I love the Jacques Capsouto story. It’s a story of perseverance, deep love for food, wine and Israel.
Born an Egyptian Jew, Jacques moved with his family to France as a teenager, where he grew to love the embedded culture of world-class food and wine. After moving to New York City, he opened with his two brothers what would become the famous French restaurant Freres Capsouto in the Tribeca neighborhood.
Jacques carefully curated his wine list, and made a point to carry and promote Israeli wines, carrying with him the memory of his mother constantly telling him to “Do something for Israel.”
Freres Capsouto, a landmark destination bistro for over 30 years, was destroyed in 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. At age 70, Jacques embarked on a magnificent new chapter in his life: becoming a full-time Israeli winemaker.
Capsouto traveled to Israel seeking the perfect spot to plant his vineyard, and in 2011 found just such a spot close to Peki’in in the Western Galillee, a place where all of Israel’s people, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze, co-exist in harmony.
An interesting note is that it is believed that the famous Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai hid in the caves of Peki’in along with his son for 13 years, to hide from the Romans in the 2nd century. Jews have maintained a presence in Peki’in for at least 2,000 years.
With his French roots firmly entrenched, the Francophile Capsouto decided to buck the trend of planting the more marketable grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, like many of his Israeli winemaking counterparts, and focusing on Southern Rhone and Mediterranean grapes that he believed were more suitable for Israel’s specific climate.
Jacques Capsouto Vignobles released their first 2014 vintage in 2015 and produces five Mediterranean Rhone-style blends, including two reds, two whites, and a Rosé.
Our wine in question is the 2016 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Samuel Rouge ($22, found online), a red blend of Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, Cinsault, and Syrah, which is un-oaked (breaking another classic Israeli winemaking tradition) due to Capsouto and winemaker Eran Israeli’s reliance solely on the beauty of their handpicked grapes.
Capsouto, a family man extraordinaire, named each of his wines after a family member, and thus the Cuvee Samuel, named in memory of Jacques’ brother and grandfather.
Opening with a lovely nose of tart blackberry, and exhibiting a medium body full of acid and mild tannins, there is an abundance of red fruit, loamy earth, and more than anything, wonderful spice on the finish. A beautifully balanced wine which will pair nicely with a variety of foods, including lighter meat dishes, poultry and fish.
I enjoyed my bottle along with some grilled halibut fish tacos. Lord, I love fish tacos.
The ‘16 Capsouto Cuvee Samuel is meant for drinking now, not the depths of your cellar. It’s a fun, food-friendly red which will enhance your table and is sure to increase your fragile popularity among your friends.
Capsouto, along with Eran Israeli and viticulturalist Pini Sarig, are proving that Israel is capable of making beautiful Rhone-style Old World wine in Israel. Here’s hoping more of Israel’s wineries and pioneering winemakers adopt this philosophy.
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.