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Adam S. Montefiore
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WINE TALK

THEJERUSALEM POST

In pursuit of a mission and a dream

IN PURSUIT OF A MISSION AND A DREAM

The mission of continuing to make cheese, and the dream of a winery
SEEING RED, DRINKING WHITE

SEEING RED, DRINKING WHITE

Reds still dominant, but whites are coming back
Already over 40 years

ALREADY OVER 40 YEARS

An exclusive excerpt from the writer’s recently published book about the Golan Heights Winery
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THE REVOLUTION OF THE JERUSALEM WINERIES

On Jerusalem Day, it is time to reflect on the progress of the ‘Jerusalem wineries.’
The revolution of the Jerusalem wineries

The phrase ‘the Jerusalem wineries’ used to refer to those traditional wineries, with roots in Jerusalem, who mainly produced liquid religion. That is my description of grape juice and Kiddush wine. When I made Aliyah 34 years ago, there were four such wineries: Arza, Hacormim, Shimshon and Zion wineries. All of them can trace their beginnings back to the winery founded in 1848 by the Shor family in the Old City of Jerusalem. 

The Shor Winery moved to Beit Israel in Western Jerusalem in 1925. In 1955 the two brothers split into two businesses. One of them, Avraham Meir Shor renamed the core winery ‘Zion Winery’ and continued the family tradition of making wine. It remains Israel’s oldest existing winery. The second brother, Moshe Shalom Shor, founded Shimshon Winery, which undertook only to produce only spirits.

The Shimshon Winery was passed onto Moshe Shalom’s daughter, Tzippora Shor and her husband, Yona Mendelson. They returned to making wine. In the meantime, Tzippora’s brothers, Yitzhak and Yechiel Shor founded Arza and Hacormim wineries respectively.  In 1976 the Shimshon Winery moved to Atarot, in the northern outskirts of Jerusalem. By 1982 the other three Jerusalem wineries had moved to Mishor Adumim, just to the east of Jerusalem. 

In response to the quality and success of the Golan Heights Winery, and the boutique winery boom, the large wineries finally responded in the late 1990s/ early 2000s. They invested in new equipment and built new wineries to improve quality. Names representing the past, like Carmel Mizrahi, Efrat and Eliaz were replaced by Carmel Winery, Teperberg and Binyamina as they tried to improve their image. However, the Jerusalem wineries were left behind.

Not any more! In the last 10-15 years, the Jerusalem wineries (except for Hacormim) have gone through their own quality revolution. Today they are making some very fine wines.

SyrahYossi Shor (8th generation of the Zion branch of the family) was the first to notice what was happening elsewhere. He thought the best way to join the ranks of quality wineries was to start afresh and found a new winery. 1848 Winery was duly established in 2006 as a small boutique winery, with the objective of making quality wines. The winemaker is French born Ilan Assouline, who studied in Bordeaux, the viticulturist is the experienced Dr. Pinny Sarig and the Marketing & Export Director is David Gronich (ex-Carmel, Yatir). They are today producing some very high quality wines. My favorites are: Their 5th Generation Cabernet Franc is without doubt one of the finest Cab Francs in Israel. The Orient Red (a blend of Marselan, Argaman & Syrah) is very elegant, subtle and Old World. The 7th Generation Argaman and Petite Sirah, both single vineyard wines, are excellent.

Windmill

In 2006 businessman Ofer Guetta purchased Shimshon Winery, which is now known as Jerusalem Vineyard Winery. They started their own move to quality in 2015 with a new CEO and winemaker. Now the talented Lior Lacser (ex-Carmel) is the CEO & Winemaker, and the experienced Carmit Ehrenreich (ex-Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain) is VP Marketing. My favorite wines: The Premium SLB and Rose are two of the best value wines there are in their category; the strictly allocated Windmill Project Carignan & Carignan are great old vine expressions of our heritage varieties and the Windmill Project Petit Verdot Single Vineyard, is one of the best Petit Verdot varietals in the country. They can claim to be the last winery truly in Jerusalem, and their innovative visitors’ center is based at the Montefiore Windmill in the Mishkenot Sha’ananin – Yemin Moshe neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem. 

Hayotzer danzaArza Winery, headed by Motti Shor, created change by appointing a very experienced winemaker and changing the branding. They created Hayotzer Winery in 2015 and employed some very creative and innovative marketing. Philippe Lichtenstein (ex-Zichron Ya’acov Cellars) is the winemaker. They started to make some very good value wines, particularly in the mass market, supermarket sector. Examples of their wines I particularly recommend are the Lyrica GSM (they were one of the Mediterranean blend pioneers), Virtuoso Shiraz and Legato Chardonnay. Their Virtuoso Gewurztraminer is very popular and the new Danza label is also very drinkable. 

Capital wineZion Winery, Israel’s oldest existing winery, has also gone through a revolution. The equipment and technology of the winery, were totally updated, renewed and revitalized by legendary CEO, Moshe Shor z”l. In 2020 they introduced a new look combined with new quality. Zvika Shor is the winemaker, and the aforementioned David Gronich, is in charge of marketing. Their wines represent great value for money across the range. My favorites are the soft, round Capital Merlot and spicy, fruity Lions Gate (a blend of Petite Sirah, Merlot & Barbera), a flavorful Estate Shiraz and the refreshing Estate Chardonnay and Imperial Sauvignon Blanc. For 175 years the owners, managers and winemakers have always been members of the Shor family, even until today.

Therefore as we celebrate Jerusalem Day, we should newly appreciate the quality revolution that has taken place at these wineries. Without anyone noticing, Arza-Hayotzer, Jerusalem Vineyard Winery and Zion Winery have steadily grown, producing far more table wines than before. Each of them is now comfortably amongst the largest ten wineries in the country. Furthermore, 1848 Winery and Jerusalem Vineyard Winery are producing wines of truly fine quality, whilst Hayotzer and Zion Winery are producing wines with very good QPR. It is a far cry from the Jerusalem wineries of even just twenty years ago.

The writer is a wine industry insider turned wine writer, who has advanced Israeli wines for 35 years. He is referred to as the English voice of Israeli wine. www.adammontefiore.com

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