For several years, I’ve been a fan of the family-run Gush Etzion Winery, a modern boutique winery about 20 minutes southwest of Jerusalem. Attached to the winery is a kosher dairy and fish restaurant — the service is nearly always slow (is this taught specifically to kosher wait staff around the globe?), but the food is satisfying, as are the wines produced there. Interestingly, the winery’s inspiration began not with grapes but with blackberries.
When Shraga Rozenberg and his wife, Tamar, relocated from Jerusalem to Efrat in 1986, their new neighbors informed them that the blackberry bush in their new yard produced fabulous fruit. Routinely saddled with more fruit than he knew what to do with, Rozenberg — a former social worker and retirement home manager — decided to tinker with producing blackberry wine and liqueur in his home. Before too long, Rozenberg progressed from blackberries to grapes as he began to dream of vineyards and winemaking.
By 1995, the Rozenbergs had given up their day jobs to devote themselves to establishing the Gush Etzion Winery. Skip ahead to 2005, when the Rozenbergs opened a newly constructed winery at its current location. To this they added a visitor’s center, the kosher restaurant and an outdoor event garden/space.
Today they grow 17 different grape varieties on about 200 acres, selling grapes to a variety of larger wine producers, as well as producing around 50,000 bottles of wine annually under three labels or series: Emek Bracha or Blessed Valley, Alon HaBoded or Lone Oak Tree, and Nachal HaPirim or Spring River.
Here are a few of their wines to consider:
Gush Etzion Winery, Spring River, Red Blend, Judean Hills, 2014 ($28): A charming blend of 40 percent cabernet sauvignon, 35 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc and 5 percent petit verdot, positively bursting with vibrant and fresh aromas of dark fruits (blackcurrants, wild berries, blackberries), tobacco, dark chocolate, a touch of spicy oak and a hint of toasted herbs.
Gush Etzion Winery, Spring River, GSM, 2014 ($28): This engaging and thoroughly enjoyable blend of 54 percent syrah, 36 percent mourvedre, and 10 percent grenache is less Rhône and more eastern Mediterranean — light, bright, fresh and refreshing. Medium bodied with forward and generous dark fruit notes, decent spice, a touch of oak and a hint of earth, balanced by soft tannins and nice acidity; offers a deeply pleasing finish.
Gush Etzion Winery, Cabernet Franc Reserve, Judean Hills, 2014 ($43): A medium-bodied, ripe fruit-flavored (dark plum and spicy black cherry) charmer, showing accents of chocolate, cassis, a touch of anise and pepper, and then with vanilla oak and leather in the finish. Nice overall balance.
Gush Etzion Winery, Lone Oak Tree, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Judean Hills, 2014 ($43): This medium-to-full bodied Cab offers fresh and attractive aromas of cherries, menthol, earthy minerals and vanilla, gliding onto the palate with red and black berries, vanilla and a smidge of green bell pepper. It has good balance and nice complexity, yet is still supple and easy to drink.
Gush Etzion Winery, Blessed Valley, Red Wine, Special Reserve, Judean Hills, 2012 ($57): This alluring yet still tight full-bodied blend of 55 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 10 percent petit verdot and 5 percent cabernet franc is earthy and fruity and with some spice, but the tannins are still quite firm and the wine is overall still fairly closed. Give this just a little bit longer to mature, or decant vigorously to aerate before serving. L’chaim!
Fill Joshua E. London’s email bag with your questions about wine and spirits: [email protected].