Posts Tagged ‘Galil Mountain Winery’

Last Thursday, August 4, 2011, the harvest began at the Golan Heights Winery.  The first varietal to be plucked from the vine?  Pinot Noir.  This is so exciting for me.  I’m going to be going up to the Golan this week for a harvest party, and I may be going a few times, hopefully to the Golan and Galil,  before it’s over.  Here’s a short video taken a couple days ago – the first pressing of the first grapes of 2011:

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Vinexpo entrance

As I’m trying to focus more on wine, I feel obligated to devote a post to my Vinexpo experience.  As I’m tired, working, it’s August, hot as hell, and I’m typing away outside today as there’s no room inside at the cafe I stopped at because I could walk no longer – this is difficult.  But I’m going for it because sooner is better than later (and it’s been – my god – over a month since the event).  Without further ado, I give you…


Overview: Founded in 1981 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the Vinexpo has emerged over the years as the great meeting place for global operators of wines and spirits. The expo takes place every other year in Bordeaux at the fairgrounds. It takes place during one week in June every odd year and welcomes some 50,000 visitors, and hosts 2400 exhibitors from 47 countries. The main exhibitors are French and Italian.   In 2011, one out of three non-French exhibitor was from Asia, and recorded 48,122 visitors from 148 countries, up 3.22% compared to 2009.


The GHW and GMW booth at Vinexpo with Head Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld and Director of Sales and Marketing Arnon Harel.

I was honored with an invitation to come and work at the expo by the Golan Heights Winery.  They have been exhibiting at Vinexpo for at least 20 years, as far as I know, the only winery – at least this year – from Israel.  This year, we also brought wines from our daughter winery, The Galil Mountain Winery.  I speak French fairly fluently (I lived in Paris as a child, grew up in a loosely tri-lingual household, and continued my studies through high school and university – where I focused heavily on French literature), but needless to say, my wine vocabulary was lacking.  I spent the two months before attempting to brush up – listening to French news radio on the internet, and I found some Skype-pals, for lack of a better term, through a free service that pairs up people wanting to improve their foreign language speaking skills through an exchange with native speakers, online.  A fantastic idea.  I also created lists of wine vocabulary, watched wine-making videos on YouTube, and I did some research on wine websites and wine regions in France, simply to read about these topics in French.  It all helped.  I was a bit overzealous in my preparation and overly nervous about my ability to perform, but I think I did well.  The first day I felt I was a bit shaky – but after a glass or two of wine and hours on end of speaking just French, it came very easily.  I was there to pour wine, explain about our wines in detail, and introduce whoever was interested to what Israeli wines really are.  A great fun very professional exhibition.  I met wonderful people, and I learned a lot, too.


The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served)

Golan: Yarden Gamla Brut 2005; Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2010; Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organ Vineyard 2009; Yarden Syrah 2006; Yarden Merlot 2007; Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2007; and Yarden Heights Wine 2009.  We also brought a hodge-podge selection of 2-3 bottles of various other wines to share with journalists, specialists, and international distributors, if the moment arose – from the Golan range, through Gamla, and a few special single vineyards and top limited-edition wines like the Rom and Katzrin.

Galil: Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Viognier 2010; Avivim 2009; Pinot Noir 2009; Meron 2007/2008; Yiron 2007.  There were also some random bottles opened on occasion, if memory serves, perhaps some of the younger reds.


As the only French speaker, I found myself at the stand so much that I didn’t see much of the rest of the expo.  Frankly, that was OK by me.  Victor, the head winemaker, worked extremely hard, too, as well as some of the others, and when you get into a rhythm, adrenaline kicks in, and it’s extremely fun work.  A real team effort.  We had “Wine ID Cards,” as we call them, with all the stats on the company, the numbers, and the geography, complete with map, as we used as a starting point to explain about the location of the vineyards and the specific terroir.   What I found surprising was the people were incredibly open-minded.  I think that a number of them simply came out of curiosity, the novelty of an Israeli winery, but the fact that we’ve been winning very important awards, especially as of late went a long way, too.  People loved our wines.  The most “negative” comment I got was that it was very different than what they make in France.  Perhaps they were being polite.  However, the rave reviews some people offered up, who came back for seconds, who finished their glasses instead of using the spittoons, were not uncommon, and it was energizing.  I was so happy to be there.  Honestly, I was so proud to be there.  And to be spouting off facts, figures, agricultural specifics, aging techniques, standing right next to the winemakers – hopefully getting it all right (I certainly prepped enough) – was something else.   I feel I proved something to myself.  I’ve come very far in just two+ years in the trade.  I’m actually able to teach things, and in some ways also to inspire.  I love these wines, and I love the people I get to work with even more.

