Yatir Winery in the Negev

Yatir Winery

Yatir Winery

The Yatir Winery is literally an oasis in the middle of a desert.   The winery, started in 2001 is south of Jerusalem, but to get there you either go east or west and then south and then west or east.  We drove there by going west and driving south on the 90 south from Jerusalem.  The road is flat and long.  We pass Ein Geidi and Masada, and then comes the glorious dead sea.  As we pass the countless hotels that wind around the sea and edge close to the road, we come to the 31 that takes us east past Arad and to the Yatir winery.  The 31 climbs high and you can sea the dead sea as a large jewel in the middle of a barren land.  Then the road dramatically plunges down into the valley below and levels out.  The desert that surrounds the winery makes the beautiful Ramat Arad vineyard (at 500m) that is adjacent to the winery stand out that much more.

The winery was started in 2000 as a joint venture between the grape growers of the region and Carmel Winery.  The grapes that make up the wines we tasted are grown in the Yatir Forest, situated 10 minutes from the winery, in the Southern Judean Hills (at 900m).  The Ramat Arad vineyard, wraps the winery, which is situated at the base of the famous Tel Arad archeological site, is owned by Carmel and tended to by the Yatir Winery.  The Ramat Arad grapes are used by Carmel for their line single vineyard wines (Cabernet, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc).

When we came we were met by Eti Edri – and we were told the story of the winery and its wine maker Eran Goldwasser.  Having spoken with many winemakers and others in the wine business in Israel – they all think that Eran is one of the best young winemakers in Israel.

The first vintage was 2001 and the wine has been improving year after year.  The winery has been receiving a ton of accolades recently including the big news of Robert Parker giving a 93 to the flagship wine Yatir Forest.  The wine we tasted (notes below) – the 2003 Yatir Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz blend, was given a 90.

We asked Eti some questions about the wine production.  Fermentation is done at a cool 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) for reds and a cold 53 degrees (Fahrenheit) for whites.  The cool temperature for red wines – help extract flavor, color, and tannins from the must that the red wines ferment in.  The cold temperature for the whites help extract fruit and less body that would get in the way of a clean and crisp white wine.  They rack the reds 3 to 4 times a year.

Having read all about the winery before visiting it we tried to better understand what was they key feature that has led to its success.  We asked Eti what was special about the winery.  To our surprise the first thing she said was humility.  That is not an answer we get often to that question – actually it may well be the first time anyone ever gave us that response.  Eti went on to explain that Eran is passionate about the whole wine process from the vineyards to the bottling and storage.  But throughout it all, he and all that work at Yatir are humble.  Eran is a person Eti describes, that concentrates on small details, which she believes results in fewer issues.  90% of his work is not in the winery – but with building and keeping a close relationship with the farmers and winery workers.

We wanted to thank Eti and the folks at the Yatir Winery for the wonderful time we had at the winery.

2003 Yatir Cabernet (56%)/Merlot(33%)/Shiraz(11%) blend (12 months in oak) – Score: A
The nose starts with a mix of tobacco and floral notes and follows, with time, with a merlot nose, fig in the middle and ends with dark fruit.  The color of the wine is a dark and brooding red with a touch of black.  This full bodied wine starts big and is followed by integrated tannins with notes of licorice and sour cherries at the end.  As it opens more – chocolate flavors come to the mouth and mix nicely with a very long and satisfying finish, laden with tobacco and cassis.

2004 Yatir Cabernet(40%)/Merlot(40%)/Shiraz(20%) blend (12 months in oak) – Score: A-
The color of the wine is a vibrant Bordeaux color.  The nose of the wine is filled with red fruit and spice.  This complex and full bodied wine is tight yet approachable.  The red fruit shows itself nicely on mouth – cherry and berries along with a hint of vegetation. It has lightly integrated tannins and a very long finish.  The wine seems to linger on the palate long after it has been consumed.

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Posted on January 18, 2008, in Food and drink, Kosher Red Wine, Wine, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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