Israel’s Golan Heights Winery: Review of Current Releases

yarden-logoThe Golan Heights Winery is one of Israel’s leading wineries.   Established in 1983, its first wines were released to critical acclaim within Israel and abroad.  Today it produces 450,000 cases annually and exports its wine to more than 25 countries.   It sources its grapes from 17 vineyards  in the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee and produces its wines  at a state-of-the-art facility located in Katrzrin.

Over the years, the Golan Heights Winery has contributed to a revolution in quality in Israeli wines which we wrote about in Issue #32: The New Wines of Israel, published in July-August 2012.  In placing greater emphasis on the vineyard and introducing New World winemaking technology with un-compromising standards of excellence, it helped raise the overall quality of Israeli wines to international levels.

SF_schoenfeld_225From the 1990s to the present, winemaking at the Golan Heights Winery has been directed by Victor Schoenfeld, a native of California and graduate of  UC Davis.   Working with a team of five winemakers, Victor has introduced important innovations, most notably micro-vinification  techniques  that add precision to the winemaking process.  Victor has also recruited top international  consultants like Zelma Long who helped develop Yarden’s Rom,  a superb proprietary red blend that is only available in Israel.

Yarden is the winery’s flagship series and is the best known of its wines internationally.   The wines reviewed here are the whites from the 2013-2014 vintages  and reds mainly from 2010-2011.  Stylistically, the wines exhibit very good levels of ripeness and density of flavor.  They also reveal excellent varietal character, balance and acidity and show judicious use of oak, placing the priority on fruit and acidity.  Most of the reds are made for aging at least a decade, although it would be hard to wait that long to drink these wines. Importer:  Yarden, Inc., New York, NY

White Wines and Rosé Sparkler

 Golan Heights Winery 2014 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc Galilee ($20) 91+  This Sauvignon Blanc offers crisp and dry melon and citrus-like fruit on the nose and palate with a hint of herbs. Steel fermented and aged in oak for two months, it has excellent density of flavor, good balance and a long finish. The Yarden Sauvignon Blanc is without a doubt, one of the very finest Sauvignon Blancs made in Israel. Drink now-2017 Golan Heights Winery 2013 Yarden Chardonnay Galilee ($20) 90+  The Chardonnay is a delicious bottling offering pure fruit with hints of light oak on the nose. On the palate it is beautifully focused with good acidity and balance and overall elegance. Barrel fermented and aged in oak (50% new) for 7 months, it goes through partial ML, which gives it a lovely mouth feel and understated butter and oak notes. Drink now-2018.   Golan Heights Winery 2014 Yarden Gewurztraminer Galilee ($20) 88  This Gewurztraminer offers spicy apple and pear aromas that are mirrored on the palate. It has good structure and acidity, although not a lot Gewurztraminer typicity and richness. It is rather dry and lightly astringent on the finish. Drink now-2017. Golan Heights Winery 2014 Mt. Hermon Moscato Galilee ($14) 88  The Mt. Hermon Moscato is a pretty wine, fruit forward and aromatic, and is slightly sweet on the mid-palate and finish. Not a lot of complexity here, but tasty and enjoyable as an aperitif.    Golan Heights Winery 2009 Yarden Rosé (Sparkling Wine) Galilee ($34) 89  The Yarden Rosé sparkling wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. Crafted following the methode champenoise, It has a rich mousse and a crisp attack of apple and pear-like fruit. It is rich on the palate with good acidity and has a steely finish. Fermented in bottle and aged five years on the lees. Drink now-2017.

Red Wines

Golan Heights Winery 2010 Yarden Pinot Noir Galilee ($28) 88+ This Pinot Noir displays a medium ruby color and aromas of ripe red berries and plum with hints of toast and earth. On the palate it reveals good density of dark cherry fruit, high acidity, a silky texture and a long spicy finish. Aged 16 months in French oak barriques, 70% new.   Golan Heights Winery 2011 Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee ($15) 89+ The Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon is a tasty and easy drinking wine made for early drinking. It is fresh and crisp on the attack with delicious red fruit flavors on the palate. It is beautifully balanced with soft round tannins and a persistent spicy finish. Aged 12 months in French oak. Great value!  Golan Heights Winery 2011 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee ($33) 91+  Dark ruby in color, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon offers pure black currant fruit with hints of licorice, lead pencil and herbs. It is beautifully balanced with good density of flavor on the palate, toasted oak leather nuances, soft round tannins, and a firm finish. Aged 18 months in French oak, 40% new. Drink now-2021. Golan Heights Winery 2014 Mount Hermon Red Galilee ($14) 89 The Mount Hermon Red is a fruit forward Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot made for early drinking. It is medium ruby in color and offers aromas and flavors of spicy red plum and black fruit. It is an easy drinking bistro wine that should provide a lot of pleasure.  Golan Heights Winery 2010 Yarden Merlot Gallilee ($29) 90  The 2010 Merlot displays a dark ruby color and offers pure and spicy ripe plum fruit on the nose. It is soft and lush on the attack with a silky texture, good density of dark red fruit flavor, soft round tannins and a long finish. Aged 14 months in French oak, 40% new. Drink now-2020.   Golan Heights Winery 2011 Yarden 2T Galilee ($33) 92  The 2T , a delicious blend of two Portuguese varieties, is among the finest wines in this line up. An opaque ruby blend of 54% Touriga Nacional and 46% Tinta Cao, it offers rich dark fruit and nuances of spice, earth and leather. Aged 18 months in barrel, it is soft and lush on the palate, with excellent balance, round tannins and a persistent finish. Drink now-2021.   Golan Heights Winery 2011 Yarden Syrah Galilee ($28) 89+  The 2011 Yarden Syrah displays a dark ruby color and aromas of black fruit and earth. Aged 18 months in French oak, it is a delicious wine with pure ripe flavor, notes of chocolate and espresso coffee, a soft texture, ripe round tannins, and an elegant finish.

Israel has a fast growing and dynamic wine industry that is gaining recognition in international markets for producing high quality wines.   Although it is a tiny country, Israel has a remarkable number of outstanding wineries and highly talented winemakers.    In Issue #32:  The New Wines of Israel, the International Wine Review examined the new Israeli wine industry, identifying the country’s top producer and their wines

May 2015

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