Golan Heights Winery Yarden Merlot, Galilee 2017

Deep ruby color; cherry, plum, dried herbs, smoke on the nose; charry, plum, blackberry, raspberry, cedar, chocolate, vanilla on the palate.

Golan Heights Winery Yarden Merlot, Galilee 2017

Dry; smooth tannins; some complementing acidity. Subtle, supple, easy drinker. Medium-plus body. Black plum, blackberry, and cedar substantially assert themselves in the mid-palate, joined by hint of bell pepper. Kosher. Oak influence from 18 months in French wood. Straightforward wine with limited depth and complexity, but pleasant presentation 14.5% ABV

The Golan Heights Winery was founded in 1983, two years after Israel extended Israeli law and administration in the territory. Golan Heights Winery includes four brands: Yarden, Golan Heights, Gilgal, and Mount Hermon. Golan Heights is the premier bottling. Yarden refers to the Jordan River (Yarden in Hebrew).

The Golan Heights Winery is Israel’s leading premier winemaker. Wine Enthusiast named it “New World Winery of the Year” in 2012. The “New World” designation is amusing since it is hard to imagine Israel and the Middle East qualifying as “new world”—but in the wine business, New World covers all the wineries not in Europe and adjacent, long-time wine-producing countries. The Golan Heights winery and tasting room get very high marks on TripAdvisor; visitors can have a Jeep ride through the vineyards before enjoying apparently (according to reviewers) great food.

Golan Heights Winery’s 1,500 acres of vineyards stretch from the Sea of Galilee to the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hermon—a region where wine has been made for more than 6,000 years, but only in the past three decades have modern, quality wine efforts been in place. The Golan Heights Winery’s acres are divided into 28 vineyards (96% in Golan Heights) and 430 blocks. Each block is monitored individually, then harvested individually and the fruit kept separate through the winemaking process until final blending. There are 16 vinegrowers who grow 20 grape varieties, 13 red and seven white.

Golan Heights winemaker Victor Schoenfeld

Golan Heights Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld is one of Israel’s most influential winemakers. He graduated from UC Davis in 1988 with a degree in enology. He worked at Robert Mondavi and Preston Vineyards in Sonoma, then Jacquesson & Fils Champagne house before joining Golan Heights. Schoenfeld is strong advocate for new wine-making technology and precise climatic and viticultural analysis. Not surprisingly, the winery embraces sustainable agriculture and environmental responsibility, including solar and wind power, wastewater management, and composting instead of chemical fertilizers.

Golan Heights Winery Yarden Merlot, Galilee 2017 is a mellow merlot with smooth tannins and soft acidity. Good palate of darker fruits, led by plum, blackberry, cedar after the initial dark cherry attack. Round and inoffensive; their cab is more distinctive and tastier, but this will play well with people who are not into assertive reds. Pair with beef dishes; braised short ribs; veal; lamb; pork; roasted mushrooms. Cheese—mozzarella, gruyere, havarti, cheddar, emmentaler, parmesan. $26-30

Yarden wines website

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