Review: Mony Vineyard’s Samson (2009) And Delilah (2009); ($50) | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Review: Mony Vineyard’s Samson (2009) And Delilah (2009); ($50)

Review: Mony Vineyard’s Samson (2009) And Delilah (2009); ($50)

From a monastery at the foothills of the Jerusalem Mountains, Mony Vineyard, steps up its kosher wine game. 

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This has been a very busy period, kosher wine-wise.  With Purim around the corner and Pesach on the horizon, the kosher wine market is abuzz with new wines and releases. Likewise, I’ve been tirelessly investigating and tasting what’s out there to help thirsty readers determine what’s worth drinking. A heavy burden, alas, but somebody has to do it… [hiccup].

Two of the many good wines out there that are worth picking up, especially from Israel, are the Mony Vineyard double act of “Samson” and “Delilah.”

The Mony Vineyard winery is an unlikely producer of kosher wines. The winery is located at the Dir Rafat Monastery in the foothills of the Jerusalem Mountains, part of the much vaunted Judean Hills wine region (the mountain range that divides the Sharon Coastal Plain to the west, and the Jordan Rift Valley to the east). Mony is nestled on a peak overlooking the Soreq Valley, opposite Beit Shemesh, its vineyards and olive trees start at the winery and descend the slopes towards the valley.

Besides the beauty of the area, the Dir Rafat Monastery is known for its ceiling adorned with the word “peace” painted in 340 languages. Originally the Christian monks made wines and olive oil on site, but over a decade ago the operations changed hands. The Mony Winery was formally established in 2000 by Shakib Artoul, a Christian Arab from the Arab village of Maghar in the Upper Galilee.

The business was named after Artoul’s eldest son, Dr. Mony Artoul, who tragically died young of a heart condition in 1995. Mony went to full kosher production in 2005. In short order Mony established itself as a value-brand, producing 100,000 to 120,000 bottles per year under something like 20 different labels. The downside to such branding, however, is that sophisticated wine consumers tend to think of it as more of a bottom of the shelf producer.

In an effort to correct that perception and build on its growing success, Mony recruited the skilled ex-pat Canadian winemaker, Sam Soroka, in 2009. With wine stints in Canada, Australia, California and France up his sleeve, Soroka moved to Israel in 2003 to work for the Carmel Winery. During his tenure there he was responsible for a number of award-winning premium wines.

While at Mony, Soroka vastly modernized the company’s approach, beginning with a thorough cleaning of the place, and the purchase of newer equipment. The result has been a steady improvement of the wines. Consider, for example, these two dry reds:

Mony Vineyard Samson 2009 ($50)

This pleasurable if brawny blend of 45 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 45 percent Shiraz and 10 percent Petite Sirah, offers New World styled flavors of cassis, blackberries, and raspberries, as well as a hint of blueberries. It’s got earthy and cedar wood accents with soft, but noticeable tannins, and a nice balancing acidity. It took a little while to open in the glass, and the finish is surprisingly a tad clipped, but it definitely delivers the goods.

Mony Vineyard Delilah 2009 ($50)

This blend of 34 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 33 percent Petit Verdot and 33 percent Merlot is appropriately enough less muscular and more gentle and seductive than the Samson, with a nice fruity array of black and red fruit aromas and flavors. Not bad on its own, but better with a nice, meaty meal. 

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