Gvaot Winery – one of the rising stars in Israel’s Shomron Wine Region

Gvaot Winery, Gabriel geller, and Shivi DroriSo, after taking a slight break from writing about my trip to Israel, and concentrating on all the wine events that occurred here in the states, it is time to return to where I left off. The last time we spoke, I was blogging about my last trip to the Shomron and Judean Hills wine regions. Week two was clearly a more Judean Hills focused week than a Shomron focus, but it gave me a chance to introduce you to the wine region.

Talk about Israel wine regions and most will start off with the Galilee/Golan wine regions, which started the entire wine revolution in Israel. The wine region became famous in 1972, during a visit to Israel, Professor Cornelius Ough of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the U.C. Davis suggested that the soil and climate of the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in the Six-Day War) would prove ideal for raising grapes. They planted vines in 1976 and released wine in 1983, all kosher from the start.

However, since than more and more wineries have been sourcing their grapes from the Judean Hills, an idea that was started by Flam Winery, Tzuba Winery, and the Doamine du Castel Winery. Since then the wine region has been heating up and going crazy – with wineries from all over Israel buying land and planting vineyards – to the tune of many millions of dollars! The funny thing is that, if you read my last article on the Shomron wine region, you would realize that the best Merlot wines come from the Shomron wine region, especially the sub-wine region; Har Bracha! Anyone desiring an Israeli Merlot – please do look for one from the Shomron/Har Bracha sub region. Note that there are wineries that sell Shomron wines even though they are not situated in the Shomron wine region, like the Teperberg Winery, Carmel Winery, and Tishbi Winery.

The Shomron wine region may be very good for certain varietals, but when you talk about wineries, there really are only a few that pop to mind; Psagot Winery, the Shiloh Winery, and the Gvaot Winery. The Tanya Winery has also released some nice wines, though recently the wines have not been up to Yoram’s standard, in my opinion. Gat Shomron has released a couple of nice wines, like the crazy good Ice wine and the Shomron Merlot reserve.

Dr. Shivi Drori next to a wine press near his winery and homeThe Gvaot winery was in 2005 by Dr. Shivi Drori and Amnon Weiss. Shivi, the winemaker of the dynamic duo, received his PhD in molecular biology, specializing in plant biology, in 2010, but has been making wine for himself and his family since 2001. The winery is a long trek up the hill, and what a drive it is. The entire drive up, you are surrounded by vineyard after vineyard. Each one more beautiful than the next. Some are Gvaot vines and some are other wineries that are in the area. The drive up culminates at the top of the hill where the winery is situated and also where you can find a beautiful old wine press! The drive up to the winery included myself, Gabriel Geller (of the Wine Mill), and my nephew. As always Geller is in the back trying to navigate, while my nephew is doing the real work, coaxing the waze app to do what we need, while I am trying to keep drivers from either riding into us, over us, or just killing us! The trio is as comic as it gets and really should be made into a movie, especially if we could add in either Elchonon or his crazy relative – who drives cars faster than they should be while de-boning a duck!

The vineyards and the winery itself are at elevations of 700 to 900 meters and the views are to die for. They overlook the rugged terrain of the Shomron that are softened by the hues and colors of the ever growing number of vineyards that dot the terrain. The winery is growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The winery takes in 30 tons from their vineyards, 15 tons from his brother-in-law’s vineyards and 3 tons from Har Bracha! They used to take in Cabernet Franc and once made a KILLER Cabernet Franc in 2007, but Shivi was very clear that Cabernet Franc was far too tricky and finicky a grape to excel here in Israel, and that unless it is a great year for it, he will concentrate his efforts on other grapes, which seems to be working out just fine for him!

The winery is now producing some 30,000 bottles and sells them under three labels. The Herodion label, the Gofna label, and the flagship label – Masada. Under the Herodian label, Gvaot sells Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and a lovely Bordeaux blend called Vineyard Dance. Under the Gofna label they sell the Chardonnay/Cabernet blend, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

The winery itself, lies perched on the top of the long rive up the hill, at some 800 meters above sea level, in Givat Harel, which lies above the cliffs of the Shiloh Stream. When we arrived Shivi was standing outside and took us to see the lovely wine press and after that we were taken to taste through the wines inside the winery. We did not get the chance to taste the 2010 Gvaot Cabernet Sauvignon, Herodion – but please do what I did, get a bottle or two and enjoy it over Passover!

The tasting in the winery was lovely as Shivi put up with me and my tendency to be cold all the time, and raised the heat in the room. It was winter, but still, many thanks for that and for showing us all his fantastic wines! The wine notes follow below. There were a few barrel tastings – please do not expect these anytime soon, and they may well be blended or poured into something else – shivi is becoming quite the mad microbiologist! also, I added in the two Pinot Noir (2010 and 2011) that I have tasted in the past, and again recently, though we did not taste any there, for completeness:

2012 Gvaot Gewurztraminer, Gofna – Score: A-
This wine explodes with classic petrol notes, jasmine, violet, litchi, pear, and green/yellow apple. The mouth is dry with a medium body, along with ripe notes of lemon curd, kiwi, grapefruit, cut grass, slate, mineral, nice green notes, but so well balanced with great bracing acid, and lovely attention getting complexity. The finish is long and mineraly, with nice sweet notes, tart lemon notes, and lovely floral notes and fig lingers long.

