Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wineries in the Judean Hills

Wineries In The Judean Hills
Author: Daniel Rogov
Published: 09.14.10

I usually wait until after harvest to start on my major rounds of winery visits but this year, partly in preparation for the October wine festival to be held in the Judean Hills, I set out early yesterday morning (Monday, 13 September) to visit seven of the boutique wineries in the area. My thanks to the wineries that received me, all with great courtesy.

Special thanks to Adi for showing up with her car with a fine double espresso ready for my sipping en route. Also special thanks to the winery of Hans Sternbach for a lovely breakfast and to the good people at the Nevo Winery who served a lunch that would put any Middle-Eastern restaurant to shame. With at least a dozen salads on the table (each delicious), fish grilled in the taboon oven and a fine couscous, life seemed very good indeed.

As to the festival which starts on 1 October see my original post at
ORIGINAL POST. And indeed we have quite enough forum members who will be attending that a special tasting will be arranged for us in the VIP room at the major event of the festival on Thursday evening, 28 October. More on the festival as we come closer to that event.

My tasting notes from yesterday's visits follow.


Founded by Lori and Shaike Lender in 2002 and set on Moshav Tsafririm in the Judean Hills, this boutique winery is currently producing about 5,000 bottles annually. Grapes from their own and contract vineyards include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The winery relies on French and American oak barriques.

Zafririm, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2008: Oak aged for 15 months in 2 year old barriques, this dark garnet medium-bodied blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot shows appealing aromas and flavours of dusty oak, raspberries and On the clean nose dusty oak and red fruits, those supported by a hint of Mediterranean herbs, al leading to a long near-sweet finish. Drink now-2012. Score 86.

Zafririm, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: Medium-dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft, gently caressing tannins and notes of spicy wood. Developed with oak staves, showing traditional Cabernet fruits of blackberries and black currants, those on a background that hints of spices and cigar tobacco. Drink now-2012. Score 86.

Zafririm, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2009: A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% merlot. Developed in older French barriques for 15 months, dark cherry red in color, medium- perhaps medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and a generous array of red fruits all lingering nicely. Drink now-2012. Score 85.

Zafririm, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009: Medium- to full-bodied, with silky near-sweet tannins, a blend of 70% Shiraz and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opens with aromas and flavours of purple plums, those parting to reveal notes of cassis, dark chocolate and spiced beef. Drink now-2012. Score 85.

Zafririm, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, 2009: Deep royal purple in color, medium-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely with notes of spicy cedar wood and fruits. On the nose and palate red and black berries, cassis and notes of bittersweet chocolate and tobacco. Fruits and tannins rise nicely on a long finish. Drink now-2013. Score 87.

Hans Sternbach Winery

Founded by Gadi and Shula Sternbach on Moshav Givat Yeshayahu in the Judean Hills, the Domaine Hans Sternbach’s first release was of 1,800 bottles from the 2000 harvest. With the winery located on the moshav and relying primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Mersanne grapes from its own and nearby vineyards, production from the 2003 vintage was about 3,000 bottles and from 2004–2007 about 10,000 bottles annually. With Bordeaux trained partner Emmanuel Madar now serving as winemaker, the winery is currently releasing about 18,000 bottles annually.

Hans Sternbach, Nouveau, 2010: Youthful royal purple in color, a medium-bodied, softly tannic blend of two-thirds Syrah and 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon. Showing forward blackberry and cassis notes on a lightly spicy background. Meant for youthful consumption. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 85.

Hans Sternback, Nachal Hakhlil Givat Yesha'ayhu,, 2007: Showing much as at a pre-release tasting. Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, oak-aged for 12 months, medium-bodied, with soft tannins,gentle influences of spicy wood and a hint of sweetiness, showing a basic black-fruit personality. Without complexities but a good quaffer. Drink now. Score 85.

Hans Sternbach, Nachal Hakhlil, 2008: Cabernet Sauvignon, showing medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannin, notes of spicy wood and a distinct acidic note that may not be fully wanted. On the nose and palate wild berries along with hints of eucalyptus and Mediterranean herbs. Drink now-2011. Score 84.

Hans Sternbach Nachal Hakhlil, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Oak aged for 12 months, a blend of two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one-thrd Syrah. Dark cherry red in color, with an aromatic nose and soft tannins on a medium-bodied framework. On the nose and palate cherries, wild berries and light spicy and stony minerals. Just enough complexity to grab our attention. Drink from release-2012, perhaps longer. Score 85-87.

