Gabi Sadan Photo: Jamie Goode

Gabi Sadan Photo: Jamie Goode

Wine maker dinners are becoming more popular in Israel and especially in Tel Aviv.
Shvo Winery which is fairly young, is not a winery readily available for visitors. The winery is located in the industrial area of Gush Halav in the upper Galilee. While the wines are superb, the winery does not have a visitor center.

Following the October 16′ Wine Spectator article that featured Israel on the cover, we were hired by a U.S wine distributor to show as much of the Israeli Boutique scene in 4 days of touring.

The gentleman who hired us was sitting on furniture that was clearly removed from an old truck as he tasted wines with Gabi. He loved it. When Brut Wine Bar in Tel Aviv had announced that Gabi will conduct a more traditional wine tasting at their establishment in Tel Aviv, I knew we wanted to be there.

The group of 12 tasters consisted of wine lovers,food bloggers and other industry professionals. Because Gabi Sadan is anything but ordinary, the tasting was conducted in a very non traditional manner. We started out with the Shvo Rose which both delicious and unique as it is mostly made with Barbera. We then moved on to 3 French Bourgoin wines that the wine maker chose.  Only then did we move back  and tasted 3 different vintages of Shvo Chenin Blanc and Shvo Red.

Chenin Blanc is a white variety that does have aging potential. There was a consensus around the table regarding the 2013 and 2011 vintages. They were both beautiful and complemented the food that was served next to it. The 2009 was the first Chenin harvest of this winery and while the wine was very much alive, the table was split in half between those who liked it and those who did not. Gabi said that we were tasting 1 of 2 bottles that he had left over and that he knew that this is a wine not everyone will enjoy.

Shvo Red is a blend of Grenach, Syrah , Barbera and Mourvèdre.  All three were terrific, the wine showed it most certainly has aging abilities and I would be happy drinking either of the 3 vintages that we had tasted [09′, 11′, 13′] again.
The evening was hosted by Sommelier Aviram Katz and it was a great time. Thanks Alon for setting this up!


Please don’t get me wrong. Alon and I are very proud Israeli wines were featured in the October 2016 issue of the most important wine magazine in the world. We tour boutique wineries all over Israel on a regular basis; as a result we were simply not surprised by what Kim Marcus, Managing Editor of Wine Spectator Magazine had found out. This is the part where we mention that we wrote back in July that Tzora Vineyards remain the Judean Hills’s Best in Show. Tzora, for those who did not see the article placed the most wines over 90 points with Wine Spectator.

It is through friendships and acquaintances that Mr. Marcus had that led him to visit the wineries that he did while covering Israel. Again, another positive in this coverage is that Wine Spectator was actually visiting top boutiques and did not only stick to the larger wealthier operations. Wineries we visit on a monthly basis such as Agur, Pelter, Tulip, Tzora and Castel were not only covered but had also placed wines above 90 points with the WS staff.

Questions that remain unanswered post publication:

Will Wine Spectator eventually release the entire score list? There are several wineries that had only one wine ranked, we assume that every winery had at least most of their portfolio tasted by WS. Did WS give priority to Kosher Wines this time around? There were several non-Kosher wines ranked, but we wonder whether Pelter [and not just Matar by Pelter] was considered.  The Same goes for Sphera and Garage De Papa.
Finally, How come only one dry farmed Carignan made the top wines list?

Most of the tours we conduct year round are in the Judean Hills and the Carmel Region , the wine is superb and the proximity to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem allows an enjoyable day trip to the wineries , vineyards and the historical sites around them. On occasion, we are asked to conduct a multi-day wine tour to the north of Israel and we absolutely love it. These tours enable us to have our guests visit 3 wineries for tastings and yet another for lunch each day.  The vistas of the Galilee and Golan regions are incredible and always add to the experience.  At the end of July, we conducted a 2 day Upper Galilee and Golan Heights wine tour with Ellen and Debbie. One of the 7 wineries we visited and enjoyed was Assaf winery.

Assaf is a family winery in the Golan Heights. The winery has recently relocated and is now just outside Moshav Kidmat Zvi. The brand new facilities are a part of the Kedem wine village, a first of its kind in Israel. The new visitor center has been operating in the past year and offers several tasting rooms as well as a Café in which serves fresh pastries and bread that are baked on premises. Assaf’s daughter, Adi has graduated from the French Culinary institute in NYC and the plan is to open a full restaurant in the near future. The village will also offer wooden Cabins or “Tzimerim” as we call them in Hebrew.

Oren Kedem and guests

On the day on which we visited Assaf winery in late July 2013, we were greeted by his son, Oren who took us around the winery and led our tasting session. Oren spent a year in Sonoma California getting experience at a winery there and is a graduate of the Katzrin College Wine program so in affect the winery has a senior wine maker and a young wine maker as well. He told us that the family has been growing grapes since 1990 and began producing wine in 1997. Unlike many grape growers in Israel, the family does not buy or sell grapes. Under the supervision of wine maker Assaf Kedem, They Kedem family simply produces wine from the grapes that they grow. The current count in production is about 45,000 bottles a year. This village very much seems like the end result of an ongoing effort, even the tasting table was built especially by Oren’s brother.

As far as wines: we tried the Chenin Blanc which was a pleasant surprise, this is a rare variety in Israel and a very nice effort, as well as the Sauvignon Blanc that on four occasions has received 90 and above from the late and Great Daniel Rogov. When it came time to taste the reds, we tried the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Silver, The four seasons Pinotage which was my personal favorite. A blend of Pinotage , Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc , and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve which has 89% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Cab Franc . This is a wine that aged 18 months and in 2008 has received a 92 from Daniel Rogov. The wines were impressive and the new visitor center is beautiful. Not to be missed on your next Golan heights wine tour!


The city of Haifa is well known for its beaches as well as the beautiful Baha’i Gardens. When our guests David and Trisha, requested a wine tour to the Carmel region that would include the city of Haifa, we immediately asked if they wish to visit the first and probably only urban winery in Israel. The couple, who were in Israel for a friend’s wedding happily agreed.
Hai Vortman and his winery have been on our radar for a long time. The wine has been getting rave reviews [even from the late beloved Daniel Rogov] and we certainly knew the view from the winery would be incredible. Vortman, a native of the city of Haifa, has planted his own vineyard in the Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean has been producing critically acclaimed wine for the last 5 years. Vortman winery currently produces about five thousand bottles a year, and is looking to expand in the near future while maintaining the unique qualities of their wine.
As this was a private tour, Hai was kind enough to get us a barrel tasting of his 2011 Shambour blend that was absolutely terrific and showed great promise.

We later sat down at a beautiful grape vine – woven gazebo and tasted the wines that have already been bottled and released into the market. The wines were: 2009 Netiv Ofakim, 2010 Shambour,   and my personal favorite on this warm Saturday morning, The 2011 Shfea Valley blend [Dry White] that has 67% Sauvignon Blanc and 33% Sémillon.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Vortman Winery for winning The Sommelier Gold Medal just last week for their 2010 Shambour.