And enough drippy drippy sap I’m spouting.  Of the OTHER world wines I got to taste:

  • Lebanese wines: SO different from Israeli wines, and such a small distance away, it’s surprising (almost all of the wines are made in the Beqaa Valley).  I found them sharper somehow.  Very different layering.  A lot of the wine wasn’t amazing, I have to admit, as younger wines always are.  However, among the young wines, there was a lot of creativity – fresh and bright.  The vines in Lebanon are older than ours, at least some of them.  Because Lebanon is not a dominantly Muslim country, there have always been Christians there – I met a lot of people who had vines that were decades and decades old.  A big positive factor in the quality of the grapes.  Of course, there are also a lot of new ventures.  I met French winemakers who were hired by Lebanese and Syrian businessmen who wanted to build up wineries as an investment in recent years.  The wines I tasted that I remembered most were from Chateau Ksara and Château Kefraya.
  • Japanese wine: no, I’m not talking sake.  I’m talking real true blue wine from grapes of the authentic Vitis vinifera.  They don’t yet have a website, the wine is in such limited production, and for the life on me I cannot remember the name.  Crazy.  I will find out, though, as I know some people who know some people and I will update soon.  Perhaps I’ll write a post on it.  What I remember is this:  it was distinctive as hell.  I don’t know whether I loved it or hated it.  Not kidding.  There were two wines, one younger, one more aged – premiere, both white, very fresh and sharp.  What was distinctive first was the smell.  It was like stinky bleu cheese and fresh green melon.  Weird.  I mean so weird, I felt like my facial expression might have insulted the women representing the winery.  They served sushi with it.  The taste was so contrary to the smell, that was the next oddity.  Very floral and green.  They were saying that the specific grape varietal was native to Japan and had been evident in records for over 1,000 years.  How this fruit came to Japan that long ago is a mystery.  On the wings of a bird?  On a rare random trade ship?  Because it is the real deal species.  Not a different fruit.  I will find the name, promise.
  • Chablis: I tasted the whole lineup of wines from the Durup family’s winery.  It’s good solid decent Chablis.  I liked the Chablis 1er cru Vau de Vey very much, although I must say that their Petit Chablis was just as lovely and drinkable.  For people who want a fun summery wine, and aren’t wanting to break the bank, it’s a great choice.
  • Sicilian wines: I tasted a big-commercial-winery’s wine from Sicily two years ago and was blown away.  Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for Sicilian wines in Israel.  This wine was so rich and deeply fragrant, reminiscent of cassis (black current), that I was kind of in heaven.  Cassis reminds me of France and England and childhood and fruits from other-parts-of-the-world, not the standard everyday variety. Needless to say, there aren’t many Sicilian wines available in Israel.  I got a chance to taste many many Sicilian wines at the expo.  In short, there are volcanic regions on the island, and surprisingly enough, non-volcanic regions, too.  The wines are dramatically different.  The dominant local varietals are Nero D’Avola (red) and Inzolia (white).  I was pleasantly surprised by the whites, as I hadn’t tasted them before.  Because of the sort of “transparency” of flavor inherent in white wines (for even the beginner, it’s easier to detect differences between white varietals than red ones, at least in my opinion, and they are easier on the nose, if that makes any sense) – I felt I was tasting something so new yet so ancient.  I don’t have my notes in front of me, unfortunately, but maybe I’ll do a separate post on it, too.
  • Burgundy: Tasted some, people were pretentious, the wines weren’t at the correct temperatures, by a long shot , and I didn’t have a good time.  I moved on quickly.  So I can say I drank a glass of grand cru.  OK.  My notes are elsewhere, and that’s OK by me.
  • Bordeaux: Besides the two stands I stopped at, we drank Bordeaux wines all week at dinner.  There is a reason that these are the kings of world wines.  Even the youngest wines are so distinctive of this region.  The layers and complexity are fascinating and at the end of the day, delicious.  At one of the stands, a young man took me through a very interesting tasting.  I got to taste, albeit two simple wines, ones that were made a few meters from each other, from the same vintage, made in the same method, by the same winemaker.  And the differences were dramatic.  An exceptional lesson on terroir, for sure!

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The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served) at our stand at Vinexpo, June 2011

I have been an international lady as of late. Blogging has suffered. The huge events that have dominated my life since my last post have been:

