From battlefield to winery

Surrounded by 130 dunams of vineyards Clos de Gat is one of Israel's most interesting wineries.

By OFER ZEMACH
May 18, 2006 08:44
3 minute read.
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Surrounded by 130 dunams of vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Petit Verdot grapes, Clos de Gat is one of Israel's most interesting wineries. The beautiful vineyards are planted on the grounds of Kibbutz Harel, located in the fertile Ayalon Valley, which connects the coastal plains and the hills around Jerusalem. During the long history of the strategically located valley, whoever controlled it could rule the important surrounding areas as well. Because of this, major battles were fought between many armies over this broad plain. It was in this historical valley that Joshua struck the five kings of the Amorites; it was also here that the Maccabees defeated the Romans and Israel overcame the Jordanians in the War of Independence. Located near the Burma Road, the winery building served as Yitzhak Rabin's headquarters during the War of Independence. The name Clos de Gat is a play on French and Hebrew words: in French, "clos" describes an enclosed vineyard surrounded by stone walls, while the Hebrew word "gat" stands for the ancient Roman wine press which can be found next to the modern winery. The winery's owner is Eyal Rotem, who practiced winemaking for several years at several Australian wineries before returning to make wine in Israel. Eyal strives to produce the finest wines by controlling every stage of the winemaking process and using the most natural techniques. He aims to produce elegant, complex wines, and it is his dynamism and passion that has made the relatively young winery such a respected producer of quality wines. The winery produces nearly 70,000 bottles annually, most of which are exported to Europe by Charles Sichel, owner of several of the most prestigious French wineries. Clos de Gat's wines are carefully crafted using traditional methods. After the harvest, the fruit is lightly pressed and the juice transferred for fermentation in stainless steel tanks. It then sits for 12 to 18 months in French oak barrels at the remarkable wine cellar beneath the winery. The finished wine is then bottled without fining and filtering. On a recent afternoon I visited this modern establishment, and while sitting on the veranda had the pleasure of both enjoying the magnificent vineyard views and sampling the winery's offerings. Semillon 2005: This Semillon is thin, with ripe peach flavors and a lemony finish that completes the flavor profile. It will be a pleasing, refreshing white wine to drink on hot nights this summer. NIS 85. Chardonnay 2004: An excellent wine, the Chardonnay leaves smooth, chalky tannins in the mouth that are followed by a long finish. Green fruit aromas of figs and pears come through the nose, while the palate picks up hints of white peach. This is the first Chardonnay produced from the winery's vineyards, and it's simply a lovely drink. NIS 130. Syrah, Har'el 2004: Dense and plush with scents of cassis and blackberry, this wine is made of 85% syrah and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It's sleek, powerful and perfectly proportioned. It offers great enjoyment as soon as the cork is popped, but will last for a good 10 years in the cellar. NIS 90. Cabernet Sauvignon, Har'el 2004: A powerful wine filled with the rich, solid aromas of black currants and dark cherries, this wine is beautifully structured with fine soft tannins. As appealing as it is now, it should hold and improve for several years in your wine cellar. NIS 90. Merlot, Har'el 2004: This dark red wine stands out not just because of its flavors, but because of its balance. It's a big wine, bursting with plums, cassis and smoky oak flavors. It has thick and sweetly ripe tannins, and the finish lasts for a very long time. NIS 90.

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