Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Carmel Winery, Israel’s largest wine producer and a top exporter of kosher wines to the United States, held a pairing dinner at Brooklyn’s new restaurant Meat, in Crown Heights, to unveil its new branding strategy and labeling to the press, social media influencers and trade representatives.

Carmel, originally established 138 years ago by Baron Edmond de Rothschild and today distributed by Royal Wines, cultivates grapes with 108 family-run vineyards and operates four wineries, including its premium winery, Yatir in the Negev. Carmel’s product lines range from accessible-for-all to the most high-end flagship wines. The best-known wines are Carmel’s Selected, Private Collection and Appellation offerings. Carmel’s premium lines are Carmel Limited Edition, Carmel Mediterranean and Single Vineyard lines. While wine critics don’t pay too much attention to this most of the time, Carmel’s staff highlighted its success in its very profitable line of sweet and sacramental wines as well, and said that virtually one out of every four bottles of wine sold in Israel is Carmel.

The wines featured at the dinner were Carmel’s surprisingly affordable table wines, including Carmel Selected Emerald Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc, Carmel Private Collection Shiraz, Carmel Selected Mediterranean Blend and Carmel Selected Cabernet Sauvignon.

After a presentation that included spreadsheets about Carmel’s market share and new labeling featuring a beautifully rendered seal of “the meraglim”—the Biblical spies returning from Israel carrying a massive cluster of grapes hoisted between them—guests were served a dozen dishes family style, along with paired bottles of wines placed on the table. The shared food and flowing wines were effective in creating a “family-style vibe,” for which Carmel president Roni Jesselson said Carmel is known. By the second or third course strangers were becoming acquainted. By the evening’s end, new friends were exchanging phone numbers and business details.

Meat, which was opened last summer by Danny Branover, who also runs Basil Pizza and Wine Bar and Bakerie, is a contemporary, gourmet restaurant with innovative Mediterranean style cooking by Israeli chef Reem Look. Chef Look collaborated with Carmel winemaker Yiftah Perets on a menu created for the evening.

The parade of tasting dishes and wines began with a sauvignon blanc/emerald riesling blend from the Selected Line—a fruity, crisp white with hints of lemon—served with a green salad and veal sweetbreads. Next up was Kubenia, chilled sausage-shaped logs made of bulgur, with sweet, spicy tamarind sauce and drizzle of tahini, served with a salad of bright red and orange fresh and roasted tomatoes, spices and chopped egg whites, accompanied by the Carmel Selected Mediterranean Blend. Next was seared breast of duck, with a balsamic blueberry sauce and gnocchi with Jerusalem artichoke cream, roasted tomatoes and marinated artichokes, served with The Carmel Private Collection Shiraz.

The fourth course included rotolo, a brisket-styled pulled beef in puff pastry, that was served and sliced like an elegant deli roll, or a miniature Beef Wellington; followed by osso buco, slow cooked beef, prepared and served in rounds, and cauliflower with a pomegranate, tahini and silan (date honey) sauce, paired with the Carmel Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon. Two dishes, not on the printed menu, combined savory and sweet ingredients in very unexpected ways: a meringue macaron with foie gras; and an amuse bouche/palate cleanser of basil sorbet, which also had some spearmint leaves pureed in it. It was refreshing and a bit surprising after the heavier meat dishes. The final course was tahini pareve ice cream with a brittle cookie and shreds of halvah.

By Bracha Schwartz and Elizabeth Kratz