  • Vinexpo – Bordeaux, France – one of the largest (if not the largest) wine exhibition in the world. Kilometers long. Immense.  Exciting.  And the Golan Heights Winery (and its daughter winery, Galil Mountain), the only Israeli winery represented (and has been for over 20 years), invited me to come with them.  A brilliant week!  I spent my days speaking French with lots of wine professionals and led them through “une degustation,” a tasting, and teaching them about our wines.  I got to know the head winemakers and management well, which was so much fun – it honestly started to feel like a school trip….and the eating and drinking through the city like there was no tomorrow was certainly a perk.
  • Paris – I spent almost a week in Paris after the expo – two/three days of which was with my parents who happened to be in town, unplanned.  I spent time with family friends, too, walked all over the city, relaxed, and ate very very very well.
  • New Job! The winery hired me to manage, train, and recruit all of the wine stewards in Israel.  This is a huge honor, and it’s a job I’m loving.  It’s not easy, but it’s mainly logistics and some training.
  • New love – a beautiful, exciting, and ultimately sad story. I met a man that I’m crazy about. It has been one of the most emotionally satisfying, significant and devastating months of my life.  He is leaving to go abroad for a very long time (years) in two weeks (we will have had about 5 weeks together). I’m not sure how I’m dealing with it all.  With the new job I love and a career I’m trying to forge,  I finally accepted the fact that I’m staying here and putting a stake in this place.

ANYHOW: I will be putting together some incredible photos in the subsequent posts.  Stay posted for gorgeous food.  And I mean gorgeous food…

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It feels like summer camp.

Hot. Humid. Beachy. Kids out of school. Tourists. Lazy slow weather. Smells of fun fried food. And at times like this I don’t know how I got into or why I got into freelance writing/editing/consulting in the first place.  Stuck working all hours.   Seriously loaded with work, and only my feeble old self to discipline myself.  But no.  It gives me the freedom to create my own schedule.  As hurting financially as I am these days, my current method of income allows me to have moments of summer camp.  Seriously.

For instance – I worked my butt of for a couple of clients yesterday – so today, I was able to take off for 12 hours to visit the Galil Mountain Winery, one of the two I represent.  I’m ridiculously excited.  Minibus, rest stops, annoying companions, getting lost in soybean fields…hell, if you squint it could be Jewish sleepover camp in Michigan all over again!  But with alcohol!  Good alcohol!  Should make the trip back to town all the more special.  But seriously, it’s one of the most beautiful wineries in Israel, and 300 meters from the Lebanese border at that.  Just see for yourselves:

What got me on this summer camp metaphor in the first place (not that it seriously doesn’t have that vibe anyway) is a special activity that was conducted at one of my meditation groups last night.  This low-key vaguely Zen-oriented therapeutic session has a member who has experience in Mandala drawing. I don’t know too much about this, but it’s Mandala is a Sanskrit word for circle, and in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, it is a sacred form of drawing.  In the west, some folks have taken these techinques and created a sort of “return to childhood” therapy out of it.  We began with a guided meditation, a really calming yet imaginative journey, which led us to start drawing.  We all had a black sheet of paper on a cardboard backing, and a white or light yellow colored pencil.  The only rule: start drawing from the very center.  It was amazing fun.  And summer camp?  During the guided meditation, the sense of ripe raspberries was so dominant I could taste them – and the memories of camp rushed back – picking those raspberries all day long, getting to eat mountains of them with whipped cream, good friends, tents, campfires, real support, real love, real happiness.  Mandala-making was quite special.  And today I get a day at camp to boot.

A Mandala

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“…good wine is a good familiar creature if it is well used.”

“Give me a bowl of wine. In this I bury all unkindness”
Julius Caesar

“A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine”
Henry IV Part 2

Shakespeare weaves wines wonderfully, doesn’t he?

I’ve had a wine-ful couple of weeks, oh yes, I really have.  The funny thing is, I was so busy, I didn’t even think (or have the energy) to jot down extensive notes.  What you’re going to get here is an enthusiastic summary of some of my adventures, and adventures they always are when you have marathon wine sessions.

IsraWinExpo – an underling’s perspective

Held once every two years, this is undoubtedly the largest and most important wine event held in Israel.  For three days, industry folk, journalists, and important beverage import/export reps from around the world meet Israel’s wineries.  In the evenings, the general public is admitted to this massive dream of a national oenological “fashion show.”

In other words — it’s important, it’s intense, and it’s really fun.

Day 1 – I worked the afternoon-to-night shift at the Galil Mountain Winery “booth,” if you can call it that. Wineries spend a lot of money on their setup design, like a mini movie set or theatre design.  The first day is open to industry only — and I can tell you, it’s a lot more fun to work with this crowd.  No annoying folks with no wine knowledge looking to get drunk (“hey, you got some red wine?”).

We served 11 out of Galil’s 14-wine collection, including the 3 flagship wines – a really wide and generous variety.  The 2006 Yiron, the well-known flagship of flagships, was understandably a favorite.  Every year the winemaker tweaks the percentages – the 2006 is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 5% Syrah – aged 16 months in new French oak barrels.  The newbie of the bunch bunch got rave reviews — the 2006 Meron — 78% Syrah, 11% Cab, 11% Petit Verdot, and also aged 16 months in new French oak.  If people demanded the Yiron, I almost always got them to agree to taste the Meron as well.  I predict that within a year or two it will be as well regarded and popular.