2012 Gvaot Rose, Gofna – Score: B++
This is a truly unique rose, made of Merlot grapes that rested on their skins for 8 hours, and was not produced using the saignee process. The wine’s bubble gum color is quite shocking and the nose is filled with candied raspberry, strawberry jam, gunmetal mineral, and nice herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows nice balance with good but not bracing acidity, along with dark cherry, bitter herb, and orange zest. The finish is long and zesty with solid minerality, hints of floral notes, and zesty ripe red fruit that lingers long.

2011 Gvaot Chardonnay/Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B++
This is a wine that does not grab me as maybe it should, but it has a very cult like following, though I am not one of them. The wine is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, giving the wine its more pink/salmon color than a pure yellow or gold colored Chardonnay, though the extra grape does not detract from the Chardonnay as much as it adds discontent to the blend. The nose is filled with rich butterscotch, caramel, caramelized banana topped with roasted almonds, and Asian pear. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with fruit, tart lemon, melon, guava, tart and crazy kiwi, grapefruit, more butter and oak, and lovely creme brulee. The finish is long and spicy with good fruit, cloves, and nice mineral.

2010 Gvaot Merlot, Herodian – Score: A- (Very close to A- to A)
This is one of those wines that perfectly prove out what Merlot can be in Israel, and yes, it comes from the Shomron region. This is not one of those howitzer Merlot, with overripe fruit, enough body to crush your soul, followed by a sledgehammer to make sure the deed has been done. Rather this is one of those wines that rich, layered, elegant, beautiful, and down right sexy. This is a super model of a wine compared to a blonde haired bimbo. The wine is a blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Petite Verdot.

The nose starts off with lovely green notes, ripe black plum, black cherry, followed by tons of mineral, anise, loamy tilled earth, a beautiful clean nose with a hint of lemon grass – so elegant. The mouth is lovely and medium to full body in weight, filled with concentrated fruit, that hits you in layers, each one showing more of its structure and elegance after the other, made of blackberry, dried currants, cassis, all balanced well with just a hint of date, candied fruit, and crazy mouth coating tannin that seems to never end. The finish is long and controlled with lovely mineral, ripe green notes, crazy mounds of chocolate, smoky tobacco notes, sweet tannin, sweet cedar, ripe raspberry jam and leather that lingers long and richly – Bravo!!

2010 Gvaot Vineyard Dance, Herodian – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This is a wine I have tasted three times now, once at the winery with Shivi and the gang, once at Shai house, and again finishing that bottle for dinner. The wine changes throughout and is a true joy – a classic Bordeaux blend that Israel is having much success with. The wine is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Verdot, and 25% Merlot. The wine starts off with rich and elegant nose of coffee, toast, green notes, ripe fruit, blackberry, and raspberry. The mouth is rich and layered with concentrated fruit, butterscotch, black plum, candied cherry, lovely mouth coating tannin, along with more candied fruit and sweet cedar to bring it all together. The finish is long and sweet with date, lovely mineral, green notes, mounds of spice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, nice chocolate, and vanilla.

However, with more air the wine starts to show off Israel’s 2010 hidden weapon – blue fruit. All the time that I spent in Israel, on my last trip, one of the clear characteristics of the 2010 fruit was blueberry! No not on Carignan or Syrah – but even on Merlot and Cabernet! It came out in full force here when I smelled it last week after the bottle was open for sometime. The nose is filled with boysenberry, blueberry, blackberry, mineral, and rich spice. The mouth is layered and rich with blueberry, chocolate, black plum, rich and concentrated, with nice spice, tons of mouth coating tannin, and pure unadulterated joy. The finish is long and rich with sweet plum, candied cherry, licorice, espresso coffee and more spice. This is a really fun wine and one worth hunting down.

2009 Gvaot Vineyard Dance, Herodian – Score: A- to A
This is a wine that proves to me that 2009 could still be a great year for Israeli wines, all they need is a winemaker with a steady and not aggressive hand. The wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 10% Petite Verdot. This is a filthy and luscious wine that is equally elegant as it is assaulting – quite a feat and one that it does with aplomb. The nose on this wine is crazy elegant, filled with ripe green fruit, massive bell pepper notes, lovely ripe raspberry jam, rich graphite, black cherry, and an effuse perfumed aroma that grabs your attention and makes it hard to move on to the wine! The mouth is lovely and rich with a medium to full body that is assaulting yet controlled with layers of concentrated fruit, starting with blackberry jam, ripe black plum, cherry, currant, followed by more layers of fruit, sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that linger and rises on the finish. The finish is long and green with crazy mocha chocolate, vanilla, mounds of black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, with lingering sour cherry, tart and candied fruit, with hints of tobacco, all on a long finish – BRAVO!!!

