Here is another valuable winery which is located on the Golan Heights plateau. The first quality winery which emerged in Israel in the mid 1980s' was the now-famed Golan Heights winery, and the UC-Davis trained people at that time had understood the potential of this high-altitude volcanic region. Chateau Golan is located in the south part of the Golan heights, at mid distance between lake Kineret on the west (lake Tiberias) and the Syrian border or the Jordanian border as well at the east. You find this moshav under its former name Eli Al on this Golan map). Don't be put off by the fancy baroque architecture, the green-lawn landscaping and the faux-antique columns of the cellar : the wines stand out. The winemaker and now co-owner Uri Hetz (pic on right) is the man behind the wines. He was trained at Oregon State University for a degree in fermentation science before spending time at Phelps in California and Tzora in Israel. Don't be surprised if helicopters come and go while you visit the winery, Uri Hetz is also a former Air Force helicopter pilot and it seems that many of his former work mates also like wine...
As we were still in the vatroom, we heard a chopper approaching and landing on the lawn on the side, it was carrying guests, some of them Russian if I'm right, who were to have lunch on a lone table in the vatroom. The Golan is not that far from Tel Aviv (this is a small country), this is about a two hours drive maybe, but it is probably very short and fun to hop down there by helicopter...
This cellar is 8 years old and in the future they'll build another floor above its central part so people will be able to see the cellar from the set of windows that you can see in the far (they're now blackened for obvious reasons).
__ Chateau Golan Geshem rosé 2010. Blend of 90 % Grenache plus Syrah and Barbera, they got the Barbera as a trade from a good friend who grows it in the Galilee, it makes 5 % of the blend here. Very aromatic. The labels reads 13,5 in alcohol. This wine is very mineral with a lovely saline mouth feel. 3000 bottles of it in all. Costs about 100 Shekels a bottle in shops (20 € or 29 USD). Asked about the acid addings which are done routinely around the world when acidity levels are too low in the wines, Uri Hetz says that he hardly does some. He shows the bottles we're tasting and says that these wines got no acidity correction, there's only the Cabernet which may have some correction, but very little. The basic question here is what type of wine you want to make at the end, of course, choosing wisely the picking start is importanty, but he doesn't think that he harvests that earlier compared to other growers (a bit earlier though, he concedes).
__ Chateau Golan Sauvignon Blanc 2009. One of the last bottles of this vintage, they're switching to 2010 now. As said above, comes from further north on the Golan plateau, from a vineyard planted at a higher altitude than around here. Also a small production, similar to the rosé (3000 btls), they use to begin to sell in summer and it doesn't last long. Nice Sauvignon with also a saline feel in the mouth. More acidity here, the vineyard is at a higher altitude, there's the variety of course, and the fact that it's a direct-press wine with whole clusters. They use a big Diemme pneumatic press. The fermentation takes place partly in stainless-steel, partly in barrels, both being blended after a few months, depending of the vintage (can happen after 8 months only). No racking or moving of the wine, except the débourbage from the gross lees at the beginning. This Sauvignon costs 120 Shekels.
__ Chateau Golan Syrah 2008. Got also maybe a bit of Mourvèdre and Carignan, he says. Beautiful nose of red and black ripe fruits. Very good balance for the 14 ° of alcohol. 6000 bottles in all. 3rd largest cuvée here, they started making Syrah in 2001, so it's already an old story. The 2008 vintage is more massive compared to 2007 which was more delicate. The differences are actually sometimes important between the vintages even though there is no hailstorms like in Burgundy. There has been a very light filtration he says, after I told him that I thought there hadn't been any, he adds that after a few years you find some sediments in these wines. Of course he says, the whites and the rosé are filtered on a tighter way because the wine hasn't been through its malolactic fermentation and it could veer off course. Costs 150 Shekels (30 € or 44 USD).
__ Chateau Golan Merlot 2008. They make 5000 bottles a year of it on average. Nose with cooked fruits but nothing heavy. This wine is food, very enjoyable to drink, fruity wine. Looks also unfiltered, although it may habe been some sort of light filtration. They have more vineyard surface than they need, in Merlot, and they sell the rest of the grapes, not only Merlot by the way but also a lot of Cabernet, to other, large wineries like Dalton and Barkan. But the vineyard parcels that they keep for themselves and the ones they sell the grapes of are different, they don't wait the last moment to decide which they keep and which they sell. The total surface of the vineyards is maybe 15 hectares, 9 hectares of which they really exploit for their own wines. This wine makes 14,5 ° in alcohol. If you want to make a 12,5 ° wine under this climate, it would taste like lettuce, Uri says. It depends also of the variety, some varieties can be picked unripe and not end up with a lettuce flavor, but they'll still be very thin in flavor. What about pure Carignan, asks Zeev. Uri Hetz says that they had some a few years then got rid of it. It's still interesting to try, he says, but he hasn't tasted an interesting result with this variety around here, plus there were problems with Oïdium and so on, so they gave up on it. Asked about Malber and Zinfandel, he says they're not among the varieties he plans to try here. We digress on Pinot Noir (but I didn't catch if he would try it here) which he appreciated in Oregon, in places like the Broadley winery, which isn't well known bu makes good Pinot.
__ Chateau Golan Eliad 2008 Royal Reserve (pic above right). 10 000 bottles. A bit of Petit Verdot & Syrah in here too, but more than 85 % of Cabernet. Nose is spicy with dry eucalyptus leaves and the likes. Incense notes too. Very elegant wine. Costs 192 Shekels (price list for all the wines)