Vitkin is a new name to the kosher wine scene. Though the Israeli Vitkin Winery has been producing wines since 2001, the first kosher vintage was in 2015, and I am happy the good people at Vitkin made this momentous decision. The producers include founders, Doron Belogolovsky, whose grandparents founded their namesake town, Vitkin Village, and his wife, Sharona. Sharona’s brother, Assaf Paz, is now the head winemaker, taking over for Doron. Besides being a boutique winery, Vitkin is truly a family operation.
With the winery becoming fully kosher, and with the export of Vitkin to the United States, Vitkin continues to grow, producing more than 100,000 bottles annually. What allows Vitkin to stand apart from many other Israeli winemakers is its strict intention to produce “ABCM” wines: Anything But Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot.
Vitkin creates wines that rely on Mediterranean grapes, as Israel’s climate is more suited to such varietals, rather than the typical Cabernet many Israeli winemakers produce with the idea that popular varietals will sell more easily. Instead, Vitkin produces such varietals as Carignan, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, with lesser known white varietals such as Columbard, and the typically-German varietals, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. (Assaf, if you are reading this, I need 750ml of Riesling, STAT!) This careful approach has led Vitkin to produce some of the most distinctive Israeli wines. While Israeli reds tend to be on the ripe side, with high alcohol, lots of oak and a “fruitier” mouth, Vitkin’s choice to create climate-appropriate wines is apparent from the first taste.
Tasting Notes & Pairings
In this Decanter, we will be tasting the 2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey Edom (Hebrew for red) ($21, available at local shops carrying kosher wines and from online retailers). Journey is Vitkin’s “entry-level” line, and includes a red, white and rosé, all priced very affordably. The Israeli Journey Red is a blend of 55% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Marselan and 5% Grenache Noir. I swear I can taste the Grenache Noir in there, but I like to think I’m capable of all kinds of things many others would promise I’m not. The majority Carignan is recognizable in the lighter body and meaty cranberry-raspberry nose. (Yes, that’s a thing.) The wine has lovely acid and medium tannins which round out its prominent red fruits.
2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey Edom will pair nicely with roasted Mediterranean chicken. How do I know? I’m dining on this wonderful pairing as I write. L’Chaim!
Dr. Kenneth Friedman is a Baltimore-born kosher wine aficionado/connoisseur. He is known for his unsolicited wine advice and runs many local kosher wine tastings. You can follow him on Instagram @KennethFriedmanEvents.