Golan Heights Winery, with Yarden
Part 3 of a series on the wines of Israel

Website: www.golanwines.co.il/en

The next visit was to the Golan Heights winery. This is one of Israel’s most famous and important wineries, formed in 1983 by the combining of four kibbutzim (collective communities) and four moshavim (cooperative communities), who remain the current shareholders in the winery. The first vineyards had been planted in 1978, and the first wine released was the 1983 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc in 1984. This was Israel’s first real top-quality winery of recent times.  

Victor Schoenfeld (left), with two of his winemakers

I visited with Victor Schoenfeld, the chief winemaker. He’s a Californian expat who has been at Golan Heights since 1992, and he’s an impressive individual - very scientific and analytical. Golan Heights have 28 different vineyards, totally 600 hectares, which have been split into 400 blocks. Each of these blocks is followed closely, with a number of terroir-related parameters monitored through the season.  They are then harvested separately and kept separate through the winemaking process. It’s an impressive science-based approach.

The Golan Heights’ vineyards range in altitude from 400-1200 meters, with a range of soil types, so Victor and his team have a range of terroirs to play with. Grape varieties have been carefully matched with vineyard.

This visit focused on the Yarden wines, which is Golan Heights’ top label. They also make other brands: Gamla, Mount Hermon and Sion. Altogether, the winery processes some 6000 tons each vintage.


Yarden Blanc de Blancs 2007 Golan Heights, Israel
This spends 5 years on the lees and has 5 g/litre dosage. Fine, fresh, toasty nose with some honey and bright pear fruit. Crisp, toasty palate is lively and focused with some pithiness and bitter lemon notes. 88/100

Yarden Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Golan Heights, Israel
Fruity and direct with some pear and citrus fruit. Nice fruit presence. Very fresh and rounded with some complexity. 87/100

Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard 2012 Golan Heights, Israel
Farmed organically since 1998. Rich honeyed, toasty nose is broad with some apricot and peach. Broad, nutty, honeyed palate. Nice spicy finish. Combines richness with freshness very well. 91/100

Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard 2011 Golan Heights, Israel
Rich, sppicy, toasty nose with pear and fig notes. The palate is dense and fresh with nuts, spice, toast and herbs. Nice density. 91/100

Yarden Malbec 2010 Golan Heights, Israel
Very nice, open, bright berry fruits. Sweet, supple, open fruit with lovely purity and definition. 91/100

Yarden Merlot 2009 Golan Heights, Israel
Smooth and warm with ripe cherry fruit and notes of herbs and tobacco, as well as gravel and orange peel. Distinctive palate shows citrus peel and herbs as well as sweet berry fruit. 90/100

Yarden Syrah 2009 Golan Heights, Israel
Some brooding, meaty, ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Some freshness, but also nice liqueur-like richness. Supple and smooth. 89/100 

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Golan Heights, Israel
Sweet, brooding, herbal blackfruits nose with some spiciness under the sweet fruit, as well as notes of tobacco and herbs. The palate is smooth and ripe with nice density, good texture and a smooth but grainy structure. Sweet but well defined with some Port-like notes. Very satisfying. 93/100

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Golan Heights, Israel
Sweet and supple with blackcurrant and berry fruit. Rich, ripe and textured with smoothness on the finish. Ripe and satisfying. 91/100

Yarden El Rom Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Golan Heights, Israel
Supple, sweet and gravelly with chalky texture under the blackcurrant fruit. Some savoury notes. A bit mineral with nice texture. Not too sweet and obvious. 92/100

Yarden Rom 2007 Golan Heights, Israel
This is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, put together with Zelma Long. Sweet, warm, ripe brooding nose with a hint of soy richness. Smooth palate with some sweet, fresh black cherry fruit and smooth-grained tannins. Lush and ripe, but appealing. 92/100

Yarden Katzin 2008 Golan Heights, Israel
A blend of Cabernet and Merlot. Spicy, tarry blackcurrant fruit nose. Sweet, supple and nicely structured with rounded texture and some gravelly, minerally notes. A stylish effort: fine textured with some savouriness. 93/100

Yarden T2 2009 Golan Heights, Israel
The second release of this. Very sweet and viscous with blackberry jam and blackcurrant fruit. Sweet and very lush with a bit of spicy bite on the finish. Sweet and seductive. 90/100

Yarden Heights White 2011 Golan Heights, Israel
This is a Gewurztraminer that has been made in an ice wine style, frozen in the winery. Very sweet and honeyed with a hint of tea and some barley sugar notes. There's some lychee here, as well as fresh acidity. Viscous, rounded and a bit spicy. 90/100

Shvo vineyard, Upper Galilee, Israel
Dalton Winery, Upper Galilee, Israel
Golan Heights Winery/Yarden, Golan Heights, Israel

Wines tasted 05/13  
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