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The Jerusalem Wine Festival:
Meet the Wineries

As Jerusalem’s social event of the season draws closer, we thought it’s time that you get to know some of the wineries that will be filling your glasses at this year’s Jerusalem Wine Festival in the Israel Museum’s Art Garden.

In the weeks leading up to the 2015 Jerusalem Wine Festival, we’ll be sitting down with representatives and winemakers from several of the wineries taking part this year. Check out our latest installment:

Yaffo Winery

Founded in Jaffa in 1998, Yaffo Winery is one of Israel’s premiere boutique wineries, with its wines winning more than 10 awards in Israel and around the world.

Yaffo’s story, however, began back in 1970’s Strassburg, France when Moshe and Anne Celnicker first met. Anne’s family introduced Moshe to the land and nature of Alsace region. He quickly fell in love with the rich local wine culture and eventually began making his own wine, which he would do for 7 years in Strassburg before moving his family to Israel.

Moshe initially set up his winery in Jaffa, but eventually moved it first to Ramat Hahayal (northern Tel Aviv) and then to the Elah Valley region, southwest of Jerusalem.

In 2007, Moshe handed over the reigns to his son Stephan (pictured), who had completed his studies in agriculture at the Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot and winemaking internships in Bonn (in the Burgundy region of France) and Saint-Émilion (in the Bordeaux region).

Stephan was kind enough to answer a few question for us ahead of the Jerusalem Wine Festival.

What is your guiding principle when it comes to making wine?

Yaffo Winery combines tradition with [modern techniques and styles] to produce a unique wine in that relates to the region and the winery itself, focusing on the local grapes grown in vineyards owned by the winery and others in the area.

Have you participated in the Jerusalem Wine Festival before? What’s your favorite thing aspect of it?

This will be our fourth time (if not more) at Jerusalem wine festival.

We love the direct contact with our customers, and the festival provides a great opportunity to meet a big part of the audience that really appreciates wine and supports the wines made in Israel — something that gives us a great deal of satisfaction.

What are some our your wines people will be able to taste this year? Which is your favorite?

This year the festival audience will be able to taste two new wines we’ve recently introduced: Red Sauvage 2013 and the Sauvage Carignan 2014, two fruity wines that are simply hard to stop drinking.

What are some new developments that people can look forward to from you?

Yaffo combines tradition and innovation, France and Israel, young and old, father and son. This approach has helped us create a range of classic, elegant wines with the body of the great Israeli wines — wines of contrasts.

We plan to continue producing wines that best express the flavors of the fruit, with a variety of light and pleasant wines on one end of the spectrum to rich, heavy wines on the other end that are suitable for every occasion.

What are some fascinating Israeli wine trends at the moment?  What do you see on the horizon for the Israeli wine industry?

I really like that Israeli wine-lovers are now connecting with and appreciating the clean, no-barrel white and rose wines. Israeli weather is warm most of the year, and this is a natural environment for drinking these types of wines. I believe — and this is reflected in our wines — that both white and rose wines should highlight the fruit flavors and possess a good, appropriate acidity.


Bat Shlomo Vineyards

Bat Shlomo Vineyards’ Director of Sales and Marketing Jodi Marder is another pioneer of the Israeli wine start-up scene. She joined the winery in 2011, shortly after its founding, when chance meeting with Bat Shlomo founders Elie Wurtman and Ari Erle motivated her to turn her passion for fine wines into an exciting new career.

Never too busy to talk about the wine and winery she loves, Jodi was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about Bat Shlomo and what we can expect from them at this year’s Jerusalem Wine Festival.

Tell us a bit about the winery. How did you get started? What’s your biggest accomplishment so far?

Bat Shlomo Vineyards,  located on the southern slopes of Mount Carmel, was actually first “discovered”  in 1889 by the Baron Edmund de Rothschild and named for Rothschild’s mother  Betty Solomon, the daughter of Solomon or Shlomo, the namesake of our tiny village. This village was established to afford these visionaries and pioneers a place to live and  to reawaken the winemaking industry  in Israel after 2000 years. After a few decades the living conditions became too unbearable, and this vision was put on hold for another  120 years.

Then in 2010 serial entrepreneur and Zionist  Elie Wurtman,  partnering with Napa Valley winemaker, Ari Erle  founded and re-established the Bat Shlomo Vineyards. Over 40 dunams of vines were planted and the revitalization of the land began.  As a result Bat Shlomo produces today four  different wines available direct from the winery to our Club members and Vineyard friends in Israel and throughout the world. Our wines can also be found in the finest restaurants, hotels and a few select upscale wine shops in Israel.

Keeping up the Baron’s tradition of involvement with the community and strengthening Jewish connections to the Land of Israel, Bat Shlomo Vineyards  teamed up  with the Regavim High School  & Agricultural work study program . We provide these students to work in and care for the vineyards, and at the same time instill a highly developed work ethic and a sense of responsibility that will serve these young adults throughout their lives.

Have you participated in the Jerusalem Wine Festival before? What’s your favorite aspect of it? What are you excited about this year?

This will be the first time we are participating in the Jerusalem wine festival.

We are very excited about the upcoming Jerusalem Wine Festival and look forward to greeting familiar faces as well as meeting new people from all over  who share the same passion for wine as we do.

