Wine Talk: Go Golan

Ideal for planting vineyards, the northern area has played a major role in the revolution of Israeli wine.

Golan Heights 311 (photo credit:
Golan Heights 311
(photo credit:
The Golan Heights is a beautiful place to visit, far away from the tensions and stress of Central Israel. It is also a region that played an important part in the revolution in Israeli wines.
In 1972 Prof. Cornelius Ough of the University of California at Davis identified the Golan as being ideal for the planting of vineyards for quality wine grapes. He saw the volcanic plateau, which rises from Lake Kinneret to the foothills of the snow-covered Mount Hermon. He noted the volcanic tuff soil and the basalt stone. He noticed the success of the new apple orchards already planted, which depend on the same fruit acidity balance as highquality grapes.
He knew that Israel was on the same parallel as North Africa and was therefore one of the hotter wine-producing countries. However, climbing negates the effect of the latitude, as each meter of elevation is the equivalent to a kilometer northwards. One degree Celsius is lost for every 100 meters altitude. The Golan Heights is up to 1,200 meters above sea level.
In 1976 the first vineyards were planted on the Golan Heights, and in 1983 the pioneering Golan Heights Winery was formed by a partnership of four moshavim and four kibbutzim. The results changed the face of Israeli winemaking. Up to the late 1990s, the Golan Heights had been thought to be Israel’s only quality wine-growing region; but since then, the Upper Galilee and the Judean Hills have also become known for the quality of their wines.However, the Golan has flourished, giving birth to numerous wineries that are worth a visit. It is always recommended to book a visit in advance.
Chateau Golan This is one of Israel’s most extravagant wineries, built in a way that clearly fulfills the dreams of an ambitious owner. The striking barrel room and grand pillars to the ceiling will not be forgotten by the visitor, nor the giant bottle on the outside of the building. In contrast to the surroundings, though, winemaker Uri Hetz is modest, quiet and one of the pioneer winemakers of the country.
He is particularly interested in Mediterranean varieties.
Moshav Eliad, southern Golan Heights, Tel: (04) 660-0026; [email protected]; (not kosher)
Bashan Winery There are a few wineries that produce wine from organically grown vineyards, but Bashan is the only winery in Israel that goes the whole way. It produces organic, kosher wine, following organic practices at the winery from its own organically grown vineyards. Many experts believe that truly organic wine is hard to produce with a measure of quality. Bashan, commendably, is trying to prove the opposite.
Moshav Avnei Eitan, southern Golan Heights, [email protected]
Golan Heights Winery The Golan Heights Winery is the largest winery on the Golan and the third-largest in Israel. It has a comprehensive visitors’ center, with tours available in different languages and a shop that also specializes in products of the Golan Heights, such as beer, olive oil and honey. It also stocks a full range of the winery’s Yarden, Gamla and Golan wines. The Golan Heights Winery is the winery that brought new world winemaking technology to Israel, and the visitors’ center is the nearest we have to the Napa Valley style.
Industrial Area, Katzrin, central Golan Heights, Tel: (04) 696-8435; [email protected];
Bazelet Hagolan
Yoav Levy has built a very attractive winery with fruit forward, good quality wines. Situated in Kidmat Zvi, a generous welcome awaits visitors. The winery specializes in Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon only, which is a welcome change from so many small wineries that make too many different wines. Take particular note of the pastoral surroundings with horses grazing in fields next door, and the attractive underground cellar.
Moshav Kidmat Zvi, central Golan Heights, Tel: (04) 696-5010; [email protected];
Assaf Winery
This small winery, founded in 2004, is to be found in the tourist area of Kidmat Zvi. Owner Assaf Kedem produces elegant, well-made wines. And if you’re lucky he will patiently taste the wine with you, sharing his passion. He was the original winemaker of the Bazelet Hagolan Winery before branching out on his own.
Moshav Kidmat Zvi; central Golan Heights, Tel: (04) 696-2132; [email protected];
Pelter Winery
This winery has grown quickly since its establishment in 2002. It already produces 80,000 bottles. It is a very hands-on operation, with owner Tal Pelter seeming to do almost everything, though he does get help from his brother, Nir. Tal, who studied oenology in Australia, makes elegant, tight wines with good balancing acidity and soft tannins. Pelter Winery has developed into one of the leading wineries in Israel.
Kibbutz Ein Zivan, northern Golan Heights, Tel: 052-866-6384/5; [email protected]; (not kosher)
Odem Mountain Winery
This winery is the farthest north in the country. It is truly a family operation, owned by the engaging Alfasi family, who always give visitors a warm welcome.
Odem Mountain Winery, founded in 2003, won the award in the Terravino competition for the best wine produced by an Israeli boutique winery.
Moshav Odem, northern Golan Heights, Tel: (04) 687-1122; [email protected];
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for Israeli and international publications.

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