The insides of oak barrels made to age wine are generally warmed or toasted a bit before the liquid is added to them for fermenting. Toasting, according to the Wine Spectator, is done to mellow the tannins in the wood, and it changes the flavors the barrel might impart from raw wood to more spicy, vanilla notes. Toasting can be done a little or a lot, from a light toast to a heavy toast. The heavier the toast, the stronger are the barrel’s oak-forward, smoky flavors. Combined with grapes from mature vines, Alexander Winery’s heavily toasted bottles are as unique as they are notable.
The Alexander Winery, founded in 1996 by winemaker Yoram Shalom, is situated at Beit Yitzhak, a farming estate set in the heart of the Sharon region of Israel. The boutique, family-owned winery is named after Yoram’s father, Alexander Shalom, a”h, from whom Yoram acquired the inspiration and love of wine. The winery continues a 120-year-old family tradition of winemaking that began in Italy and North Africa.
Alexander Winery’s vineyards are located in the Upper Galilee at some of Israel’s highest altitudes, ideal microecologies for wine grapes. “We emphasize advanced agro-technology alongside controlled use of water and ensure that our vines have lower rather than exaggerated yields. Close observation of the ripening process allows us to choose a harvest date for optimal quality,” according to the winery’s website. The winery only uses top-quality grapes. The winery’s Alexander the Great selection is produced from a vineyard of more than 30 years’ maturation.
At the Congregation Ahavath Torah Sisterhood/Wine Country evening of wine and whiskey, my team tasted three wines from Alexander, all of which displayed similar qualities in flavor and depth. Alexander the Great Cabernet Franc ($30), Alexander the Great Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) and Alexander Sandro ($21) are deep, dark, crimson-hued wines, with a strong influence of smoke and spice. The thick viscosity lends itself well to serving with red meat. The strong toasted-oak flavor provides a strong nose of barbecue flavors. Due to its smoke-forward flavors, it was one of the most talked-about wineries at the tasting.
Wine Country, at 89 New Bridge Road in Bergenfield, has a wide range of currently available Alexander Winery wines. For more information call 201-385-0106.
By Elizabeth Kratz