You may have noticed that Israel is getting some nice press lately for its wines. And I’m not just talking “nice for kosher” around holidays. Sommeliers, wine writers and retailers are getting on the bandwagon, and consumers are starting to take notice.
I recently sat down to lunch with importer Haim Hassin of SolStars Inc. and tasted through a range of wines from Clos de Gat winery. Judging from these wines, Israel’s wine offerings are definitely worth exploring.
Israel has some 10,000 acres of land under vine, and according to Hassin, of the 200 or so wineries, approximately 75% are non-kosher, boutique wineries. (That being said, I think that all the wines I tasted from Clos de Gat are kosher.)
Clos de Gat (“gat” is Hebrew for wine press) is located in the foothills of the Judean mountains, just outside Jerusalem, and winemaker Eyal Rotem produces approximately 50,000 bottles annually. There are three tiers: Sycra (Aramaic for “red”) is the top of the line, Clos de Gat is in the middle, and Har’el is the entry level. All the vineyards are dry-farmed, and only natural yeasts are used in the fermentation process — the theory being to allow the limestone-rich soil and local terroir show through the wine.
Clos de Gat 2005 Chardonnay Judean Hills ($50). Ripe pear and fig flavors dominate, with welcome touches of mineral and citrus zest on the full finish. Ready to drink now. Locate this wine online or in your area.
Clos de Gat 2003 Judean Hills ($50). A red blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon (63%), Merlot (30%) and Petit Verdot, this offers some aged character to the dried cherry, dusty chocolate and smoky oak that lingers on the full finish. Ready to drink now. Locate this wine online or in your area.
Clos de Gat 2005 Syrah Judean Hills Har’el ($35). Meaty, aromatic black currant is accented with black pepper, with a tight, focused finish. Ready to drink now. Locate this wine online or in your area.
Clos de Gat 2003 Merlot Judean Hills Sycra ($65). Very appealing, with Bordeaux-like lead pencil accents to the blackberry and plum fruit, finishing with smoke and spices that linger on the finish. Nice structure. Ready to drink now and over the next two or three years. Locate this wine online or in your area.
Clos de Gat 2004 Syrah Judean Hills Sycra ($65). Silky and lush, with licorice and smoky dark chocolate notes lacing the blackberry and cassis flavors that linger nicely on the complex finish. Ready to drink now and over the next three or four years. Locate this wine online or in your area.