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The Story of the Golan Heights Winery

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golan heights winery

In 1983 the world of kosher wine and the wine industry in Israel underwent a monumental change. That was the year Golan Heights Winery opened its’ doors in the ancient city of Katzrin.

From its’ initial days, the Winery and its’ staff led by chief wine maker, Victor Schoenfeld, have focused their mission to be Israel's premium winery, creating wines that would rival the best of California, Italy and France.

All good wine starts from the base of 3 things: The Terroir, The Climate and the Wine Maker.

  • The Terroir - the Golan Heights' terroir is Volcanic Basalt, rich in minerals and porous enough for the vines to penetrate and absorb the needed nutrients.
  • The Climate - The height differentials from the lowest Vineyard to the highest range over 800 meters.  This allows for differing temperature, rain fall and mineral run-off and makes the Golan Heights approximately equal in quality of Terroir and Climate to the entire country of France.
  • The Wine Makers - The winery employs 5 wine makers, 3 of whom are women.  They are led by the chief wine maker, Victor Schoenfeld. Victor is a native of Napa Valley and is thought of by many to be amongst the top wine makers in the World.

Victor and his team work with more than 18 varieties of grapes.  Everything from well known varieties like, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to some lesser known types like Nebiolo and Touriga National.

These all grow in 26+ different vineyards on the Golan and Upper Galil and produce wines with 6 different labels, including: Hermon, Golan, Gamla, Gamla Reserve (NEW LINE), Yarden and Yarden Single Vineyard.  These wines are exported to over 30 Countries around the world.

Producing 20% of all of Israel’s Wine, the Winery is responsible for 40% of all the Country’s Wine Export.

Now, 30 years after opening, the Golan heights team, has certainly done what it set out to do in terms of volume and in spreading the word that kosher wine doesn't mean sweet kiddush wine.  Right from the start, when the first wines actually hit the shelves, they were winning gold medals in competitions all over the world. It was then that the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon won the gold medal and the trophy for the best Cabernet Sauvignon world wide!

Since that time, the Yarden wines have won more than 53 medals and trophies in competitions in Italy, France, London and the US.

And that doesn’t count the two latest attributes of GRAND VINITALY BEST WINE PRODUCER in the Vinitaly Competition for the 2011, and BEST NEW WORLD WINERY 2012 from Wine Enthusiast in the US.

What does Victor Schoenfeld say about all this?

“We’re just getting started!”

The Wines:

The Yarden Series, reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and 2T, would be best served with full flavored foods such as peppered grilled steak, roasted lamb or smoked goose breast.  The Pinot Noir is a more subtle wine best with a grilled salmon or mushroom risotto. Prices range between $30 and $39.

The Yarden Series, whites: Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc are also full bodied and very flavorful, and will best be suited with a variety of poultry or fish, while the Gewürztraminer is best served as an aperitif. Prices are in the $25 range.

The Gamla Series, reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir are more medium bodied wines that are best served with veal, duck or pasta. The Syrah and the Sangiovese do have a more spicy finish and can also go with more full flavored foods. Price ranges between $25 and $30.

The Gamla Series, whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling best go with lighter foods such as cheese dishes, poached salmon and halibut. Price ranges from $18 -$24

Note: All of these wines, plus the single Vineyard Series are best drunk at least an hour after opening. I have actually enjoyed some of them most, the next day.

My suggestion – Get a bottle, sit down for a nice evening out on your patio and enjoy!

To book Winery Tours in Israel or to order any of these wines (or any others) direct from Israel, Please email:

L’Chaim from Israel