Israeli Wine, 15 Years Since Rabin’s Death

I am reading a book by Deepak Chopra on coincidences in life. I’m sure many have read it. Yesterday I went to my first Israeli wine tasting organized by the lovely Aileen Robbins of the Dunn Robbins Group. I confess to knowing very little about Israeli wines except what I have had for Passover through the years and those served at my lovely friend Ariel’s home. He has turned me on to some great dessert wines but this was my first sampling of a variety of wines. Before I write about the tasting though, I’d like to mention that today is the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination at the hands of an extremist on Nov. 4, 1995. I will never forget that day. I had moved back to Italy after finishing graduate school and was memorized in front of the tv watching the scenes of the peace rally and watching him get hit. What a terrible tragedy and loss for his family and the human family and certainly for Israelis and Palestinians . Bill Clinton wrote a touching Op-Ed about Rabin in today’s New York Times.

Somewhat mundane compared to talking about peace in Israel, still I write a wine blog and not a political one although I think my politics are clear enough even on my wine blog.

The tasting yesterday also had a great educational component led by wine and food journalist and writer, Peter Hellman. An interesting idea was posited at the beginning of the seminar, is Israel an old or new world wine country. WIne has been made since Biblical times in Israel of course but a modern industry was started only in 1983. Initially wines were made in the Golan Heights but now there are over 200 wineries throughout the country. The regions are Galilee, Shomron, Samson, the Judean Hills and the Negev.

Grape varieties used include international varietals from France such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. They have also had recent success with Rhone varieties such as Viognier, Syrah, Petit Syrah and Carignan. Some Barbera, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Gewurztraminer, and White Riesling are also grown. There are no truly indigenous varieties except a a cross between Carignan and Souzao called Argaman.

I am not going to write about the kosher wine issue but what did interest me was that there are many wines made in Israel which aren’t kosher. Unfortunately, many Israeli wines are expensive relative to their French, Italian, etc counterparts. This makes them a hard sell on the market. That said, according to the panel, they are making strides rapidly both on and off premise.

I tried wines from three wineries. My first stop was Domaine du Castel where I tried their famed wine called Petit Castel 2007. It was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. I liked it and felt that it had a beautiful nose and a matching palate. It was very well integrated as well something that I had not found in other Israeli wines.

I also tried a beautiful Cabernet Franc from Ella Valley Vineyards. This 2007 was spicy with pepper notes, and just the right amount of tannin, fruit and alcohol. I am very partial to Cabernet Franc in general and this wine was a beautiful expression of this grape. Ella Valley is in the Judean Hills and has granite and red earth soils mixed with some alluvial soils. I was impressed. The Ella Valley is where the battle between David and Goliath took place.

I also got to taste a great Viognier from Yatir, a winery started in the Negev in 2000. It was grapefruity and had a lot of minerality as well as freshness and light as I would have imagined. On the whole a lovely find.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for too long so I missed a lot of lovely gems but I look forward to tasting them soon. Tonight I will raise a glass to Rabin and hope that what he was working on at the time of his death will someday be a reality for all.


  1. Reblogged this on avvinare and commented:

    I also want to reblog this post as it is the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s death. Really hard to believe that all this time has passed. I may be wrong but I believe that the Middle East would look different today had he lived.

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