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‘Wine Has No Secrets’ — A Conversation with Jerusalem Wineries’ Sam Soroka

Wine Doesn’t Keep Secrets

The Jerusalem Wineries is the only purveyor whose annual vintages are sold around Israel as well as in international markets like the United States, France and the UK. And as the launch of their new downtown Jerusalem wine bar at Prima Park Hotel shows, the winery is still on the rise.

We caught up with Jerusalem Wineries winemaker Sam Soroka in the vineyards to get the story behind the winery’s long and continuing history of success as well as what the future holds.

Photo: Annie Selby Studio

Photo: Annie Selby Studio

When he took up his position at Jerusalem Wineries in 2015, Soroka had a clear vision for where he wanted to take the winery. Rather than clinging to the old ways of the wine industry, he wanted to move forward with an open mind toward change and improvement.

There’s a tendency for the general public to get fixated on one type of wine. For many years in during the initial wine boom in Israel, for instance, heavy Cabernet Sauvignons were seemingly all anybody was interested in. However, as the winemaking and drinking scene in Israel has aged and grown, the philosophies and tastes have also evolved. The past few years people, Soroka included, have begun to favor lighter-bodied, more fruity wines because they compliment the Mediterranean climate.

With Jerusalem Wineries new Jubilee Series Soroka tries to strike a balance and offer something for everybody with wines from across the spectrum while keeping the focus on what he believes should be the star of every wine — the grapes.

With a wide variety of high-quality grapes sourced from vineyards all over the country combined with a new technique featuring the use of oak wood chips, Soroka has been able to offer Jerusalem Wineries clientele a whole new world of complex flavors.

“The maturation process, typically in wooden barrels, is where we really determine the flavor of the wine,” he explains. “Wines that mature for shorter periods tend to be lighter and fruitier, and the longer they mature the more they develop heavy bodies, higher alcohol content and deeper, more complex flavors derived from a combination of the grapes and whatever type of wood the barrel is made of and other factors.

“By using wood chips, we’re able to more precisely impart the flavor of the oak onto the wine with shorter maturation times, which allows us to enhance the fruit flavors and even completely change the taste in ways we never have before.”

Which wines are Soroka excited for this year?

“The Columbard Emerald Riesling is extra special, I think, made from a mixture of grapes from Zikhron Ya’akov and Mazkeret Batya and the dry, bright and elegant Geviertzerminer,” he says.

צילום: אלכס ימפולסקי
Photo: Alex Yampolsky

Beyond Flavor and Body

Soroka is a man who’s dedicated his life to wine. Drinking, studying, making, selling — he’s done it all and all over the world, from Canada and the United States to France and Australia. Over the years, he’s forgotten more than most of us will ever know about wine, but there is one piece of knowledge he picked up along the way that drives his endeavors more than anything:

While winemaking tends to have an air of mystery among everybody from the casual drinker to even some of the most passionate connoisseurs, actually “wine has no secrets,” he says. An exceptional winemaker does not possess any secret knowledge. Every aspect of wine is attainable to somebody who has a thirst for knowledge and the drive to seek it out through experience and study.

It’s that belief that motivates Soroka to continue his wine education, gleaning new inspirations for and understanding of his craft from every angle life provides, whether its from the many animals he’s adopted, wines he tastes, winemakers he meets, places he visits and, of course, the city he calls home, Jerusalem.

Despite his expertise in the art of winemaking, Soroka cannot shake one consistent reality across the wine-drinking spectrum: when people talk about wine, it’s almost always in relation to an event or experience. “I’ll save this for my son’s bar mitzvah,” or “I’ll open this on my wedding day,” are common refrains from people upon buying or receiving a special vintage. Why is this?

“I definitely believe that a opening a great bottle of wine can brighten an otherwise drab day, but as we, as winemakers, would like to thinks so, there is no such thing as a life-changing wine,” he says. “That said, what I believe we can do is create wines that enhance and are worthy of pairing with actual life-changing experiences.

“And this is what motivates me as a winemaker to go that extra mile and give an extra bit of myself to create something special that people can get excited about that will one day be opened in honor of a special milestone, like a bar mitzvah, wedding, graduation or jubilee anniversary in the case of our new series — and god-willing live up to the expectations and make the experience that much more enjoyable and memorable.”

“Yes, quality is paramount, and as winemakers, we like to believe we some sort of godlike power to make the perfect wine, but we can’t ignore that there are factors beyond our control,” Soroka says. the drinker’s mood and environment has a significant, if hard-to-measure, influence on taste for the individual,” Soroka says. “We are all looking for a special experience that transports us from the doldrums of every day life to a moment and place of excitement and novelty. And as a winemaker, it’s my job to provide that, to give go that extra mile and give an extra bit of myself to create an unforgettable wine experience.”

To learn more about Jerusalem Wineries, call 072-3281991 to schedule a visit and get information on special wine packages.

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