Ella Valley is one of the largest boutique wineries in Israel and it will be to producing close to 300,000 bottles in 2015. Although this is a sizable amount, Wine Maker Lynn Gold and the Vintner team at Ella Valley are still insisting on hand harvest.This is obviously more tedious, yet allows only the best grapes to make it to the winery. Another element which makes it harvest even tougher is of course the fact that it is conducted at night time. The days in the summer are very hot and all parties involved are interested that fermentation would take place in a controlled environment and not on route to the winery, so picking the grapes when they are cool simply produces better wines.

Tasting Rose at Ella Valley

The vineyards of Ella Valley Winery are located across the street from the winery in the village of Aderet as well higher in elevation in the area of Ness Harim. The winery itself and its vineyards of Petite Syrah are located in the Adulam region of the Judean Hils, This region was in the news a lot this past summer as Oil Shale companies were trying to get permission to dig through , an attempt which was heavily opposed by local farmers and wineries. This area which is seeing growing internal tourism was able to “dodge the bullet” with the help of several environmental groups.

This past summer, Ella Valley released a superb Rose in the Ever Red series which was mostly made with Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Their new release Chardonnay has one part that fermented in oak and the other part in Stainless Steel, retaining the crispness and the flavors that are coming out of the vineyards. The visitor center at Ella Valley is beautiful and provides a great atmosphere for tasting their wines and learning about this established winey. Reccomended!

Paul Dubb, the son of a South African Kiddush wine maker from Cape Town has been a kibbutz member for 18 years now. He is of course the Head Wine Maker of Tzuba, nowadays a 50K bottle a year boutique winery in the Jerusalem Hills.
Kibbutz Tzuba has been blessed with great wine growing conditions. It is located 730 meters above sea level and possesses Terra Rossa and Limestone soil. A mere 10 minute drive outside Israel’s capital, The kibbutz has ample agriculture land growing apples , nectarines , pears and yes, a considerable amount of wine grapes.

The story of how this came to be is as following: Domaine Du Castel, one of Israel’s most prestigious wineries in the nearby village of Ramat Raziel needed more grapes to expand production. The owners reached out to the kibbutz 13 years ago asking for them to grow on behalf of Castel. The kibbutz realized that growing wine grapes was significantly more economical than growing any other fruit; they simply require one tenth the amount of water than other fruits grown in the area. These days, the grapes that comes out of the Tzuba vineyards is very much sought after. Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes from Tzuba are sold to various wineries throughout Israel and since we have visited many of those wineries we can attest to the fact that they take great pride in the fact that they are buying their grapes from the grape grower crew of Kibbutz Tzuba.

The winery produces a well-known Cabernet based blend named Metzuda as well as varietals such as a Merlot, 100% Syrah , Cabernet Sauvignon and what we feel may be one of the best Chardonnay produced in Israel. It is a unique, dry, guava aroma Chardonnay which always takes our guests by surprise. Paul is always humble and leaves us to explain that this is a wine that has won medals and awards some as recently as Terra Vino 2012 Gold Metal. I personally participated in the competition as a sommelier and I can attest that the competition in this category was a heavy one.

One more varietal that Tzuba produces and one does not see often in Israel is the Pinot Noir. This is a thin skinned grape that is very difficult to grow in the Israeli sun. Tzuba goes through the trouble of producing it. Very little stays here in Israel and Royal/ Kedem buys pretty much the whole batch. There are North American Jews who are happy to buy a good Kosher Pinot.

