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Posts Tagged ‘Golan Heights’

LOOT! The extreme smörgåsbord brought to me by my father on his current visit. An odd variety of smoked salmon, gourmet pancake & scone mixes, and a "limited edition" Christmas pudding from Harrod's, made with vintage Port and contained in a velvet box - it cost more than many of my monthly bills

Today, the last day of 2011, is a Saturday.  What a year.  I’ve not blogged in a while, as has been the recent trend, not that I’ve not been collecting material.  So, it’s a great time to share a review of recent, and not so recent events, as some of them are quite awesome.  As for the year to come?  Well… that’s for another post, but I suspect I’ll be reading more classic literature, traveling more, and studying for a wine certification…I hope.  Enjoy the photos!

March - June: Alkalai Wine Bar, I lived in Bourgogne-wine-land every day

WINE: I transformed my career, somehow, with luck, with some concrete planning, with hard work. I went from an online marketing/editing/PR drifter and hopeless fiction writer, who worked part-time doing wine tastings, to a wine bar sommelier and cook, to an invitee representing the winery in a French exhibition, to a full-fledged winery employee.  I’m proud of myself for going for something I wanted and succeeding.  You never know what was entirely based on chance, but I know that whatever had happened, I would be working full-time in wine at this moment, whether at the winery or a restaurant or a hotel.  I learned how to leave a job I hated, work hard, ask for help (which was not easy), and ask for what I wanted (which may have been even harder).  I love my new job.

Christmas Day: Katzrin, Israel. Visit to the winery. I'm pouring our Yarden Heights Wine 2009, a Gewurtztraminer ice-wine-style dessert wine. Yummy.

Christmas: Yonatan vineyard, Golan Heights. Organic Cabernet Sauv.

TRAVEL: Hmm… where did I go…  Bordeaux, Paris, Giverny (in Normandie), Chicago, Kauai… I changed planes in Amsterdam, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles – though those aren’t supposed to count… and that’s it.  Fantastic adventures…but not as far and wide a selection of places as in years past.  I was very privileged in these, however.  They really were incredible trips.  Wine, food, laughter, hard work, hard play, art, beautiful weather – always – and especially the interesting people that I traveled with and met along the way. (on an interesting side note – after having been featured on an American Travel Channel television show, I was recognized all over the world, by random people, some of who plotzed and took photos with me and my sister).

June: the legendary Shakespeare & Co bookshop, Paris. Incredible book reading, and I met and spoke with author Nathan Englander, who graciously signed my book, in Hebrew and English. Extraordinary last day in Paris

April & June, Tel Aviv & Bordeaux: OYSTERS! Huitres!

FOOD: I cooked less this year, but ate just as heartily.  Perhaps too heartily.  The most typical New Year’s resolution may be in order for me this year.  From scrummy wine bar fare like prosciutto & Parmesan, fatty French cheese platters, and freshly steamed Thai dumplings; to oysters, foie gras, chestnut creme crepes,  Armagnac ice cream, crisp lemon squid, a simple Chateaubriand steak I’ll remember for a long time, more hearty soups than I can remember, and much much more.

March: squashing tomatoes with my bare hands for shakshuka at the wine bar

KAYAKING: an odd adventure sport I picked up and stuck with.  I suppose I needed some more exotic expensive exercise-induced adrenaline in my life.  Begun as a crazy lark in Hawaii (the Na Pali coast is rated the #2 adventure to take part in by National Geographic), I was thrilled and proud I survived the craziness, I decided to roll with the momentum and immediately join a kayak club in Tel Aviv.  It’s been interesting, and terribly challenging.  It has added another dimension to this ever-changing life.  It has also added  painful dark bruises to my legs and arms every week, and taken a large chunk out of my paycheck for water-tight clothing.  Oh well.  Life.  Better to go for it than to sit on the sidelines.