2010 Gvaot Cabernet Sauvignon, Gofna – Score: A- to A
This wine may well be the best wine I have ever tasted from Gvaot winery, it is richer, more elegant, layered, and explosive, complex, and confounding – yet you enjoy every second of it! The wine is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petite Verdot, all from the Shomron region and aged in oak for 16 months. The wine is a perfume paradise of lovely red and black colored fruit, followed by mint, eucalyptus, crazy black cherry, blackberry, and ripe intoxicating cassis. The mouth on this insanely rich and full bodied wine is one of those wines that you do not forget quickly, layered, rich, complex, and yet elegant with concentrated fruit, lovely extraction, and fruit that goes forever, with black plum, ripe tart raspberry, all lovingly integrated with sweet cedar and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy with crazy sweet tobacco, butterscotch, chocolate, and hints of vanilla on the long and lingering finish. This wine shows such control, grace, and elegance with more than enough body to grab your attention, BRAVO!!!

2009 Gvaot Cabernet Sauvignon, Gofna – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This may be a bigger and more explosive wine than the 2010, but it is not as elegant with more obvious fruit, more expressive and ripeness, yet a lovely wine indeed! The wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Petite Verdot, all from the Shomron region and aged in oak for 16 months. The nose starts off with lovely notes of blueberry, rich blackberry, screaming eucalyptus, and candied fruit, and date. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered with concentrated fruit, hints of date, along with blackcurrant, insane spice that captivates the mouth, with rich mouth coating tannin, sweet cedar, and more ripe fruit from the nose, along with another hint of blueberry. The finish is long and spicy, well balanced with good fruit, acid, and tannin, more insane spice, cinnamon, massive cloves, sweet herb, chocolate, vanilla, blackcurrant liqueur, and candied fruit that all linger long – BRAVO!!

2010 Gvaot Masada – Score: A- (and bit more)
This wine is a wine that Shivi took to the edge and barely missed falling off, but the light rock slide that occurred from that is still evident in the wine. The wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 15% Petite Verdot. The wine’s nose is crazy rich with mineral, ripe blackcurrant, perfumed with date, candied fruit, and ripe green fruit. The mouth is crazy ripe but mostly controlled with good elegance, along with a hint of blueberry, mineral, blackberry, black cherry, candied and ripe raspberry, more hints of date, sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy with bittersweet chocolate, graphite, crazy mouth coating tannin, red/black fruit that goes forever, vanilla, along with hints of bitterness, and green notes. This is quite a lovely wine!

2012 Gvaot Malbec – Barrel Sample
Yes you read that correctly, in 2012 Gvaot Winery made a Malbec that is LOVELY! Rich and roasted animal, followed by blueberry, black and red fruit, and lovely mineral and floral notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is crazy and opulent with rich, ripe, and concentrated blue fruit, blackberry, ripe cassis, raspberry, and more black fruit! The finish is long and filled with mineral and blue fruit. This is a fun wine and one worth watching as it progresses.

2012 Gvaot Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Sample
The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and may well be destined for one of their blends or their single varietals, with a bit of other fruit blended in. However, given the way it tastes now, why mess with it! The wine had 50% of its fruit dry on the vine making for candied and ripe fruit flavors. The nose starts off with hints of roasted mushroom, red and black fruit, and perfume of more ripe fruit. The mouth is ripe and layered, but also so full that it feels like the wine is almost oily in nature, the crazy tannin structure adds the weight along with the ripe and dried fruit, gives the wine a sense of massiveness, the tannins dry your mouth with big black fruit, searing tannin, insane body and good balance of fruit to acid. The finish is long and spicy with the finish going forever with more tannin, black fruit, vanilla, and chocolate.

2010 Gvaot Pinot Noir, Gofna – Score: A- to A
The wine continues to impress like the last time we enjoyed it – but with air the heavy fruit expressions give way to deeper more ethereal wine notes which make me smile. The nose calms and gives way to cherry, but more importantly it shows expressions of lightly tilled earth, dusty notes, toasty notes, and lovely fresh brewed espresso, all tied together in an ethereal manner with wisps of fruit and oak expression in the air. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely with tons of coffee, really nice integrated tannin, sweet raspberry, mushroom notes, dirt, with black cherry, black plum, cedar,and lovely balancing acid to bring it all together. The finish is long with more dirt and red fruit lingering long on the palate with fig and mineral.

2011 Gvaot Pinot Noir, Gofna – Score: A-
This wine starts off one way and ends up another way – clearly this wine is in deep sleep mode and should be bought ASAP and laid to rest for 6 months. The wine starts off with crazy cherry, ripe raspberry, rich mineral, toffee, and coffee. The mouth is nice and round with tart fruit, with a good balance of toast to fruit, great acid, red fruit and cedar – clearly closed. The finish is long and spicy with tart fruit, fig, great control, with sweet cedar, tobacco, vanilla lingering.

Over time the wine opens a bit more but shows more of the dirty mouthed 2010 than the fruity yet closed 2011. The nose is filled with dirt, dusty floor, mushroom, raspberry, and toast. The mouth is rich yet still not expressive with a great body, showing ripe cherry, ripe and tart red fruit, good toast and more mushroom. The finish is long and herbaceous, with nice dirt, mineral, clear watermelon, green apple, tart raspberry, and more ripe/tart red fruit lingering.

Posted on March 15, 2013, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

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