Pressing Forward

Creating a stir: Roni Saslove believes a glass of wine is the perfect end to a tiring day in this complex country

Wine Tasting Festival (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine Tasting Festival
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Canadian-born Roni Saslove grew up knowing wine almost from childhood. Barry Saslove, her father and the first winemaker at the boutique Saslove winery, wrote an influential book on winemaking in Hebrew and has taught hundreds of potential Israeli winemakers.
Saslove first experienced winemaking at the age of 14, crushing grapes with her bare feet.
“We were living in San Francisco at the time. My father bought 100 kilos of grapes and brought them home. My sister and I washed our feet carefully and stomped around on them, and that’s how we made the wine,” she recalls.
The Saslove winery now produces over 80,000 bottles yearly, and will be exporting to the tune of half a million dollars this year. The family has left that squishy episode to history.
Saslove’s year was always divided between pre-harvest and post-harvest – even when she was in high school and the army. The only harvest she’s missed since 1991 was the year she spent studying viticulture at Brock University in Ontario.
In 2009, her father threw her in at the deep end.
“We have an organic vineyard in Kadita [upper Galilee]. My father said, ‘Take a dunam [a quarter of an acre] and do what you want with it.’ I kind of freaked out – it was a little scary,” she says. “But I got friends to help harvest and crush the grapes and ferment the wine. I made a port-inspired dessert wine that I called Kadita, after the vineyard.”
And so a female vintner came into her own. She now works with her father to produce the distinctive Saslove wines.
With boutique wines such as Saslove’s, the taste and even the personality of the winemaker transmits itself through the wine. Does a woman’s hand create wines unlike those of male vintners? “I make wine for different moods. I think of where I’m going to be when I drink it and even what time of the day it’ll be. Let’s say I’m thinking of relaxing with a glass of wine on a Shabbat afternoon. I want a fresh, full, complex wine that suits the laid-back mood.
“I’ve heard some winemakers say that they make wine for the people who drink it. I say, who are these people? Everyone is different. You have to make it for yourself. If you put the best of yourself into the wine, it will be noticed,” Saslove says.
She also teaches wine appreciation courses and conducts wine tastings. Groups may be as diverse as a farewell party for someone leaving an army unit, a special event for company managers or a cluster of tour guides needing to stay up-to-date with Israel’s burgeoning wine tourism industry.
Saslove claims that a wine-tasting is a bonding experience that helps co-workers work together better. “In Israel, everyone works so hard. Instead of collapsing on the couch in front of the TV when you get home, savor a glass of wine. It’s something that gives you a feeling of abundance, something that makes you feel like all your day’s work has been worthwhile.”
How does Saslove see her future? “I live well with the fact that life isn’t definite. I take life step by step, always looking at the now,” she answers. Then she bursts into laughter. “But it’s been 11 years! Yes, making wine is something I see myself doing as long as it fulfills me.”
Saslove wines have been kosher since 2010 and are kosher for Passover as well. Saslove’s next wine-tasting event for the public will take place today at the visitors’ center on Kibbutz Eyal. Call the winery at (09) 749-2697 for information and reservations, or email The winery’s website is SPRINGTIME VEGETABLES IN WHITE WINE 1⁄2 cup olive oil 2 large white onions, chopped fine 1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric 4 fresh artichokes, peeled down to the hearts 1⁄4 kg. Jerusalem artichokes, peeled 1 bottle Saslove white wine 2011 1⁄4 kg. garden peas 1 head celery, stalks coarsely chopped 1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed and coarsely chopped 4 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped 2 thyme sprigs 2 bay leaves 1 bunch parsley or cilantro, chopped fine Salt and white pepper to taste 2 cups vegetable stock Warm 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions and cook over low heat until transparent. Add turmeric, stirring until the aroma rises and the onions are deeply golden-colored.
Add peeled artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, stirring and cooking until they take on color – about 3 minutes.
Pour the wine in. Raise heat to high and cook until the wine is reduced to half.
Add remaining ingredients. Add enough vegetable stock to barely cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the liquid only simmers. Add the remaining olive oil.
Simmer 1⁄2 hour, partially covered. The dish is ready when the artichokes are tender to a probing knife.