August: Kauai, Hawaii - kayaking the Na Pali coast

December: Rosh HaNikra, Israel - border of Lebanon - inside the deep caves

December: my kayak club with the Israeli navy

AND let’s end the year with some videos!  Going along with the title of this post, Tom Lehrer wrote some excellent songs that still ring true today.  In honor of all of the revolutions this year, in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya. In remembering all of the precarious situations that remain, Iran, North Korea, the Euro-zone crisis, the upcoming American elections, the environment going to hell, flu, honeybees dying out, and Israel practically becoming a misogynist theocracy, and of course the future of my physical, mental, and especially social fitness.  Let us hope, but more importantly, let us work hard for a better year and a safer, happier world.  And here’s some laughs and satire for us all.

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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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Come one, come all!  From tonight, Saturday May 21 to Saturday May 28, the Golan Heights Winery is presenting their incredible yearly wine extravaganza at the port of Tel Aviv.   There will be 6 separate themed bars, and each cost only around 30 shekels to sample all four (or more) wines featured there.

All of the information online about the fest is in Hebrew.  However, it’s going to be fantastic.  The winemakers themselves are going to be there.  We’re opening top-end wines that are not yet on the market.  There are free workshops every night.  Blind tastings.  The works.

Day 1 was incredible! I got to open a Yarden Rom. That's right. Rom.

Basically, be there or be square.  You can come for 20 minutes, you can come for 4 hours.  It’s simple.  As it’s free to get in (it’s at the namal, after all), you can pick and choose exactly which of the 6 experiences you’d like to have.  Starts at about 7 pm every night (except Shabbat, when it’s after Shabbat ends, around 8 pm).

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Look out, folks, there’s a new beer in town!

That’s right – BAZELET – by the Golan Brewery.  They make some killer, fresh, handmade, creative, high-end brews.  The four varieties are a Pilsner (a light, bitter lager with a honey finish), a Wheat beer (oh so blond, floral, bready-banana – 2nd fermentation happens in the bottle), an Amber Ale (an Irish-German variety, creative blend of 5 different malts – one of the favorites among the group, and again, a 2nd fermentation with added yeast in the bottle), and finally a Double Bock (dark lager, rich, creamy, sweet, made with twice the amount of malt, giving this darling beer an 8.5% alcohol content).  Bazelet refers to the basalt soil and rock in the Golan Heights, the resulting water coming through is thus of a high caliber.

All I can say is TRY IT.  It rivals the Belgian, German, and Czech imports.  It’s available at a lot of the fine wine stores these days, and it’s getting there in terms of top restaurants.  It’s just so fresh and the demand is high…you know the story.

I had a chance to go to a private tasting and meet the brewmeister.  It’s a bit dim, but here’s a look at all 4 beers:

From left: Pilsner, Wheat, Amber Ale, Double Bock

On a related note, I had a chance to let loose this past week at the Dancing Camel, a small micro-brewery in the center of industrial Tel Aviv.  They make a fascinating array of beers, and I was given the full spread (of what they had at the moment on tap – there are a bunch of specials they sometimes make).

From the bottom: Gordon Beach (mint and rosemary infused wheat beer), Wheat Beer, Pale Ale, Amber Ale, and a Cherry Vanilla Stout

Yes, that’s the nutty bartender’s head I tried to cut off.  It’s a fun night out, a quiet bar inside a big hanger, and of course, lots of beer to taste.  They also have a kosher sandwich menu, and you can actually order this:

It's called the "Penis" and comes with a side of mayonnaise.

Finally, there’s a big beer expo this week, Wednesday and Thursday, at the Nokia Stadium (where Maccabi Tel Aviv play – on Yigal Alon, I believe).  If you like beer, this is the place to be!

I’m still plugging away at grad school applications, but I’m breathing, somehow.  Have a great week everyone!

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On January 1, 2010, after less than 4 (and in some cases less than 3 or 2) hours of sleep, my father, mother, sister, her best friend, and I hopped in a rented compact car at 7 am and proceeded to drive from Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights Winery…in the Golan Heights.

This is our story.

(cue Gilligan’s Island theme song)

A few bitchy fights, cramped snoozing, radio station surfing (we never did find one the entire drive), and a generally cranky 2.5 foggy hours later, we reached the region of our final destination — a full hour and a half early.

