Monday, April 14, 2008

Yom ha-Yayyin: Sideways in Judea

It started when I suggested in my naivete that we might go to the Golan Heights to tour the wineries up there. After all, in my American ignorance, the Golan Heights was supposedly the premiere wine growing country for the better class of wines. What little do I know! My buddy politely scoffed at the notion of a trip to the Golan, and counter-offered a trip to the Judean Hills, the rugged land west of Jerusalem that was always part of even pre-1967 Israel. He mentioned some labels I had never heard of. But I figured: when in Rome...

Thanks to our relation & friend Rafi, a comfortable schedule of 3 vineyards was set for April 14. And so this morning off we went, visiting the Ella Valley Vineyard located in the farming community Netiv Ha'lamed He; Clos de Gat, on the edge of Kibbutz Har'el; and finally Domaine du Castel in Ramat Raziel. Producing annually anywhere between 50,000-200,000 bottles, I am not sure you can call them boutique vineyards, but they are small. And they are worth the visit. The most prominent is probably Castel, which had a recent write-up in The Wall Street Journal, and whose 2004 Grand Vin received a 92 from Robert Parker (I bought 2 bottles of the 2005). Each of the vineyards presented for leisurely tastings complex reds and surprisingly good whites. All 3 cellars use French oak barrels, and show the definite influence of French production techniques. One of the wineries, Clos de Gat, doesn't even bother with kashrut. We timed this trip perfectly, and it promises to be one hell of a luxuriant seder this year!

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