Israel may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking about wines, but Israeli wines can be found easily in the United States. The wines offer great value and high quality. Golan Heights Winery is leading the path to creating a fine wine culture in Israel and abroad.
Golan Heights Winery
Golan Heights Winery first planted their vineyards in 1976 and the winery was established in 1983 by four kibbutzim(communities) and four moshavim(cooperatives). In 1984 they released their first wine, The 1983 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc. Since then the award winning wines of Golan Heights Winery have helped put Israel on the wine map.
The winery seeks to produce wines that best convey the terroir of Golan Heights. The wines are shaped by their soils, topography, and climate. They are expressive of the volcanic soils that are so distinct to the region.
Encompassing 1500 acres, they have 28 vineyards with 430 blocks. With 20 grape varietals, each block is grown individually, harvest and stored separately, until the final blend is determined. The vineyards are on a volcanic plateau that rise 1300 to 3900 feet above sea level, an ideal cool climate with snowy winters and cool dry summers. The wines reflect the Mediterranean climate and soils. Golan Heights Winery has six leading brands for its wines; Yarden, Gamla, Gilgal, Hermon, Sion, and Golan.
Victor Schoenfeld is the chief winemaker since 1992. He has been credited for leading Israel’s wine revolution. Victor is a California native with a degree in enology from University of California Davis, he spent time at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma and Robert Mondavi in Napa. Before joining Golan Heights Winery he worked at the prestigious Champagne house Jacquesson & Fils.
Under Victor’s helm Golan Height Winery became the first and largest grower of organic wine grapes. They utilize organic compost, use wind turbines for electricity and have a wastewater purification facility.
I had the opportunity to taste two Syrahs from Golan Heights Winery. Both high quality and exceptionally well made.
Gilgal Syrah Galilee 2014 (SRP $16.99)
This is a beautiful Syrah that is not overly complex. The 2014 Gilgal Syrah Galielee has notes of ripe fruit, spice and earthy characteristics. Spicy notes of pepper, vanilla and star anise round out the palate. It has a smooth finish with soft tannins. Mediterranean spiced lamb chops would be the perfect pairing for this juicy Syrah. An excellent value wine for everyday sipping.
Mount Hermon Indigo 2016 (SRP $13.99)
The 2016 Mount Hermon Indigo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It has nice notes of black cherries, cocoa and cassis. Smooth tannins coat the palate for a nice long finish. A great wine for everyday enjoyment. Pair it with pizza, pasta or burgers.
Both wines are from Galilee (or Galil), the most northern, and generally considered the best, appellation in Israel and also the coldest region with Israel. The wines are expressive of their terroir that are grown on this ancient earth. These are wines that need to be sought out for their history, quality and terroir.