Visions from the vineyard

The Golan Heights winery can be credited with creating the major wine revolution in Israel back in 1984.

winery 298.88 (photo credit: courtesy)
winery 298.88
(photo credit: courtesy)
With 15,000 dunams of vineyards spread out from Upper Galilee in the north to Ramat Arad in the south, the winemakers of Carmel winery had plenty of options to choose from when they decided on making Single vineyard wines. Four years ago, when invited by the Carmel winery to a fancy restaurant in Tel Aviv to taste "Kerem," the first single vineyard series of Israeli produce, I was quite skeptical. For me - as for all the wine critics attending the tasting of the new series - it was an astounding surprise. The event marked the burgeoning revolution in the oldest winery in Israel, known until then as Carmel Mizrahi. In the 1890s, a few years after the establishment of the winery, the main challenge for the winemakers was dealing with the intense heat which badly affected the grapes. Among other, more technological methods employed, packs of ice were thrown into the fermenting vats in an attempt to produce a better wine. Up until today, the winery's ambitious winemaking team keeps on experimenting with both modern and traditional methods with the intention of crafting a high-quality wine. To produce their top series, Kerem, the winemakers at Carmel, searched for the finest vineyards at different locations. Each has its own character, influenced by the soil, altitude and water quality. Since the launch of Kerem's first bottles (Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Ramat Arad, and Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Zarit), the quality of the wines in the series have been consistently outstanding. Those recently launched continue to impress: Carmel, Kerem, Shiraz, Kayoumi 2004: Located between Meron and Kadita in Upper Galilee the Kayoumi vineyard is planted at 750 meters above sea level, on terra-rossa soil. The bouquet of this wine - like the color - is dark and deep in a way that's almost overwhelming. In the mouth it's creamy and lush, but well-structured, ending with a dose of dusty tannins and an extra blast of fruit. NIS 105 Carmel, Kerem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kayoumi 2004: If you're looking for a Cabernet that has all the hallmarks of the Galilee cool-climate ripeness and balance, try this one. It's dry, elegant and juicy, teasing the palate with fruit, yet wisely pulling back at the last moment so the food remains the star of the show. NIS 105 Carmel, Kerem, Sauvignon Blanc, Ramat Arad 2006: Here's an upscale wine that's bright in citrus, grass and passion fruit aromas. It's medium to full-bodied like a Chardonnay, but tart and crisp, with a lingering finish. NIS 56 The Tzora winery has also released a single vineyard wine: Tzora, Single vineyard Shoresh 2004: Aged for 24 months in wood, this 100 percent Merlot shows big, dry fruit tannins that nonetheless preserves elegance and freshness. There's a touch of eucalyptus and mint, plus an herbal character. The acidity holds the whole thing in balance. From master red winemaker Ronny James, this is a wine that needs aging. Give it three to four years before opening. NIS 99 WINE COUNTRY MEETS THE BIG CITY Speaking of a revolution, the winemaking team at the Golan Heights winery can be credited with creating the major wine revolution in Israel back in 1984. By producing numerous excellent wines, the winery managed to elevate the local winemaking quality to international standards. Keeping up high standards for more than two decades, the team at the winery - devoted to the nature and soil of the Golan Heights and strengthened by three series of admirable wines - were confident enough to declare their successful establishment as the Wine Country. No UN regulation needed; thousands of wine aficionados voted with their glasses. Promoting tourism to the new republic, the winery published a booklet with romantic songs accompanied by attractive pictures of the beautiful vineyards. As a second part of the same campaign, the Golan Heights Wineries are inviting the public to a photo exhibit where magical views of the Wine Country will be revealed. Dady Kassman, an artist who specializes in nature photography, spent seven days in the open, wild land of the Golan and captured the colors, light and the picturesque nature of the region. The photos of "Seven Days in the Wine Country" will be on display at Tel Aviv's Neveh Tzedek neighborhood until June 14. No passport required. Seven days in the Wine Country, Rehov Kol Yisrael Haverim 5 (corner of Shabazi 10) Neveh Tzedek, Tel Aviv. Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.