After I took the blame (and the beating) from everyone for depriving them of an extra hour’s sleep, we had a nice breakfast at a roadside cafe in the old town of Rosh Pina – a picturesque place (so I’m told – it really was super-foggy) just next to the historic, kabbalistically-famous city of Tzfat (aka Safed).  It was really far north.  We really did make amazing time.

At a bit after ten we proceeded to drive the remaining twenty minutes from Rosh Pina (just about directly north of the Sea of Galilee – what we call the Kineret –  a place that generally marks a border between the Galil region and the Golan region) to Katzrin, the tiny town (the largest town in the region) that is the home of the Golan Heights Winery.

Collectively owned by 4 kibbutzim (collective farms) and 4 moshavim (cooperative farms), the Golan Heights Winery began the Israeli wine revolution in 1983. Quite frankly, they make the best wine in Israel, consistently winning international awards and accolades.  They introduced many of the modern grape varieties to Israel, and produce more than 30 labels under three series (Yarden, Gamla, and Golan).

Aside: I work for them leading wine tastings, albeit on a very part-time basis. I love working for them.  I am more than a bit biased. But being a wine lover first and foremost, every trip I take to Katzrin to visit GHW is an exceptional treat.  You’re treated like family — and this is a state-of-the-art facility.

The main visitors’ center is closed for renovation the next 6 months, so a makeshift (if you can even call it that) center was rigged in the main administration building.  Despite Fridays being quite popular visitation days, it was quite empty there.  I’m used to seeing throngs of tourists, both domestic and otherwise.  Perhaps it was the winter, or the fact that many were probably nursing hangovers in their warm beds (which is where we half-halfheartedly wished to be).  Because of this fact, we had an almost private tour (with one quiet young couple tagging along).

After a brief history of wine, winemaking in the region, and the Golan Heights Winery itself, the tour guide (lovely woman named Ela) took us to the “wine cellar” — really the largest barrel storage building in the country, housing more than 7,000 gorgeous French oak vessels.

The tour ended with a wine tasting.  Perhaps because the visitors’ center was closed, or perhaps because there were so few people – we were shown to the private tasting room besides the vaults (or maybe a better word for it is ‘archive’) of wines that are kept just for the winemakers (and I expect, VIPs).  It was really fun, and the wines we were given really showed off the vast range they produce – starting with a very young Chardonnay (Golan 2008) – leading to a very hefty Syrah (Yarden 2005) – ending with such a treat, the Heightswine (Yarden 2007; play on words – made in the same fashion as Ice Wine).

My parents being my lovely parents bought me another bottle of the Single Vineyard Yarden Syrah (2004 – Ortal Vineyard) – my absolute favorite – at the gift shop, and we stocked up on a few other gems (Dad’s taking home another Syrah Ortal, a Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard El-Rom 2004, and a Noble Semillion Botrytis, amongst other things).

The Hodes family being the Hodes family, the ride home was just as memorable, one squabble inevitably leading to another more colorful and more complex than the one before.  We stopped at an artists’ village, took a quick (15 minute) hike in a nature preserve to see a local waterfall, and then hit the road, unfortunately choosing the scenic route, back to city-dom.  We took a wrong turn twice, my father progressively became more and more ill (stuffed up sinuses from lack of sleep), and we took a very, very long detour in order to visit a Druze village (Dalyiat El-Carmel) to drink a quick coffee and stock up on hummus, tahini, salads, and pita — because the very wise Hodes clan had extended an invitation for dinner at our place to the rest of the family for that very evening — and there was no way we had the time, nor were we in the condition to cook.

We returned to Tel Aviv ten hours to the minute after we left.  The adventure wouldn’t end for several hours more.  And it would take the rest of the weekend to recover. A three hour tour, indeed.  Talk about almost 7 hours in a car for a 1 hour tour. That takes passion.  Or madness.  Or both.

I say, well worth the visit to Israel’s greatest winery.

Great businessweek article on the revolution in Israeli wine production

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