In honor of Hanukah (or Chanukah, or Hanukkah, or however you spell it) I am doing a post on Israeli Wines.
Now when I got the email pitch for Golan Heights Winery, I thought the same thing you might be thinking... “They make wine in Israel?” Which yet again reminds me how unworldly Americans like myself can be.
Turns out Israel can make Fraking great wines! In March of this year, the winery received the prestigious Gran VinItaly Special Award for Best Wine Producer of the Year at the 19th International VinItaly 2011 Wine Competition (the first winery from Israel ever to be named the best wine producer of the year from the international organization). And it’s not like there wasn’t any competition… 3,720 bottles were submitted by more than 1,000 winemaking companies taking part from 30 countries worldwide.
Founded in 1983, the Golan Heights Winery is based in the small town of Katzrin in the Golan Heights region (shocker there). The pioneering moshavs and kibbutzes first planted vines in 1976, and initially the grapes were sold to the large coastal cooperatives. However, local experimental winemaking in 1982 produced results which only underlined the potential and the winery was built the following year. The volcanic soil provided excellent drainage, the climate was relatively cool allowing a long growing season, and water was readily available for drip irrigation in the summer.
Golan Heights produces 3 separate labels: Yarden (premier label and flagship brand), Gamla (premium, quality aged varietal wines which are fruit forward and expressive), and Golan (affordable, young, quality wines).
I recently experienced the Yarden Syrah ($25.00). The wine is sourced from the Ortal in the northern Golan and Yonatan and Tel Phares in the central Golan. Rich with notes of Cherry, Geranium, Violets, and Berries, it’s layered with Earth and Chocolate. It opens with a slightly peppery bite that leads into full-bodied flavor with a lightly chewy texture.
So yes, it turns out, “They make wine in Israel.” Fraking Great Wine! Happy Hanukah (or Chanukah, or Hanukkah, or however you spell it)!