Choosing wines for your Rosh Hashana table

Maia and Tulip vintages to drink with your holiday meals.

Tulip wines (photo credit: COURTESY TULIP WINERY)
Tulip wines
With upcoming Rosh Hashana meals and wines in mind, Metro gladly accepted an invitation from the deluxe Elma Art Hotel, Zichron Ya’acov, to taste wines from the Maia Winery – the new subsidiary of the Tulip Winery.
In the comfortable lobby of Elma’s Oratorio restaurant and sipping a well-chilled Maia rosé, I interviewed David Bar-Ilan, wine-maker at Tulip and Maia.
Bar-Ilan’s open-minded and creative attitude almost certainly comes from his varied background. Growing up in Israel, he learned his trade at leading boutique wineries here, and then in Australia. Before settling down to wine-making in 2001, he studied Chinese medicine and shiatsu.
“I’m a shiatsu master,” he told Metro, spreading out his hands. Sensitivity to energy remains, even after the practitioner goes on to other fields, so I’d venture to say that Bar-Ilan’s shiatsu experience enhances a sensitive palate and taste memory – important elements in a wine-maker.
Creating wine at Tulip since 2012, Bar-Ilan now divides his time between Tulip and Maia. The concept of two wineries under one umbrella isn’t new in Israel; examples are the Carmel Winery, which owns the Yatir Winery; and the Golan Heights Winery, which owns the Galil Mountain Winery. The Maia Winery, operating since 2012, was founded by Tulip owner Roy Itzhaki as a separate winery with an individual character.
“Maia is next to Tulip, in the same house, but it’s a different winery, with a different wine-making approach and different grape varieties. Maia’s wines are Mediterranean-style, with a Greek influence,” explained Bar-Ilan. “Israel makes lots of great wines, but the styles are changing now. For the past 30 years, Israel’s wines were based on French or American-style wines. We’re proud to be part of Israel’s wine scene, but we think that Israel’s wines are missing an identity.
“For example, we make beautiful Bordeaux wine, but tasters couldn’t say it was from Israel; no one will say, ‘That’s a beautiful Israeli wine!’ So our goal is not only to make good wine but to make great, identifiably Israeli wine.”
Israeli soil being Mediterranean, it made sense to invite experts in Mediterranean wine-making. Two Greek consultants work with Bar-Ilan: Prof. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, a wine-maker, and Prof. Kostas Bakasietas, an agronomist and expert in Mediterranean viniculture.
“We wanted a wine-maker used to working with Mediterranean-style wines to help us, not an Israeli with a European or American approach,” recounted Bar-Ilan. “So we asked Yiannis to come board. He said that he would, but only on condition that we bring in an agronomist who knows how to grow grapes Greek-style. So we brought Kostas in.”
He chuckled. “And Greeks are like Israelis in some ways; they don’t hold back their opinions. It’s interesting to work with them. They see it as growing wine, not grapes.”
The grapes for Maia wines are hand-harvested and hand-selected. Producing 25,000 bottles year, the winery offers four wines: • Mare White, a crisp, aromatic blend of Marsanne and French Colombard grapes. Aged in stainless steel. A good wine to sip as the evening starts.
• Mare Pink, a delicious rosé blend of Carignan and Mourvèdre grapes. Aged in stainless steel. A quaffer for fun, relaxed drinking any time.
• Mare Red, a medium-bodied, fruity blend of Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah grapes. Aged eight months in oak barrels. Introduce this wine with the main dish.
• Mare Nostrum, a rich and complex blend of Carignan, Durif and Syrah grapes. Aged 18 months in oak barrels. This wine deserves serious attention at a meal.
Maia vintages are available at selected wineshops and may also be ordered online via the Maia website: THE PARENT winery, Tulip, continues to produce stellar wines at good value – too many to list in this column. Metro recommends the following: With the simanim (bites of traditional symbolic foods): White Franc, a semidry blend of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon. The winery is justifiably proud of this distinctive wine, as it wonderfully disproves an old theory that the two grapes could never make quality wine together. With its fresh, fruity character and unusual bronze color, the White Franc is a perfect fit to the varied fruit, vegetable and fish dishes of the simanim.
With fish, big main-dish salads or roast chicken, the White Tulip, a dry Gewurtztraminer/Sauvignon Blanc blend. Very good to offset sweet vegetable dishes like tzimmes (made of carrots and dried fruit).
The varietal “Just” series of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines suits chicken cooked with herbs and wine, steaks, and rich vegetarian dishes based on lentils and beans.
The “Mostly” blends grow in subtlety and richness, suiting tajines, pasta dishes with heavy sauces and other hearty foods.
For big dishes, big wines. The Premium series wines progress from the lighthearted Espero, good with almost any main course and Tulip’s most popular wine, to the very serious Syrah Reserve, whose dark color and big tannins should accompany slow-cooked, spicy meat dishes.
Then there’s Black Tulip, the flagship wine. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes, it’s aged 24 months in French oak barrels and considered one of Israel’s top wines, winning high marks from internationally renowned wine critic Robert Parker. The unique label is part of the “Don’t Label Me” art project, in which mentally disabled adults from four social organizations submitted label designs. David Ashkenazi from the Akim organization designed the winning label, reminding us to label only wine, not people.
Tulip and Maia are situated in Kfar Tikva, a village built for special-needs people and their supervisors. Winery founder Itzhaki decided to employ people from the village right from the beginning.
“We have about 30 employees from Kfar Tikva,” said Bar-Ilan. “If we can employ more people from the village at the winery – not in the winery itself, but related jobs – we do. We’re part of each other’s lives. We participate in their events, and they come to ours.”
Outstanding employees from Kfar Tikva are Natan, Maria and Aviv, whose dedication to the wineries is truly special.
“Natan is 66 and still with us. It’s very special because it was said that people in his state of health don’t normally reach this age. He has a purpose, he has a meaning in life, so he’s healthy. He comes to the winery every day, he’s a part of it. Maria does great work helping to run the visitors center, and Aviv is the best worker in the winery (a pool which includes me); so dedicated, so zealous, it’s amazing to see him.”
Tulip takes part in more social action as well. Some of their wines are bottled under a special label, Wish Maker, and go into gift baskets sold at the visitors center; half the profits go to the Make A Wish Organization (for children with life-threatening illnesses).
Tulip wines are kosher as of the 2010 vintage, and Maia wines have been under kosher supervision from the beginning.
Maia and Tulip Wineries: Kfar Tikva, 24 Hacarmel Street, Kiryat Tivon.
More information: (04) 983-0573, Wines may be ordered via the website: