Monday, May 4, 2009

Golan Heights Winery & Galil Mountain Winery

The first wine table I visited at the UNLVino grand tasting showcased some of the wines of the Golan Heights Winery, an Israeli winery which was established in 1983. I stopped here because my recent experiences with Israeli wines have been very positive and I wanted to try more of their wines.

The Golan Heights Winery is located in the small town of Katzrin, high up on the Golan Heights. They produce wines under a number of labels, including Yarden, Gamla and Golan. The winery is currently owned by 4 kibbutzes and 4 moshavs. The chief winemaker is Victor Schoenfeld, a graduate of the University of California at Davis. They also have a special microwinery for experimental winemaking, to stay on top of the latest scientific advances in winemaking and grape growing techniques.
Here are my favorites from the table.

The 2007 Yarden Mount Hermon White (about $15) is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of Semillon. The vineyards for these grapes are located in the located in the cool northern Golan Heights. This wine was fermented in stainless steel to preserve the fruit flavors. I liked the nice citrus flavors of this wine, with plenty of grapefruit, lemon, and peach. There were no grassy flavors in this crisp, summery wine. An easy drinking wine, this would be a great wine while sitting out this summer.

The 2003 Yarden Syrah (about $20) is made from 100% Syrah and the grapes comes from three different vineyards: Ortal in the northern Golan, and Allone Habashan and Tel Phares in the central Golan. The wine was aged for eighteen months in small French oak barrels. This light colored red wine had a fruity nose, lots of cherry aromas. On the palate, it was a dry and tannic wine, with flavors of cherry, blueberry, and an intriguing earthiness. It had a lengthy finish, with more earthiness, reminding me a bit of some French Rhones. Would make for a nice BBQ wine.

The 2007 Golan Sion Creek White (about $12) is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, White Riesling, Gewurztraminer and a little Muscat. The vineyards for these grapes are located in the located in the cool northern Golan Heights. This wine was fermented in stainless steel to preserve the fruit flavors. This wine had an interesting mix of flavors, some tropical fruits, spices, melon, and apple. It has a touch of sweetness to it that would make the wine pair well with spicy foods. A very good value for the price.

The Galil Mountain Winery is a joint venture, formed in 2000, of the Golan Heights Winery and Kibbutz Yiron, which is located in the mountains of the Upper Galilee. The mountains of this region are among the highest in Israel, some climbing to over 1,000 meters. They have five different vineyards in these mountains, most are which are planted with red grapes.

I got to taste and really enjoyed their 2006 Galil Mountain Shiraz Cabernet (about $20) which is a blend of 51% Shiraz and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation and spent 10 months in American oak. This dark red wine had a compelling smell of dark red fruits and spice. On the palate, there were dominant tastes of blueberry, raspberry, and plum with spicy undertones, especially a light touch of cinammon. It had a lengthy finish, some nice complexity and mild tannins. Another very good BBQ wine.

These wines showed me that Israel does have some good value wines, wines $20 and under, which possess character and excellent flavor. I was also pleased to see that the table did not emphasize "kosher" but rather discussed only the country of Israel. I recommend you check out these wines and get to know the wines of Israel.

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