, the Yarden Single Vineyard wines, Tzora & Ella Valley.

    Hope to see more great reviews of quality Israeli wines - its an up and coming wine-growing region with growing expertise and tons to offer.


  2. Awesome. Richard from Israeli Wine Direct is a friend of mine, and he's opened my eyes to how awesome Israeli, and even Kosher, wines can be. Another winery, Flam, makes a killer Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend, you gotta try it.

    - Sam from

  3. Thanks for the comment and recommendations Yossie and Sam, I'll be actively seeking out more Israeli wines this year to write about. Stay tuned!