Hans Sternbach, Janaba Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet towards royal purple, full-bodied, reflecting its two years in oak with generous spicy wood but that in fine balance with tannins and fruits. A deep wine, with tannins destined always to be on the gripping side but parting to reveal blackcurrant, raspberry and blackberry fruits, those supported by a comfortable note of vanilla. Drink from release-2013. Score 87-89.

Hans Sternbach, Janaba Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Medium- to full-bodied, with still gripping and drying tannins waiting to settle in, opens slowly in the glass to reveal cassis, blackberry and wild berry fruits, those supported nicely by notes of Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, with a light note of spicy wood running through and with fruits and tannins rising on the finish. Drink from release-2014. Score 86-88.

Hans Sternbach, Janaba Reserve, 2003: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, deep garnet with a bit of clearing at the rim, medium- to full-bodied, with once firm tannins now well integrated and the hint of residual sugar that once made itself felt now well absorbed. Continuing to show currant and wild berry fruits those now on a background of Mediterranean herbs and earthy minerals. Longer-lived than earlier anticipated but not for further cellaring. Drink now. Score 85.

Srigim Winery

Founded by Uriel Harari and Moti Mordechai on Moshav Srigim in the Ella Valley in 2002 and with Harari acting as winemaker, this small winery released its first wines from the 2002 harvest. Drawing on grapes from the Judean Mountains, the Ella Valley and Gush Etzion, current production is about 3,000 bottles annually. The winery relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabnert Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Shiraz from contract vineyards and wines are developed largely in new American and French oak and are finished with only coarse filtration.

Srigim, Franc, 2007: Dark cherry red towards garnet, a medium-bodied and softly tannic wine based on 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Petit Vedot. On the nose and palate red fruits on what many will consider a too earthy background, with tannins rising dramatically on the finish. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 84.

Srigim, Franc, 2006: Garnet with purple and orange reflections, a blend of 85% Cabernt Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Medium- to full-bodied, with tannins that grip gently and reflecting its 18 months in oak with generous hints of sweet-and-spicy cedar wood. Opens in the glass to reveal appealing blackberry and currant fruits, those on a background of green bell peppers. Drink now-2011. Score 85.

Srigim, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Deep garnet towards royal purple, medium- to full-bodied with soft tannins and spicy wood integrating nicely and opening in the glass to reveal raspberry, cassis and fresh herbal notes. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (85%, 10% and 5% respectively), with a long lingering finish. Drink now-2013. Score 86.

Srigim, Barrique, 2007: Garnet towards royal purple, oak-aged for 16 months, with somewhat chunky tannins. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Opens in the glass to reveal wild berry and plum fruits, those on an earthy and herbal background. Drink now-2011. Score 85.

Srigim, Barrique, 2006: A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauignon, reflecting its 18 months in oak with notes of spices and vanilla.Medium-bodied, with a not complex but appealing array of cherries, berries and red currants. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 85.

Agur Winery

Set on Moshav Agur in the Judean plains, this boutique winery, owned by winemaker Shuki Yashuv, and a Spanish partner has grown from releasing 1,800 bottles in the 2000 vintage to between 25,000–30,000 in the 2009 and 2010 vintages. The winery has its own vineyards on the moshav and also draws on grapes from the Ella Valley, those including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Grapes from each vineyard are fermented separately, some in stainless steel vats, others in new and used barriques. The winery releases four wines annually, Blanca, Rosa, Kessem and Special Reserve, and those have been kosher from the 2007 vintage.

Agur, Kessem, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet, full-bodied, with still firm tannins waiting to settle down but already showing good balance and promise for the future. Developed for about 9 months in well used barrels, with generous currant and blackberry fruits supported by notes of dark chocolate and roasted herbs. Drink from release-2013. Tentative Score 87-89.K

Agur, Special Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a bit of Petit Verdot. Almost impenetrably dark garnet in color, a rich and concentrated wine, its firm tannins holding the wine back at the moment but those simply waiting to integrate. On the nose and palate blackcurrants, wild red and black berries, notes of bittersweet chocolate, green olives and tobacco. Best from 2012-2015. Tentative Score 88-90. K

Agur, Special Reserve, 2008: Opens with a bit of bottle stink but that blows of quickly to reveal a nose of freshly cut herbs and eucalyptus. Oak aged for 18 months, a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (50%, 35%, 10% and 5% respectively) opens to reveal red currants and raspberries on a background of earthy minerals. Drink now-2013. Score 89. K

Agur, Epi Eunopa Ponton, 2006: On the chance that your Homeric Greek or your knowledge of James Joyce is not fully up to date epi eunopa pontoon, or if you will epi oinopa pontoon ] translates to "the wine dark sea" and this was winemaker Shuki Yashuv's thoughts on this wine. Fair enough, for the wine is indeed dark, almost impenetrable garnet in color. A limited release (300 bottles) of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, an aromatic, concentrated and full-bodied wine opening with raspberries and cranberries, those yielding in the glass to blackcurrants, blackberries and notes of licorice, black olives and Mediterranean herbs. Oak aged for thirty months, with the wood in fine balance with tannins and fruits, lingers long and comfortably on the palate. Drink now-2014. Score 91.

