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!

 

When Gidi Sayada, the young and promising Wine Maker of Lueria winery told me that he currently produces 50,000 bottles a year I was a bit taken back. It seems that Lueria has only been around for a short time. This is obviously a misperception that I got over rather quickly. Yossef Sayada, Gidi’s father, had planted beautiful vineyards 18 years ago and has been sourcing excellent wine grapes to other wineries for their premium wines. The vineyards are hill sided in an elevation of 840 to 890 meters above sea level next to Moshav Safsufa which in ancient Aramaic means “a place where the fruit ripen late.” A rare occasion in Israel’s summer conditions!

The vineyards enjoy rich soil that includes Limestone, Terra Rosa and Basalt in every plot as well as the Galilee weather conditions which at this point are well known. To this day, Yossi Sayada remains the Vintner of Lueria winery.
A few years ago Chef Alon Gonen wrote the following about Lueria’s Rouge wine ‘This wine is rich in wonderful flavors of ripe fruit balanced pleasant acidity, the wine has absorbed a barrel for a year and a half and this time gave Sangiovese steadiness and sturdy body very buttery wine and a very pleasant astringency”

In our wine tasting which was held in late May 2013 at the new visitor center that Lueria Winery opened only 3 months ago, we tried the 2012 Lueria Gewürztraminer, a Semi Dry wine with nice citrus aromas, tropical smell of pineapple and very pleasant acidity.I was also very impressed with the 2011 Lueria Rosso which uses 70% Italian varieties [In the form of Barbera and Sangiovese grapes] along with 20% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon which according to Gidi tame the wine and give it a more softer taste. Speaking of Italian varieties, the Sayada family has planted Pinot Grigio in their vineyards (not a commonly used variety in Israel I wineries) that will be ready to be harvested by next year.

I was thoroughly impressed with all the wines; I tried but especially with the two above. All we can say is congratulations to Gidi Sayada as we wait patiently for his future wines.