One wine for two states


Recently I had the good fortune of sitting down with Jeff and Jodie Morgan, vintner-proprietors of the Covenant Winery, an urban winery in Berkeley, Calif., and now also of their latest wine venture, Covenant Israel.

Covenant is the only American winery making wine in both California and Israel, and Jeff Morgan is the head vintner for both.

“About four years ago,” Morgan says, “I decided I also wanted to make wine in Israel.” He was brushing his teeth one morning, when “the idea simply popped into” his head. He stopped the electric toothbrush momentarily as the idea percolated, “and it simply felt right.”

As he puts it: “We make kosher wine in California, so why not also make it in Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people and the place where Jewish winemaking began.”

The Covenant Israel project began in 2013. Today, Covenant Israel produces around 1,500 cases of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, a red blend, a viognier, and a rosé from six different vineyards in the Galilee and the Golan Heights. The Covenant Israel label is in the shape of the State of Israel, including the territories under its control — which has proven, he notes, far “more problematic to Israelis than to American Jews.” While the Morgans are toying with the possibility of softening the label design so that the focus might shift back to the wine, he confesses that he “quite likes the statement” that the current label makes.

Regardless, they are gearing up to increase Covenant Israel’s activities.

One of the couple’s daughters, Zoë Morgan, made aliyah about two years and now heads their sales and promotion in Israel.

The long-term plan is to build a proper winery in Israel. Taste some of their fabulous wines. Consider the following:

Covenant, Red C Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, 2015 ($24): This fresh, well-balanced beauty opens with grapefruit and apple aromas, which accent the juicy lemon, lime, lychee and straw flavors, with a hint of herbs. The finish is bright and persistent.

Covenant Israel, Syrah, 2014 ($75): Comprised of about 90 percent syrah and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, both from the Tel Faris vineyard in the Golan Heights, this is a serious,  deliciously fruit-forward yet refined, full-bodied wine offering rich, ripe, with enticing spice, supported by beautifully integrated, silky tannins. Give it a little time to breath for the depth of flavor to really shine. A fabulous wine!

Covenant, Neshama, Sonoma County, 2014 ($72): A blend of 60 percent petit verdot, 25 percent malbec, and 15 percent syrah, this is a gorgeous, lush, elegant wine, almost silky, with bright dark red fruit notes and all with a wonderful and lively peppery spice accent that helps keep it together. This is a fun yet serious, refined, rewarding and absorbing wine. Drinking perfectly now.

Covenant Napa Valley 2014 ($100): A superb blend of 57 percent cabernet sauvignon, 31 percent merlot and 12 percent petit verdot, this complex wine offers a bit more upfront finesse than more usual 100 percent cab offerings, with notes of black currant, black cherry, blackberry and thyme, a little spice, subtle espresso and delicate vanilla oak. Very drinkable now with a little air, but should cellar for the midterm.

Covenant, Zahav, Late Harvest Muscat Canelli, Suisin Valley, 2014 ($44; half bottle): This fabulous, rich, sweet wine offers aromas and flavors of apricot, honey, honeysuckle, peach, raisins, candied nuts, overripe tropical fruits and orange peel. The finish is a tad clipped at first, but as it breathes, it lingers with sweet complexity. Yummy. L’chaim!

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  1. The Covenant Israel Syrah, is my choice of wine every Sabbath, I was searching a long time for a good Syrah since Adir ran out of their 2011 Syrah I tried the Flaum Syrah pretty good but nothing close to the Covenant I wish the price would be no more than $50.00 I think $72.00 is too expensive.



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