Nevo Winery

Founded in 2002 by Nevo Chazan and located on Moshav Mata, not far from Jerusalem, the winery produced 2,000 bottles from the 2007 vintage and about twice that from the 2008 vintage. The wines will be kosher from the 2010 vintage.

Nevo, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Not showing as well as when first tasted, the once appealing garnet color now turning to the color of adobe brick. A pleasant enough country-style wine, medium-bodied, with chunky tannins and notes of cinnamon from the wood. Opens to reveal blackberry and blueberry fruits, those taking on notes of sour-ball candies from mid-palate on. .Drink up. Score 81.

Nevo, Merlot, Sapir, 2007: Garnet colored, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and notes of spicy wood that run throughout, opens to show a basic berry–black cherry personality. A light medicinal aroma and a too generous hint of volatile acidity from first attack to the finish. Drink up. Score 74.

Nevo, Choshen, 2007: A medium-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (60% and 40% respectively). Aged in second- and third-year barriques, with chunky, country-style tannins and a good deal of Brett that adds a stinky note, that hiding the black fruits that fail to make themselves felt. Score 70.

Soreq Winery

Founded in 1994 on Moshav Tal Shachar and situated at the foot of the Jerusalem Mountains, with Nir Shacham as winemaker, this boutique winery relies on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes grown in its own vineyards as well as Petit Verdot, Grenache and Cabernet from contract vineyards in the Judean Hills and Galilee. The winery releases wines in Special Reserve and regular editions. Current production is about 7,500 bottles annually.

Soreq, Grenache, 2007: Made from grapes from 26 year old vines in the Latoun Vineyard, showing dark garnet, full-bodied and with still intense tannins needing nothing more than a bit of time to settle in and already showing an aroma and flavor profile that calls to mind the Southern Rhone and Coteaux de Provence. On the nose and palate kirsch, blackcurrants and black tea, those complemented nicely by notes of black tea and pepper, all lingering nicely on the palate. Only two barrels of wine were made (about 600 bottles). Worth hunting for. Best from mid-2011-2016. Score 91.

Soreq, Merlot, Kerem Yosef, 2007: Dark garnet towards royal purple, reflecting its 18 months in new oak with spices, vanilla and gently gripping tannins. Full-bodied, round and concentrated, opens to show black fruits and a note of black pepper, goes on to reveal hints of citrus peel and dark chocolate. Best from mid-2011-2015. Score 90.

Soreq, Petit Verdot, 2007: Dark garnet, opens generously aromatic and then shows medium- to full-bodied, with notes of cassis, briar and cigar tobacco, those supported by firm, slightly dusty tannins. Tannins and fruits rise on the finish as does a hint of not fully wanted acidity. Drink from release-2013. Score 87.

Nachshon Winery

Founded in 1996 on Kibbutz Nachshon in the Ayalon Valley at the foot of the Jerusalem Hills, the winery raises its own Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Argaman grapes and until 2007 produced about 20,000 bottles annually under the careful eye of winemaker Shlomi Zadok. No wines were produced in 2008 and the 2009 vintage will be quite limited. With new partners now aboard, renovations to the winery under way and Nathan Lifshitz as the new winemaker, several blends will soon be released from wines still in the barrels from older vintages. Anticipated releases from the 2010 vintage will be about 10,000 bottles.

Nachshon, Cabernet Franc, Sela, 2007: Dark garnet, developed in older oak barriques for two years, showing full-bodied and round, with gentle notes of spicy cedar wood . On the nose and palate earthy currant, plum and mineral notes, those supported by hints of licorice. Black fruits and chewy tannins rise on the finish. Drink from release-2013. Score 87.

Nachshon, French Blend, Sela, 2006-2007: Made by combining barrels from the 2006 and 2007 vintage, one might think of this as a "salvage job" but the salvage was successful A blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from both vintages, showing medium- to full-bodied, with soft, gently gripping tannins and appealing blackberry, black cherry and cassis fruits on a background that hints of smoked meat. Drink from release-2012. Score 87.

