The Judean Hills Quartet sounds like lounge act, but it’s actually a consortium of four Israeli wine producers from the Judean Hills wine region who joined forces in 2017 to promote not only their wines, but the region.
As their sleek website (judeanhillsquartet.com) puts it: “The Quartet’s purpose is to educate and explain about this fascinating, new quality wine region, in the same place where wine was made in ancient times.”
Representing the wineries when I met them were Eli Ben Zaken, winemaker of the family owned and operated Domaine du Castel; Eran Pick, winemaker at Tzora Vineyards; Golan Flam, a part-owner and winemaker of the family owned and operated Flam Winery; and Doron Rav Hon, founder and winemaker at the non-kosher certified Sphera winery.
Though each of their wines on offer showed a gentle elegance and, thankfully, none of the overripe, super-fruity, bombastic notes that many Israeli wines still revel in, the wineries were otherwise all entirely unique in style and personality. With widely held reputations for high quality among both critics and consumers, each of these wineries is genuinely trying to make terroir-driven wines from the Judean Hills.
The region enjoys a Mediterranean climate — warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters —and benefits from cooling winds from the Mediterranean that help ventilate the vineyards. The soil composition tends to be a shallow terra rossa clay atop a deep limestone bedrock, providing good drainage and a mineral-rich environment that is conducive to growing quality red and white grapes.
The dry, often scorching summers demand drip irrigation for these vineyards, but if used judiciously this has proven no barrier to great quality. The vineyards tend to be small, planted at elevations between 1,310 and 2,620 feet above sea level, variously located in wadis (valleys) and sloping hills, each offering something a little different to its grapes.
While all were fabulous, at this tasting I was most taken with the wines of Tzora Vineyards. Imported by the well-regarded New York-based Skurnik Wines and Spirits, Tzora is not as well distributed in the Washington area as it deserves to be.
Here is one red and one white worth seeking out now:
Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh Blanc, 2018 ($40): A blend of 90 percent sauvignon blanc and 10 percent chardonnay, this is lovely, lively, rich, complex and elegantly fruity with citrus, floral and apple, pear and peach notes; nice spice accent on the finish. It’ll improve with a little age, but is so charming now I don’t think I’ll resist long enough to see just how much maturation might improve things.
Tzora Vineyards, Misty Hills, 2017 ($70): A distinctive and nicely structured blend of 55 percent cabernet sauvignon and 45 percent syrah, this is gorgeous and velvety, with lovely notes of black cherry,
currant, milk chocolate, baking spices, a little aniseed and some graphite and minerals in the finish. Yummy. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].