Israeli Wine From the Judean Hills and Tabbouleh Salad

Rose from Domaine du Castel

This month the #WinePW crowd headed to the Middle East for our wine and food pairings. Our host Wendy Klik posted this preview on her blog. I was excited to have a chance to write about some Israeli wines I tried earlier this year as part of a tasting held by Tali Dalhaba with a group called the Judean Hills Quartet for a group I am part of, Les Dames d’Escoffier.

I know a few things about Israeli wines but this was a part of the country I was unfamiliar with although one of the wineries in the group is a very well known winery, Domaine du Castel. I had tasted a number of their wines in the past, all made form Bordeaux varieties but I knew nothing really of the family or what a pioneer their Patriarch had been in founding not only the winery but this area of winemaking in Israel. As their website notes, wine has been made in this area for centuries and is even mentioned in the Bible. The winery while large is still a family firm with the second generation largely running operations today. During our tasting we tried a small sample of their rose which was made from Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. I also had no idea how far up the vineyards were in this part of the country. Domaine du Castel has vineyards at 750 meters above sea level.

A second winery in the group is called Tzora Vineyards – Judean Hills, Israel . Israel’s first Master of Wine, Eran Pick has been working with the winery since 2006. The winery makes a host of white and red wines and has some experimental vineyards. It was founded by Ronnie James. Today his son, Dor is part of the team running the winery. I was intrigued by the shape of their vineyards. Everything seems so clipped and manicured.

Tzora Vineyards

The third winery was called Sphera. They plant white grapes and make only white wines. It is a family team, Doron Rav Hon and Sima Rav Hon. Doron is the winemaker and came to wine after studying in Burgundy and then in Champagne. Sima cures the brand and operations. We tried a sample of the Chardonnay which was both modern and traditional in style which is interesting because of where Doron learned his craft.

Sphera Winery Owners, Doron and Sima Rav Hon

The four winery in the quartet is Flam. The winery has a long history and it’s founder, Israel Flam, is said to be among the founders of Israel’s modern winemaking tradition. Today it is run by his sons, Golan and Gilad, who bring different skills to the table and they are joined by their Mother and sister, Kami and Gefen. Their vineyards are located in both the Upper Galilee and in the Judean Hills.

It was great fun to taste through these wines, learn about the families behind them and think about how ancient this terroir is although modern Israel winemaking is more recent than one might expect.

As this is a wine and food pairing event, I thought of making Tabbouleh. I found a recipe from Ina Garten on the Foodnetwork. It was delicious and would have worked great with the rose and the white. The reds were more structured by not overpowering.

Tabbouleh Salad

I ran out of scallions so I substituted with red onion. Easy to make and delicious my only dismay was that it said it serves 8 people in this quantity. I could have finished this whole dish by myself. I loved visiting the Middle East this month. I hope to cover wines from other areas as well. I’ve written some other posts about Israeli wines here and here during the past year but not from other countries. I have a lot to discover or in some cases, catch up on.

Our group will be meeting up on Saturday morning, May 8th, at 11 AM ET on Twitter to chat about our findings.  We would love to have you join us.  You will find us by following #WinePW.  Here are the topics we will be discussing……

16 comments

    • Thank you so much for choosing this great theme. I know I love when you have a reason to write about something other than just desire and a deadline.

  1. I love Tzora, Flam, and Sphera! I was able to visit when I was in Israel a few years ago. Sphera’s wines especially I love. Did you get their wines in the US??

    • I got a small sample as part of a tasting event for Les Dames. I didn’t see the bottle but the winery looks so chic and elegant.

  2. First things first. Happy 13th Anniversary with Avvinare!
    Your tasting with Judean Hills sounds like it was so informative. I know so little about this region. Your tabouleh looks delicious. Tabouleh is a favorite of mine, but I have not made it in quite a while.

    • Wow Robin thank you. I completely forgot!!! Yes yesterday was 13 years. Hard to believe. It’s been a long ride thus far and loads of wines. It was delicious. I hadn’t made it in a while either but the wines and the topic pushed me to do so. Thanks for reading.

  3. This is a wine region I need to explore more. Thank you for the winery profiles, I know where to start with my search for Israeli wines. I am with you, Tabbouleh for 6-8 can easily be eaten just by me, love Tabbouleh!

    • Jane, Thanks for reading. Yes I love Tabbouleh too and had forgotten that but wanted to write about those wines so great occasion to do both. Cheers.

    • Camilla,
      It was part of a tasting led by Tali Dalhaba who is a also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, as am I. She shipped us the bottles. I know most of those wineries are represented in the US.

  4. Thanks for taking us on this tour of the Judean Hills! I really think Israel has so much interesting wine to offer, and yet they’re not well recognized here or quickly dismissed as kiddush. Thanks for sharing these stories.

    • Thanks Nicole. I think people fail to recognize that it has a vibrant wine community and not all wines are Mesuvhal (cooked basically). It was a fun tasting.

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