As industry professionals we take the time to attend the different wine festivals throughout Israel. The advantages of attending are numerous. We find out about new wineries that can later become a destination for us to take our guests to, this in addition catching up with other wineries that we have not had the chance to visit recently.

The Judean Hills event is certainly one of the favorites among our friends and colleagues. It is the kickoff event to a month long festival taking place at the wineries and it is a large and important festival that top boutiques wineries in the Judean Hills participate in. Below is a short recap of news that came out of the festival.

Wine Maker Lina Slutzkin of Kadma Winery told us about the use of Saperavi grapes that she was getting into. This is a Georgian variety that can handle extreme cold and is unique because of the red anthocyanin within the grape pulp as well as the skin. A similar characteristic is of the Alicante variety which the winery is starting to use as well. The use of less common varieties is always a good way for a small winery to stand out from the pack.

We also enjoyed speaking to Sandro and Irit Pellegrini who own and operate La Terra Promessa [ if you have not been to their restaurant/winery , you are missing out!] Sandro mentioned harvest was done a bit before Yom Kippur was celebrated in Israel and that this is fairly similar to previous year. The winery is continuing in its path of producing Riesling and blends that include Primitivo, Sangiovese, Syrah and Cabernet Frank.

Finally, a very small winery producing 1500 bottles a year by the name of Samson and Delilah caught our attention. The winery was founded in 2006 and ages all their wines anywhere between 18 to 36 months. We tried a 2009 Cabernet varietal which was impressive. The winery is located in Kfar Uriya.

Judean Hills Wine Festival

Kadma winery in the heart of Judan Hills is the only winery in Israel that uses large clay vats [or in a more scientific name, earthenware casks] for fermenting its wine. This is an ancient form of fermenting wine still somewhat popular in Eastern Europe. The earthenware casks at Kadma Winery have the capacity to ferment 10,000 liters of wine at a time and were baked off with bee wax on the inside guaranteeing a tight seal of the clay at all times. They were sourced especially for the winery in Georgia by a specialist and then shipped over to Israel. Needless to say, no insurance company was willing to insure the unique shipment.

According to tradition, the vats are meant to be buried in the ground for long periods of time. Soil temperatures in Israel would not allow this [the winery did consult the Meteorological services initially but they confirmed Israel’s soil is too warm] As a result, the vats remain standing upright in the cool rooms of the winery.

Kadma is small family winery is headed by wine maker Lina Slutzkin who was born in Georgia and had a 20 year career at Intel before attending the Soreq Wine Making School. Lina was the person on the ground to oversee the ordering and packing of the vats when they were shipped to Israel. The winery under the consulting of Winemaker Dr. Arkadi Papikyan makes a semi sweet Chenin Blanc as well as single variety Merlot, Syrah [the later, has won a medal at the Gold Cluster competition in Israel in 2013] a dry Reserve, and a Port style wine as well.

The winery has a large visitor center with an outdoor patio in Kfar Uriya where guests can watch a movie about the unique wine making process, try the wines and inspect the vats closely.