Gush Etzion Winery: Fulfilling blessings for great wine

The Gush Etzion Winery lived up to its reputation as a premier winery not just in the Judean region but in all of Israel.

 GRAPE VINES at the Gush Etzion Winery vineyard. (photo credit: Gush Etzion Winery)
GRAPE VINES at the Gush Etzion Winery vineyard.
(photo credit: Gush Etzion Winery)

Situated exactly midway between Jerusalem and Hebron is Gush Etzion Winery, a brand famous around the world for utilizing what many consider to be the best soil in Israel to create their wines.

Founded by winemaker Shraga Rosenberg, a former social entrepreneur who also ran a nursing home, the vineyard produced its first vintage in 2005. Now, it’s selling all across Israel and roughly 30% of its sales are coming from the US and Europe. They are continuing to produce great wines every year.

Their visitor center is a short stone’s throw away from their vineyards, in the region where the Torah recounts Jacob giving a special blessing for wine, and houses their wine vats, bottling operation and a kosher dairy restaurant. I was able to taste nine of their wines, both white and red. Gush Etzion produces approximately 120,000 bottles annually, all grown at high altitudes. The wines I tasted ranged from NIS 80 to NIS 220.

Tasting the wines in Gush Etzion

The first wine I tasted was their 2022 Sauvignon Blanc. It had a sharp taste, filled with fruitiness. It was very, very light on the tannins.

The next was their 2022 Chardonnay. This had an unbelievable scent and a deep fruity flavor. It’s a great white wine.

 WINE MAKER Shraga Rosenberg. (credit: Gush Etzion Winery) WINE MAKER Shraga Rosenberg. (credit: Gush Etzion Winery)

After that came the 2021 Chardonnay, aged in French oak casks for 18 months. The scent on this was more buttery, with a hint of sweetness. It had a nice feel in the mouth, not too sharp, but filled with butter, as with the smell. This wine had a bit more tannins than the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s also a really nice white wine.

The next wine was from arguably my favorite white grape, Gewurztraminer. In particular, this was their 2022 vintage. It was unique in that Shraga said the fermentation was stopped early. Semi-dry, it had a nice sweet scene with a clean flavor and a nice aftertaste.

FROM THERE, we moved to the reds. First up was their GSM 2021. It is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. It had a nice fermentation to the nose and was aged only 10 months in oak casks, leading to a much lighter color, with wide legs. The tannins were good, not too harsh. The initial flavor was vanilla, which transformed into a bubble gum-like flavor.

After that, we tasted a 2021 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aged for 12 months in oak casks, it also had a nice smell that opened very quickly. The light tannins picked up as they continued to open. It had a nice vanilla taste. The next up was one of the best wines we tasted, a 2020 blend of the same grapes. The smell was incredible on this and the tannins created a great feeling in the mouth. It was smooth to drink. Aged for 12 months, this wine, in particular, has a good story. Its grapes were grown on Blessed Mountain, in the center of Gush Etzion, and here is where the Biblical tale occurred of the people of Israel blessing God during the reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, after their victory in their battle with the nations of Moav and Amon.

The last red wine was a 2020 Cabernet Franc. Aged for 20 months in oak casks, both the scent and the flavor had deep tones of vanilla. It was very smooth to drink and a taste of chocolate appeared, too. It had a beautiful dark color, as well. This was an incredible wine.

The final wine of the day was a late-harvest Gewurztraminer from 2020. A dessert wine, it had a sweet scent and flavor, with a bit of a rose feel. Typically, dessert wines are red, in the fashion of Port wine, although this was tasty and unique, in the sense that it was white wine.

Alongside the wines, we had the cheese platter, which consisted of an assortment of local goat and cow cheeses. The restaurant itself features a full dairy menu of kinds of pasta, pizzas, salads and more.

The center, with its pristine scenery, hosts many celebrations, such as weddings and other lifecycle events. While we were there, it was undergoing renovations to better enhance the entranceway.

In all, the Gush Etzion Winery lived up to its reputation as a premier winery not just in the Judean region but in all of Israel.

The writer was a guest of the vineyard.

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