 

 

Saturday night of Hol H’Moed Sukkoth I was challenged for a Kosher Winery Tour for 8 VIP in three days (Tuesday the fifth day of Hol H’Moed.)
Considering myself professional, I called 3 great wineries and booked a very special visit. At one winery I booked the VIP room and asked to have it set up for us including plates of cheeses, bread and olive oil. At the second winery I set up a privet appointment with the wine maker and asked him to lead the tour in the winery. I also called a kosher restaurant, made sure it has a Sukka and made reservation for a Kosher lunch.
On Tuesday morning I meet the minibus driver at the King David Hotel lobby and together we waited for the guests to show up. A bit later then agreed the group showed up. The gentleman who called me for the challenge approached me and asked “are the wineries we are going too all have a Sukka?” I froze, “no” I answered. I didn’t know that in order to visit a winery and just taste its wine we will need a Sukka, I answered. I knew from previous Kosher wine tours during Sukkot that the Sukka is necessary just for the actual meal! “Forget it then“, said my client. “Find us a good kosher winery that has a Sukka.” As everyone started to clime the minibus I was going over my contact book to stand up for the new challenge and fine that “good winery with a Sukka”… lucky enough I got it! I called Psagot Winery and got a hold of Ms. Naama Berg, owner and wife of Yaakov Berg the winemaker. Naama was super understanding and eager to help me. Alon, she said “although we have about 250 people visiting the winery today, Yaakov will accept you for a VIP tour! Thank God I thought and instructed Gady the driver to head toward the Psagot Settlement. I had forty minutes (the length of the drive to Psagot) to talk about the history of winemaking in Israel and the counties excellent Terroir (growing conditions especially for grapevine.)
The boutique and Kosher Winery of Psagot is located at a height of 900 meter above sea level at the Psagot Settlement some twenty five kilometer north of Jerusalem. The meaning of the word Psagot is “Tops of mountains”. The Berg family started the winery in the year 2003 with a production of 2000 bottles. The original idea was to produce wine for personal consumption; however the demand for their wines was so strong that the winery doubled its production every year. This year Psagot winery will produce some 80,000 bottles. The winery produces 6 different dry red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Edom Blend and Shiraz.) One dry white (Viognier) and a Port style. All of the wineries’ grapes grow at the Jerusalem Mountains on a lime stone, Terra Rosa soil at heights of 650 to 960 meter.
We got to the winery Parking lot and found Yaakov waiting for us. Instead of taking the regular pass to the entrance of the winery’s visitor center Yaakov opened the door that he uses to bring the grapes in to the winery and he led us to the production area. Yaakov took the time and explained us the wine making process from the minute the grapes arrive to the winery up to the packing the bottles. We were very lucky to be the only visitors allowed to enter the production area! We even got to taste two tank samples (one of them was Merlot from BRAHA Mountain.) Next we crossed to the huge cellar that contains more than 300 oak barrels. The beautiful and aromatic cellar has a see-through ceiling which is the floor of the winery’s visitor center. At the cellar we got two barrel tastings from two different wines. Following the touring part of the winery we made our way up to the beautiful and big! Sukka for some real wine tasting! The group had a six different wines guided tasting with Yaakov. We started with the “Viognier 09” which was very nice refreshing wine and was just what you can dream of in the very hot day that we had. Next was the Cabernet Franc which had an amazing vanilla finish. “Edom” a very well balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. We then tasted the Shiraz 08, the Cabernet Sauvignon single vineyard 07 and the Prat (a port style wine). We ended our tasting with some good coffee and cakes.
The group bought several cases of wine before heading back happily to the hotel.

Ya'akov at his Psagot Winery

Dr. Harold Caballeros is the Rector of Universidad San Pablo Guatemala and his daughter Andrea studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Hertzelia. After spending few days on a business conference in Tel-Aviv, Harold decided to stay in Israel two more days and spend some time with his daughter. A fantastic way to do that is by touring the country and tasting some of the great wines it has to offer.

We left Tel Aviv in the morning and drove north about an hour toward Kiryat-Tiv’on. While driving we talked about Israeli boutique wineries – a recent phenomenon that has grown immensely in recent years. The two admired the changing view as we left the Coastal Region and entered the region of Lower Galilee. Our first stop was at the Tulip Winery one of the most interesting and award winning wineries in Israel.
→ more