The Ramot Naftaly winery is located in what is considered a top terroir of this small Middle-Eastern country, on the edge between the Upper Galilee and the Golan heights, and it is also very close from the Lebanese border, at the same level than the well-known kibbutz Kiryat Shemona (see this map). Right now the area is quiet but the Hizbollah terror group which rules on the other side isn't precisely capitalizing on peaceful coexistence, so there's a lot of monitoring in this direction.
The Kedesh valley has been a wine country since and before the biblical times. This small winery is located in the moshav Ramot Naftali, the same-name agricultural settlement where 3 other small wineries are present, this one being the only one that stands out.
The altitude of the hills around here is 450 meters and the Kedesh valley which runs in the middle is said to be an excellent terroir for red wines. Itzhak Cohen, the founder of the winery, adds that this is here that you find the best Cabernet Sauvignon of the area, including the Golan next to the valley. The earth looks almost red and this Terra Rosa soil with good draining texture makes me think to some terroirs of Provence, like Pierrefeu.
In 2009 he began to make kosher wines (meaning that the wine and the containers are operated by observant jews only). He himself doesn't touch the vats or the casks.
The winery in spite of its 10 000 bottles production is well equipped. We passed the small Bücher pneumatic press, with a capacity of 8 hundred kilograms only. There's a crusher too, pictured above right. But before this stage, he has people watch the incoming grapes on a sorting table and take out the undesirable grapes or clusters.
Speaking of Petit Verdot, most of the wineries grow it with blend in mind, but he tries to make a 100 % Petit Verdot.
Speaking of the Petit Verdot, the early story is that he made some with blend in mind, he had only 4 barrels of it, and he tasted it from the cask from time to time. His wife who tasted along told him that this was a wonderful and that she wanted him to set aside a barrel for her. So did he, and other people were given the opportunity to taste and felt samely that this was worth a separate cuvée. So the following year he made a single-variety cuvée of Petit Verdot.
__ Ramot Naftaly Duet 2008. Kedesh valley like the rest. Blend of Merlot (65 %) and Cabernet (35 %). Nose rather complex with red fruits, cooked red fruits notes. Fresh feel in the mouth with nice spicy aromas. Goes down pretty easily. 14,8 °. There's a difference of 2 weeks between the two varieties. Vinified separately and blended after malo, in the barrels. He got the idea to make this blend from Pelter on the Golan heights.
__ Ramot Naftaly Syrah 2007. Kedesh vallley of course too. More pepper on the nose, nice concentration. 13,4 °. Nice mouth with ink aromas. I feel some guarrigue dust too. br>__ Ramot Naftaly Malbec 2008. Kedesh valley. Intensely fruity nose. Lots of pleasure ahead for this wine I think. Powerful when swallowed, even if only 13 ° on the lable. Malbec has a higher ph than Cabernet Sauvignon, he says, about 3,8 or 3,9. He made a very rough filtering here, as usual, just for the thicker particles. The Cabernet Sauvignon, he says, has lots of sediments.
__ Ramot Naftaly Petit Verdot 2008. Kedesh valley. Good nose, spicy. Very gentle mouth, an easy drink with coffee among the back aromas. Nice wine. 1200 bottles.
__ Ramot Naftaly Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Carafed. 2005 is the best vintage he had with the Cabernet, there was an exceptional balance in the ripening process that year in the Kedesh valley. He got 8 medals in different competitions with this wine. Beautiful. Elegant nose with wet stone aromas. Dirt too. He was right, there's deposits on one side of the bottle, the filtering is really minimal. Bottle # 1378 (there were 3800 bottles in all). In the mouth, well balanced but very powerfull when swallowed. Yields are 800 kg of grapes per Dunam (10 Dunams make 1 hectare). Elevage : 20 months in French oak. The prices for the wines go from 85 Shekels for Duet to 150 Shekels for the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Speaking of SO2, he adds some at the beginning (when the grapes arrive at the winery), and 30 ppm after the malo ferm. Then he makes tests to check the level and he adjusts at the lowest level if needed.
Yitzhak Cohen also works in a union of moshavim, there are about 260 moshavs in his group and his job is to discuss with the government agencies for the rate of utilities like water, or set the price of milk, the level of taxes and so on. The moshav and kibbutz are an important pillar in the agricultural system in Israel and it is interesting to hear about how this work as it is very different in France (even if the French farmers have their unions too). Working as a coordinator in the agriculture field played certainly a role in his decision one day to start this winery, and to prefer keeping it small in size.
50 % of the wine is sold at the winery, with private customers driving here to the moshav, and the rest to restaurants.