Nachshon, Syrah, Ayalon, 2005-2006-2007: Another "salvage job", the new winemaker blending barrels from three vintages. Garnet, with a hint of clearing at the rim showing its maturity. Somewhat chunky tannins give the wine a countrified personality but that's fine as the wine shows appealing black cherry, blackberry and raspberry fruits, those on a background of tobacco leaf and licorice. Drink from release-2012. Score 86.

Contact info:

Domaine du Castel Winery

Tamar Raziel- route 395 (17 K west of Jerusalem
(02) 534-2249
Kosher -- 100,000 bottles/yr
Tour /talk with Eytan and Ariel

This is a winery that does not like to be described as a boutique winery but as a small winery managed by a family. We believe that our success is mainly the result of our personal involvement in all aspects of the business – from viticulture to winemaking and from management to distribution. We have managed to create a very close-knit team

Eli Ben Zaken: After being born in cosmopolitan Alexandria and educated in England, Italy and Switzerland, Eli moved to Israel, first working in agriculture and then later in the restaurant business. Eli has no formal winemaking education, and so when he had to decide whether or not to turn Domaine du Castel from a hobby into a formal business he was faced with a formidable challenge. Eli recalls how a sentiment voiced by Winston Churchill was very apt at this time as he felt as though he “were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial … I was sure I should not fail” (Winston Churchill, May 1940).

Eytan Ben Zaken- COO: For many years, Eytan managed the family's renowned Mamma Mia restaurant in Jerusalem. When the family decided to close the restaurant in order to concentrate all efforts into making wine, he joined the Castel team.

Ariel Ben Zaken- CEO: Ariel was the first to follow Eli’s passion for wine. After his service as a paratrooper unit commander in the Israel Defense Force, he spent two years in Burgundy where he worked for Michel Picard at Domaine Emile Voarick and studied winemaking in Beaune.

Ilana Ben-Zaken- Export Manager

Flam Winery
Rt 395 on Moshav Eshtaol
Superior Syrah
60 NIS or 100 w/ cheese/bread
(02) 992-9923/054-211-3324
Closed Saturday

[About Flam Winery: A quality boutique winery in the heart of the Judean Hills

The combination of our love of wine, of Israel, and our youthful spirit leads to the creation of the distinctive wines at Flam (winery). The resulting wines are exciting, Mediterranean in style, due to a never ending process of innovative creation in the heart of the Judean Hills for over a decade.

The vision of the winery was born in Tuscany (Toscana) – Chianti Classico in 1996. While on a fascinating tour amongst the splendid wineries of this enchanting region, Gilad & Golan decided to build a boutique winery in the Land of Israel, which shall be surrounded by superb vineyards, and would be the source of the best possible Israeli wines.

In 1998 this dream was becoming a reality. Golan & Gilad Flam established Flam winery in the Judean Hills. Their mother, Kami Flam, joined them as a founder & active partner, drawing from her extensive background as a businesswoman, and contributing to the great success. The winery has been drawing the faithful attention of wine lovers, restaurateurs, and numerous wine critics from Israel and abroad ever since.

The winery is situated in the picturesque view of the Judean Hills, at the origin of the Kisalon Creek and at the foot of the Kdoshim Forest, merged with the natural scenery, and combines high quality wines with Flam’s second generations’ refreshing attachment to the land.]

Agur Winery
Moshav Agur - Rt 353
(02) 999-5423
Call weekdays or open Sat/Sun betw 9am-5pm
4 varieties -blends
30,000 bottles Kosher
20 NIS refundable

Ella Valley Winery
Rt. 375 Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Heh
(02) 999-4885
200,000 bottles
65 NIS
Groups of ten can tour
Sun thru Th 9 am - 4 pm
Fri 9 am -1 pm

Tzora Vinyards
Kibbutz Tzora
(02) 990-8261
Open daily 10 am -5 pm

Deir Rafat Monastery
Saturday can tour grounds of the Monastery
Adjacent is Monastery is the Winery
Open daily 10 am -5 pm

Nachshon Winery
Phone 08-9278641
Fax 08-9278641
Opening hours
Friday 09:00-15:00
Sat 10:00-17:00

Soreq Winery

Address - Moshav Tal Shachar
Telephone - +972-8-9450844
Fax - +972-8-9370385
E-mail -
Kosher - No

Nevo Winery (Moshe Matta)

Srigim Winery Founded by Uriel Harari and Moti Mordechai on Moshav Srigim in the Ella Valley in 2000, this small winery released its first wines from the 2002 harvest. Drawing on grapes from the Judean Mountains, the Ella Valley and Gush Etzion,

Hans Sternbach Winery

כתובת: משק 83, גבעת ישעיהו
טלפון: 02-9990162

Zafririm Winery
Moshe Tsafririm
052 449-3042

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

No comments: