I learned to love red wine in Israel and my taste is forever influenced by the quality of the Cabs, Merlots, Shiraz, Carignon’s of Israel. It’s the reason for my preference to new world wines.
Israeli wine has undergone an epic transformation from being an unnoticed producer of sweet wines to now having award winning vintages in international contests, to producing world class “new world” wines in a myriad of classes. It’s mediterranean terroire is equal to Napa Valley, France, and Italy’s wine growing regions and has emerged with Australia, New Zealand and Chile as a competitive wine producer.
Friday is a half day for many, but for the most fortunate it is a full day as well as Saturday (Shabbat). The most common Friday afternoon pasttime is the “see and be seen” scene that nearly every age group participates in, sitting in cafes, sometimes wine tastings, drinking beer, wine and coffee, taking social time before things close up.
At the invitation of some friends we visited a small boutique winery in the hills outside of Jerusalem in Shoresh called Yehuda. It is home to a Friday ‘parliament’ (common term group of older men who sit around on Friday afternoon without their wives drinking and fixing the country). One of the members of the parliament is a chef who brought some wonderful homemade salads into the mix. I was able to easily access the ingredients list from the chef of an amazing zucchini-mustard salad from him, but will have to give it a try before sharing it with you.
Our tasting was free, no idea if there is a cost, I imagine because our friend bought 6 bottles and we bought two. I loved the Shiraz, 5 vintages are named after the vintner’s daughters. The Shiraz was named after Ahinoam, who is the girl he states is ‘fun to be with’. Definitely fun to drink to my taste and I went home with a bottle of Ahinoam Shiraz 2009 and Sulam Yaakov, a Cabernet blend that was a limited edtiion. The tastings are six offerings. His wines are aged in oak barrels for 14-18 months. The Shiraz had a definite tobacco, leathery note, with a finish of black cherry and blackberry. Yehuda is an experienced vintner who has studied worldwide and worked before creating his own winery as the Neve Ilan community wine maker.
Yehuda states that, “I share a language with the trees,” he says, “I talk to them and they whisper to me. Wine is my creation and its taste runs through me”. His wines definitely speak my language.
After six tastings everyone is either lightly tipsy or pleasantly drunk and the wine seems to keep flowing, this is a winery that is definitely a place to visit for the real Israeli experience; a mix of comradery with a touch of the offbeat, much free-flowing conversation and laughter while offering a superior product made by Vintner Avi Yehuda, who makes you feel like a member of the inner circle in a building that is something like a barn. Call in advance to reserve a spot on Friday which is tasting day.
As a factoid, wine has been produced in Israel for thousands of years and the Hebrew psalmist penned these wonderful words “…that he may bring bread forth from the earth, and wine that makes the heart of man glad” (Psalm 104:14,15)