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Family-Owned, Boutique Israeli Wineries Offer Flavorful Shavuot Wines

Teaneck—The unique stories behind wines and wineries often aide in creating an understanding of the winemaker; and, of course, foods and wines generally taste better when they are somewhat contextualized and understood. Some wines recommended for this Shavuot by Leo Gross of FillerUp Wines in Teaneck are best explained by the stories they carry. Gross spoke of four Israeli winemakers who are making special wines of particularly high quality, which would make excellent accompaniments to the dairy and lighter fare often served on Shavuot.

Lueria, a vineyard in the Upper Galilee, makes the only existing Israeli Pinot Grigio. “This is 100 percent single varietal Pinot Grigio made in Israel. This is a very interesting wine,” Gross said. Located in the Meron mountains, the vineyard was opened in 2006 by Yossef Sayada, scion to a farming family from Tunisia. His intimate familiarity of the soil helped him select the highest-quality grapes for each plot of the vineyard, which is unique in that it reflects a rare combination of layers of basalt, terra rossa and chalk in one terrain. Sayada’s son Gidi took up wines studies after his discharge from the IDF, and he now monitors all the harvest and advanced aging procedures for the winery, while the terrain continues to be known throughout Israel as creating impressive vineyard selections and extraordinarily high grape quality.

“This Pinot Grigio is not typical; it has a lot of complexity to it,” said Gross. The wine has a greenish-straw color, displaying tropical fruit, blossoming flowers, citrus and passion fruit. It has a mineral-rich and balanced mouthfeel. At $23.00, it’s also a reasonable price for a special Yom Tov wine. Lueria also makes a delicious rosé, Gross added, for those who are hankering to pour from a trendy pink bottle this holiday. Lueria Wines are distributed by Red Garden Inc.

A second white wine Gross recommends is the Bat Shlomo Chardonnay. Bat Shlomo Vineyards was founded in 2010 as a passion project of Elie Wurtman, a serial entrepreneur and technology investor. The vineyards are located in Israel’s wine country near Mount Carmel, north of Tel Aviv. They are named for Betty Salomon, the mother of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who first planted vineyards there in 1888. Ari Erle, a well-known Israeli winemaker who spent many years working at well-regarded vineyards in the Napa Valley, is Bat Shlomo’s winemaker. The winery’s focus is currently on the under-fed niche market Wurtman believes exists for kosher, high-quality white wines.

“The quality of this Chardonnay is amazing. This Chardonnay is fruity. It’s been aged for 10 months in new French oak, so it’s going to be a more woody type of Chardonnay, and it pairs nicely with more salty cheeses,” said Gross. “If you like the Sauvignon Blanc (recommended in The Jewish Link’s pre-Rosh Hashanah article, “Appreciating Artisan Kosher Wines,” August 27, 2015), this Chardonnay is even better,” he said. A golden hue with a hint of green, this wine displays aromas of buttered apple, smoked pear and lemon zest, according to the Bat Shlomo website, which also added that flavors of cinnamon, crème brûlée and star fruit complement the balanced acidity on the palate. The Bat Shlomo Chardonnay retails at $32.00. Bat Shlomo Wines are also imported by Red Garden Inc.

For those interested in serving reds at their Shavuot tables, Gross recommended lighter reds that go well with dairy and fish, that are more easily drinkable in warm weather. “Whoever doesn’t like white wine with milchigs doesn’t have to drink it,” he explained, indicating that many options abound. He recommended the Kerem Ben Zimra series by Adir Winery from the Galilee, specifically the Cabernet Sauvignon. “It’s not the most full-bodied Cabernet. It’s a nice, fruity wine, and it can go well with salty cheeses.”

Adir was established in 2003 and is family-owned and operated. The winemaker is Avi Rosenberg, who seeks to integrate his field expertise with his “endless curiosity and a true love of the earth,” the winery said in a statement. Adir is known for maintaining high standards in winemaking and has been creating some of Israel’s most outstanding series in recent years. Grown along the slopes of the vineyard’s plateau and harvested during the early morning hours, the Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in French and American oak barrels for 12 months, followed by an additional five months after bottling. The wine is easy drinking and smooth. It retails for $32.00 and is imported by Red Garden Inc.

Finally, Teperberg, the oldest and largest winery discussed in this article, is still a family business. It was established in 1870 in the Old City, but the winery moved to the Judean Hills in recent years and completed an intense process modernization. Today it is still helmed by Moti Teperberg, a member of the same family five generations later.

Teperberg’s Inspire series includes a special amalgamation called Devotage, which is a dry, red wine mix of Malbec and Marselan grapes. “Malbec in general is a medium-bodied wine. Dry, but it will pair well with dairy,” Gross said. Manufactured from a blend of 60 percent Malbec grapes harvested in the Ayalon Valley along with 40 percent Marselan grapes from the southern Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon, the Teperberg Inspire Devotage is intensely colored. Replete with aromas of plum, raspberry, cherry and blueberry, this wine has a long, lusty finish, according to tasting notes at onlykosherwine.com. The Devotage retails for $22.00 and is imported by Royal Wines.

To learn more about these special wineries and wines, visit FillerUp at 174 West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck. The store hosts wine tastings each Thursday evening. Call 201-862-1700 for more information or for catering requests.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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