Wine Maker Yaakov Uriah is an odd bird. A religious man born in the US and grew up in Bnei Brak to an Ultra-Orthodox community. A winemaker, one of the most unique Israelis in this profession, a gentleman who shows up late at night at the very non-Kosher Brut Wine Bar late with a plastic bottle of his latest creation looking for feedback from friend and owner of Brut, Chef Yair Yossefi and the wine loving staff.

Uriah is a winemaker with very little formal education, yet an incredible ability at projective tasting, and a keen thirst for knowledge and experimentation.  A story that I had found astounding is that early in his career Uriah operating Assif as a ‘’Winery Negonciant’’, was making up possible blends in his head, having tasted mid-range wines at several different wineries. Today Uriah is the head winemaker of Psagot, having worked at Midbar and Ella Valley [to name a few] and is still producing his own line of wines.

Yaakov Uriah – photo: 93fm.co.il

This desire to search and test things out, led to some fantastic wines. Wines that have an incredible aging ability [we tasted a 2009 Semillon and 2008 Viognier in the course of the evening] Another thing that took me by surprise is that Uriah is completely open minded with his style of winemaking. At some point in the course of the evening, the very astute Hilik Gurfinkel who hosted, got Uriah to discuss the notion of using Oak chips in wine while in process. For some wineries, this is a total taboo and they would even be insulted if someone asked them whether they ever take part in such methodology. Uriah simply replied that the way he sees it, the same way that it is ok for a wine to be in an Oak barrel, He is not willing to rule out having Oak chips in a wine if the conditions requires such practice.

One more interesting thing about Yaakov Uriah’s wines, in the past he made the decision to pay homage to other wine regions in the world, most of which never having been there. The Hebrew naming for the 2009 Semillon is Hunter’s Valley and in a couple of red wines we had Uriah had said to his clients even before he obtained the fruit, that he would make a homage to Rioja by producing a Rioja Reserva style wine. The later two were my favorite wines of the night.

I took a group of 14 people for a half day wine tour. Since the majority of the people were short in time I picked two wineries that are well known for their wine qualities and close to Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion Airport.  The tour started with an overlook over an amazing vineyard’s view (location is a closely kept secret) while explaining the history of wine making in Israel as far as few thousand years ago until today. After I managed to surprise the group with the location of where we were standing and some of the information they got we went for a short drive and got to Ella Valley Vineyards.  The beautiful vineyards are located in Kibbutz Netiv Halamed-He , just about where in biblical times young David fought Goliath.  The winery’s visitor center is decorated with old wooden furniture and has a big glass window overlooking the tanks’ room.
After watching a movie about the vineyard’s location and operation the group had a guided tour where the wine is actually made and kept.
We tasted 4 wines:  Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (I can’t forget its tropical smell), Vineyard’s choice RR 2004, Ella Valley Shiraz 2006 (my favorite) and Ella Valley Muscat Dessert wine 2006. Leaving the winery with their hands full I understood that my guests liked the wines….
Next on out tour we stopped at a “Tzuk loner’s Ranch” for some amazing goat cheeses. The ranch is considered to be loners since it does not connected to any electricity or water pipes and only off-road leads to the ranch.
Our final stop was at Karmei Yosef Winery on Rt. 44.  Again , we had to do some off- road driving (everyone loved it!) only this time it was in between the vine rows. The winery’s visitors’ deck is surrounded by vines from all sides which gives a feeling of relaxed atmosphere.  We met PHD. Ben Ami Bravdo one of two professors of oenology that founded and own the winery. The group tasted a Karmei Yosef Chardonnay 2008, merlot 2007, and Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.
We all wanted to stay but we ran out of time and had to head home.  For a half-day tour I was very pleased and I eagerly await my next tour.

I had a wonderful group of 14 people for a half day wine tour. Since the majority of the people were short in time I picked two wineries that are well known for their wine qualities and for being close enough to Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion Airport.

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