The other Galil wine I’d like to tell you about is the 2009 Rose.  Not many are made in Israel, and of those that are, I think many are semi-dry (at least the ones I’ve fallen upon). Ours is very very dry.  Exceptionally aromatic, flowery, inviting, it’s crisp, fresh, and has a well-balanced acidity.  I’m not a real expert here, but I love that I can identify and enjoy what I sense is a strawberry flavor.   I’m always interested in how wines are made, and granted that making rose is not as clear cut as making a straight white or red wine, a while ago I looked into how this is done.  If memory serves, there are three main rose methods:

  1. The first (and the least legitimate/accepted) is blending a red and white wine together.
  2. When using a red varietal, leaving the skins in for a short while during fermentation (as little as a few hours), then removing them entirely.  You get some rosy color, and then the wine usually continues fermenting/aging in the method of a white wine.
  3. As a byproduct of making a red wine – fermentation of red varietals begins, and a little ways into the process, some of the liquid is drained out, pinkish in color, of course, to be used as rose.  The rest continues normally to create a red wine.

Galil’s Rose is interesting (or maybe not, as I’m not too well-versed in world roses). Made with Sangiovese (the bulk, around two-thirds), Barbera, and Pinot Noir — only the Barbera and Pinot Noir give the wine its color.  The Sangiovese grapes are crushed immediately, separated from the skins, and fermented in the method of a white wine.  The Barbera and Pinot are bled (saignee), and a small bit drained from the bulk of what is destined to become red wine.  The white Sangiovese and the pink Barbera and Pinot are fermented separately.  I’m wondering how common this method is.  Will have to look into it at a later time.  What I do know is that Galil does not put out a Sangiovese.  All they grow must go into the Rose.

The Golan Heights Winery, my other winery, pulled out all the stops.  Such a beautiful display — they mounted dozens of barrels, lay down a granite brick flooring, and hung three antique chandeliers.  I was so busy I didn’t have a lot of time to hang there — but I was smuggled some 2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon and one of my favorites — a 2003 Katzrin Chardonnay.  I do love my oaky buttery barrel aged whites.  The older the better.

Golan Heights Winery booth from behind

Day 2 – I had an even more hectic and more exciting day helping out with private tastings.  The international sales reps and PR folk of Golan Heights Winery and the Galil Moutain Winery (its daughter winery) had round the clock individual meetings with distributors and journalists.  My task was to keep track of more than 20-30 different kinds of wine, make sure they weren’t corked or spoiled, have them at the correct temperatures, and present them in order during the meetings.  This was more than a bit of a roller coaster ride for me.  Highlights/lowlights include:

  • Having less than a half our to chill 5 premium white wines, dessert wines, and our best sparkling wine — including the time it took me to locate ice!
  • Dealing with a couple potentially very very slightly off bottles — had to defer to head vintner to make the decision b/c I was unsure — scary! — but it turned out I was correct, so I don’t feel so bad.
  • Rushing around assisting two different people in simultaneous interviews — one organized and very demanding (12+ wines for a 40 minute session), one very scattered and hence had to try to mind-read.
  • Being flirted with by slightly creepy older American southerners —  heads of beverage companies, mind you — and having to keep a straight and professional and even pleasant demeanor.
  • Getting to taste each and every Galil Yiron from the first vintage to the present.  Getting to taste every wine that I wanted from the dozens I had ready and available, actually.
  • Taking some prominent people through the entire flight during my free time.  Just because.
  • Meeting and speaking with really interesting and accomplished wine writers (!), including Blake Gray, who was really nice and a pleasure to kibbitz with.  We had remembered each other from the day before at the public tastings as we both wear red red glasses.
  • Having 5 bottles stolen from my huge lot of 6+ cases while I was running around — a miracle/disappointment for me that I even noticed, as I had just packed the boxes up at the end of the day, and was hence able to recognize gaps where there were none before.  Felt horrible, but the winery told me it wasn’t my fault, it was a microscopic drop in the bucket, and not to worry about it.  Makes you angry at humanity for a moment, though.
  • Not knowing what to do with the remainder of what I know are exceptionally expensive bottles (for Israel) that were only 15-40% drunk.  I finally told a girl who worked with the sponsoring body — the Israel Export Department (or something) — that there was a whole case of half-drunk bottles, and to please take and distribute to the workers as she wanted.  She thankfully jumped at the opportunity, and hence my heart was happy.

And I think I’ll stop here.  This has turned into a mega-post, and I congratulate all of you who have kept up with me.  I hope you were able to attend the Expo, and for those who didn’t, keep your calendar open for 2012.  It’s such a fun time.  I’d love to hear about your impressions, too, so drop a line.

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