With a Mediterranean climate and a tradition of viticulture dating back thousands of years, why aren't more of us drinking wine from Israel? Part of the problem is perception - many people mistakenly think that certified kosher wines and quality wines are mutually exclusive. That misconception discourages many neighborhood wine shops and restaurants from devoting much space, if any, to wines from Israel. Big mistake. After tasting through several excellent selections from the Recanati Winery portfolio, it became abundantly clear to me that kosher wine can also be fine wine and that Israeli wine pairs beautifully with a wide variety of cuisine.
The dynamic duo of Recanati Winery - chief winemaker Gil Shatsberg and winery founder Lenny Recanati.
An artisan winery, Recanati was founded in 2000 by Israeli banker and financier Lenny Recanati - he also happens to be the owner of Israel's finest private wine collection. Before making their home in Israel in the early 1900's, Recanati's ancestors had lived in Italy for centuries and were involved in winemaking - there is even a town in the Le Marche region that bears the family's name. Lenny's foray into the wine business is making his surname known around the globe - Recanati wines are exported to the USA, Western Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia.
Chief Winemaker Gil Shatsberg has been at Recanati since 2008 and is highly regarded in the Israeli wine community. A graduate of the prestigious Viticulture and Enology Program at UC Davis in California, Shatsberg has been instrumental in raising the quality and profile of Recanati wines. In addition to finding great success with international grape varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon (selected by Wine Spectator as one of the 100 most exciting wines of 2014), Recanati is also devoting significant resources to identifying indigenous grapes. Recanati recently made international headlines with Marawi - a white wine produced from an ancient varietal that dates back to biblical times. A taste of history and an utterly modern story, Marawi is a tangible symbol of a successful collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians: the grapes are grown in Palestine and the wine is made in Israel. Marawi is not currently available in the United States but here are three Recanati wines that you should give a swirl!
Recanati Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($14.99)
Crisp and refreshing, Recanati Sauvignon Blanc has lively tropical flavors of pineapple and lychee with subtle minerality. Not overwhelmingly grassy like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand often is, this wine is a lovely apéritif and pairs nicely with lighter foods like salads, falafel, and simple fish dishes.
Recanati Special Reserve White 2012 ($49.99)
Showing that a white wine can be both graceful and substantial, this medium-bodied blend of Roussanne (60%) and Marsanne (40%) is aged 8 months in French barrels and has harmonious flavors of vanilla, spice, and grapefruit, with a subtle buttery finish. A very delicious alternative to Chardonnay that will pair oh-so-nicely with slightly spicy & creamy dishes.
Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah 2013 ($31.99)
Produced from 32-year old vines, the captivating aroma of this wine won me over - rich blackberry, blueberry, and violet. Those deep fruit flavors are vibrant and robust thanks to a nice level of acidity, soft tannins, and a hint of earth. This is definitely a wine that will pair elegantly with rich meats like beef, lamb, or duck confit.
If you're planning a trip to Israel, Recanati Winery welcomes visitors for guided tours and tastings - booking in advance required.