Thursday, January 2, 2020

Yarden Wines and American Wagyu Beef

It was an exciting moment when I received two Yarden Israeli wines from Gregory + Vine. I’m not entirely new to wines from Israel as I had done a walk-around tasting event of Israeli wines in New York six years ago. Yarden was a standout in the event with a wide collection of top-notched wines. It’s time for me to revisit Yarden and see how their wines have evolved. Well, the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 and Galil Alon 2014 really blew my socks off! Both wines have complex notes that would make magic with the tastiest and high-end beef steak - American Wagyu in my opinion. I also cooked up some nutty and sweet Shimeji and Bunapi-shimeji mushrooms as side dishes. Oh boy! This is really a holiday meal made in heaven!

Yarden Wines encompasses Golan Heights Winery and Galil Mountain Winery, located in the Golan Heights and Galilee regions of Israel. Golan Heights Winery is considered Israel’s leading winery in quality, technological innovation, and new variety development. Founded in 1983, Golan Heights Winery has played a significant role in developing and nurturing Israel’s current wine culture, altering the way Israeli wines are perceived worldwide, and firmly placing Israel on the world wine stage. Established as a joint venture in 2000 by Golan Heights Winery and Kibbutz Yiron, Galil Mountain Winery unites the best of tradition and technology. Located in the Upper Galilee mountain range, one of Israel's best winegrowing areas, the winery is revitalizing a rich winemaking history that extends over 2,000 years, currently focused on sustainability.
Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (SRP$35.99) – Opulent, Savory, Dark Cherry, Warm Spices, Long Finish
This Yarden Cab is sourced from several finest Cabernet vineyards in the Golan Heights. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months and exhibits ripe red and black fruit characters layered with hints of herbs, spices, and French oak. This wine is full-bodied and aromatic. The complex and savory notes of this wine are concluded with a long finish that accentuates the flavors of the food you are eating. The wine has cellaring potential if you could refrain from enjoying it right away.
Galil Alon 2014 (SRP$21.99) – Cocoa, Brown Butter, Light Grass, Balanced, Lasting Finish
The Galil Alon is a rare red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, yielding a rich yet balanced red that’s layered with deep flavors, velvety texture and a long-lasting finish.
Photo Credit: Magnolia Cattle Company
Wagyu beef originates in Japan and is an expensive delicacy due to the superb quality of this type of beef. The meat from Wagyu cattle, arguably the finest beef in the world, is known worldwide for its marbling characteristics, naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness, and juiciness, and thus a high market value. American Wagyu beef is the US version of the Japanese Wagyu beef. The goal is to approximate the taste, texture, marbling, and quality of the Japanese Kobe Beef in the US soil. 
While the American Wagyu beef is not demanding such an extremely expensive retail price tag as the Japanese breeds (e.g., In Japan, some restaurants ask for $500 USD for an approx 5.5 oz of filet mignon), the American Wagyu beef is still four to five times more expensive than the non-Wagyu beef. The shoulder cut steak I purchased is from Magnolia Cattle Company, which raises fullblood (vs. crossbred animal of 50% Wagyu and 50% Angus that cannot attain the level of genetics necessary to duplicate the quality) Wagyu cattle in Bothell, Washington. 
This shoulder cut steak is an entry-level cut of Wagyu steak that has less marbling than the belly and filet mignon cuts. For 7 oz, I paid around $20. To truly showcase the steak, I took a minimalistic approach - heating up a cast iron pan, searing all sides of the steak, and finishing it in a 425-degree oven for 15 mins to achieve a medium-rare steak. The rich beefy and grassy taste of the meat was pronounced – imagine it’s like eating the steak in the outdoor restaurant at the cattle farm. In addition to the softer texture of the beef, you do taste the gamier beef that blasts big flavors. I used soya sauce and salt as dipping sauces. But the truth of the matter is the beef is so flavorful that it can go without any seasoning. The earthiness of the Wagyu steak works like a perfect tango with the Yarden Cab and the Galil Alon. The long finish of the Yarden Cab makes every bite of the steak extra grassy and juicer. The Galil Alon is equally impressive with the steak by adding the cocoa and buttery notes to enhance the pan-seared smoky brown crust of the steak. 
Shimeij Mushroom
As side dishes, I simply sautéed some mushrooms in butter. Shimeji is brown in color and has the nutty and sweet taste that goes really well with the steak and the wines. It’s softer in texture and makes a bowl of brown rice extra nutty if you are eating rice as the carb for this meal. 
Bunapi-shimeji Mushroom
Bunapi-shimeji mushroom has a totally different taste profile from Shimeji. It’s very creamy and crunchy with firm texture when cooked. Both mushrooms are great with the steak and wines.
While it’s a no brainer to pair steaks with an excellent cab or a red blend like these wines from Yarden, splurge a bit more and try the American Wagyu beef that takes the whole dining experience to a whole new level!
Disclaimer: the wines are samples. The ideas of the pairing are mines.

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