Romancing Israel and its wines

A new-found love for Israeli wine

When you are in love, you ache for the sound of your loved one’s voice. And the voices of Israel are like a symphony coming together in a heart pounding crescendo: the songs of prayers, the market vendors hawking their wares and the rush of the sea onto the partially rocky shoreline. But there is no sound as seductive as the wind blowing through the valley making the vines tremble as when lovers whisper to each other. This can be experienced with visiting Chateau Golan located in the Golan Heights. This is an avant garde winery working with fun varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre and even Portugal’s own Touriga Nacional. The Touriga Nacional was specifically imported by Chateau Golan and makes an outstanding port-style fortified wine. Less than 500 bottles are produced of this special wine which pairs beautifully with blue-veined goat cheese, a specialty of Israeli cheese makers.

Sunrise in the Golan Heights
  • Sunrise in the Golan Heights

When you are in love, you long for the smell of your loved one; to bury your nose in their neck and breathe in their essence. Israel overflows with aromas that fill the nose enveloping the lungs with sweet scents of spices and flowers and of foods offered by corner vendors. The sweetest smell of all is that wafting from within the winery walls as the just picked grapes undergo their metamorphosis. No grapes make a more beautiful change than those under the handling and care of Gil Hershkowiz who makes the Galileo wines in the Galilee Mountains. His operation is small; making less than 200 cases of wine a year. Once you have a whiff of Gil’s wines, you’ll know why the trek to Israel is worth it. The small production, hand-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon is sweet perfume to the nose with scents of oak and a mingle of red and black berries. The wine has a rich and creamy texture with a lingering finish; a must have with lamb.

When you are in love, you desire the taste of your new love; to press your lips against theirs and drink in their flavors. Much as the encounter the palate has with the wines from Margalit Winery. Margalit is family-owned with father/son running the winemaking and daily operations of the winery that is located in the Ceasarea region. The winery has two vineyard locations: Kadita in Upper Galilee and Binyamina in the Haifa district. Margalit wines are big and need aeration to really come into their own. I happen to be a Cabernet Franc lover; I enjoy the bell peppery flavors it offers and the Margalit Cabernet Franc does not disappoint. Sourced entirely from the Binyamina vineyards, the 2007 Cab Franc is well-balanced and if I read my tasting notes correctly, it’s also “awesome.”

Caesarea: Excavations along rocky shoreline
  • Caesarea: Excavations along rocky shoreline

Israel asked me “why shouldn’t we fall in love?” I couldn’t think of one single reason why we shouldn’t. Now was certainly the time for it; we’re all too young not to experience love whenever and however it comes our way. Here’s hoping you get to experience this type of love affair at least once — don’t be afraid to let your heart discover.

(Note: You can find Galil Mountain Vineyard wines in the U.S. by contacting Yarden Inc. at 212.997.9463 or [email protected] Contact Chateau Golan Winery at [email protected] for information on their wines in the U.S. market; and to purchase Margalit Wines.)

click to enlarge Gailil Mountains vineyards at sunrise - Galil Mountains Winery
Galil Mountains Winery
Gailil Mountains vineyards at sunrise

How many loves does one get in a lifetime? I googled that question and came up with hundreds of responses. Some responses said you get six or more in a lifetime, others two, but more than any other response was that you only get one true love in a lifetime. Wow! Don’t know if I agree with that one.

My favorite response was the one that said that you get many true loves in different times and places; there is no basis for believing in only one true love. That’s a response I can live with, especially in light of the fact that I have fallen in love...again! The name of my new love is Israel and it sang to me the lyrics of the Arlen/Koehler song “Let’s Fall in Love” and my heart was certainly made for it.

I’ve had love affairs before: Tuscany and Rome, Paris and New York among others. I’ve loved them all; still do. But Israel is different, it’s new love. You know how it is when love is new — it tingles, it excites, it keeps you lying awake at night and smiling during the day. Israel is different because it is a whole country not just a town or a region and it is filled with exciting sights, sounds and sensations.

When you are in love, you yearn for the sight of your new love. Israel is filled with wonders as far as the eye can see: mountains, deserts, beaches, rural areas and bustling cities. Experience the sunrise coming over Mt. Meron as this majestic mound is outlined in the rising pink and orange colors and the vineyards come to life with the warmth of the new day sun. Galil Mountain Vineyards is located in the Upper Galilee mountain range. Founded eleven years ago, the winery works with 13 different grape varietals and offers reasonably priced wines from about $10 a bottle in an array of choices. One of my favorites is the Galil Mountain Rosé made mainly from Sangiovese and blended with Barbera and Pinot Noir. This rosé was made in the saignée method where the wine is bled off from the red grape skins. The wine is refreshing with red berry flavors and a bright orange-pink color, much like the sunrise.

Gailil Mountains vineyards at sunrise

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