What are some our your wines people will be able to taste this year? Which is your favorite?

We will be offering tastings of our  Sauvignon Blanc . This is our flagship wine. We will also have on hand a  Bordeaux style red blend, Betty’s Cuvee 2012, our award winning Chardonnay 2013 and our delicious Rose’ 2014.

No favorites when it comes to my “girls.” I enjoy each wine  and  like to pair them  with delicious meals , as well as friends and the occasion.  I do love a chilled glass of our crisp Sauvignon Blanc  and/or  refreshing Rose in the hot summer.  Bat Shlomo’s Chardonnay is probably the best I have tasted in Israel.   Betty’s Cuvee, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon , Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is extremely friendly  and full bodied with a long finish.

What’s it like to being a small wine start-up in Israel?  What are some new developments that people can look forward to from you?

Being a part of Bat Shlomo Vineyards and witnessing  first hand  it’s  growth and development  into a highly respected and sought after winery is very exciting. Every day brings new challenges as well as new experiences. I know we have an excellent winemaker, Ari , who produces an excellent product in a very competitive market. And if the consumer is pleased then we are doing something right.

Ari  bought  with him from Napa Valley to Israel all the newest and most innovative methods of winemaking. Together with our highly innovative Vintner,  Elie,  they  have combined all the most updated techniques in the industry with the traditional  process of winemaking. One of the most innovative developments of Ari’s winemaking is our  concrete egg-shaped vessel to produce our Sauvignon Blanc. The concrete egg  gives greater insulation , circulation and because it “breathes” the wine is full flavored and has barrel-like characteristics without the oaky tastes and aromas.  In addition we  chose to use glass stoppers on our  Sauvignon Blanc and Rose’ wines. No chance of corking, it’s easy to open and looks good.

What are some fascinating Israeli wine trends at the moment?  What do you see on the horizon for the Israeli wine industry?

The Israeli wine industry is unique for many reasons  and is constantly evolving and maturing. Many of Israel’s winemakers trained in different parts of world before settling in Israel bringing with them a diverse pool of techniques and knowledge to this craft. A small country but with different soils and climates combined with the newest agricultural and  technology in the world to produce high quality grapes with durable skins giving the strong flavors and taste we enjoy in Israeli wine.

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Montefiore Wines (Kerem Montefiore)

Rachel Montefiore is the vice president of marketing and one of the founding partners of Montefiore Wines, a small wine-startup based in Tel Aviv. Her CV includes stints as a marketer for Israel’s Bravdo Winery and as a sommelier in numerous top restaurants. She’s also a graduate of the Ramat Gan “Wine Academy” and has been published in Wine & Gourmet Magazine.

Rachel was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the young winery based in Tel Aviv.

Tell us a little bit about your winery. How’d you get started? What’s your biggest accomplishment so far?

Kerem Montefiore is a small boutique winery that proudly produces Israeli-Mediterranean style wines. We think that it is the way forward in such a hot climate and have exported to 15 countries overseas while also selling to the top hotels and  restaurants  in Israel.

We established the winery to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Mishkenot Sha’ananim by Sir Moses Montefiore. This was the first neighborhood built outside the Old City Walls of Jerusalem and it was to become the cornerstone of modern Jerusalem. When the land was originally purchased [by Montefiore] in 1855, it was known as ‘Kerem Moshe Montefiore  v’ Yehudit’ – Moses and Judith Montefiore’s Vineyard.

Have you participated in the Jerusalem Wine Festival before? What’s your favorite part? What are you most excited for this year?

This is our second time taking part in the festival.  My favorite part is the lovely people and the cool Judean hills climate. We’re particularly excited to show off our new vintages  and introduce the Montefiore wines to more people.

What are some of your wines people will be able to taste this year? Which is your favorite?

We will be giving out samples of our Montefiore Red 2014 , Montefiore Cab 2014 and Montefiore Syrah2011. (i have attached our tasting notes for you to look at).

As a parents would find it hard to choose a favorite child, it is hard for me to choose a favorite wine. I have a  favorite wine for every mood and occasion.

I would drink our light and refreshing Montefiore Red, our entry level wine, on a hot summers eve or at an afternoon party, but for a sit down meal I would go for the more complex Montefiore Syrah or the Cab.

And for a very special occasion, I would open the “Kerem Koshe,” our flagship wine that is rich and full of velvety elegance.

What’s it like being a small wine start-up in Israel? What are some new developments that people can look forward to from you?

We feel as any other winery dose, start-up or otherwise. It is always a challenge and a thrill striving forward and succeeding as an Israeli winery. The possibilities excite me because there are so many when it comes to wine, it is an ever changing and revolving industry.

Our goal is to continue to make Israeli-Mediterranean styled wines that are high quality and good value, so you can expect us to continue in the same line of fresh sassy Mediterranean wines, that are refreshing and suit any occasion.

What are some fascinating Israeli wine trends at the moment? What do you see on the horizon for the Israeli wine industry?

Wineries are going back to using grape variety’s more suitable for our terroir and hot hot climate.  We as an industry are slowly developing into a region that makes not french or Italian style wines but Mediterranean, spicy and exciting wines.

Photos: Montefiore Wines, Bat Shlomo Vineyards and Barak Aharon