Refreshing blends from central Israel


The small but impressive family-run Vitkin Winery is located in Moshav Kfar Vitkin, about 35 minutes north of Tel Aviv. It is the passion project of three related Israelis: Doron Belogolovky; his wife, Sharona Paz-Belogolovsky; and her brother, Assaf Paz, formerly a winemaker with Carmel, Binyamina and Barkan-Segal.

Vitkin’s first release was from the 2001 vintage, and the trio quickly established themselves as partisans under the ABCM — Anything But Cabernet, Chardonnay and Merlot — flag.

The winery quickly developed a fine domestic and international reputation as a quality boutique producer, seeking wines that taste like they come from Israel and were made to accompany Israeli cuisine and culture.

Vitkin has released wines under four labels: Israel Journey is their relatively early drinking series of blended wines; Vitkin are their premium and moderately age-worthy wines; Dessert Wines is just as the name implies; and their Shorashim (roots) series is their top-tier wines.

The winery began producing kosher certified wines starting with the 2015 vintage, a shmitta year. Nothing was exported to the United States until the 2016 vintage, which only hit the American market last year — a rose and a white blend both from the early drinking Israeli Journey series.

Most recently their importer, the Bayonne, N.J.-based Royal Wine Corp., has rolled out an additional four wines. While everything produced at Vitkin is worth pursuing, these are my favorites:

Vitkin Winery, White Israeli Journey, Dry White wine, 2016 ($23): This light-to- medium-bodied, unusual blend — 30 percent grenache blanc from the Upper Galilee, 20 percent roussanne and 20 percent viognier both from the Judean Hills, and then 20 percent colombard and 10 percent gewürztraminer both from the east Carmel Ridge foothills — is wonderfully expressive, relatively complex, and beautifully aromatic with floral, grassy and citrusy notes, followed by peach, tart nectarine, tangerine, green apple, and melon, with perhaps a light touch of honey. Though still nicely balanced, the acidity isn’t as bracing to the whole as in the rose, so enjoy it with food rather than on its own.

Vitkin Winery, Pink Israeli Journey, Dry Rose Wine, 2016 ($23): This blend of 90 percent grenach noir and 10 percent carignan, both from dry-farmed, bush vine vineyards from the east Carmel Ridge foothills, is aromatic, fresh, fruity (strawberries, cherries), balanced, dry and utterly delightful. Serve chilled as an aperitif to any meal or as an accompaniment to fish, poultry, or Mediterranean styled foods.

Vitkin, Red Israeli Journey, 2016 ($23): This lovely, bright, supple, fresh and refreshing blend of carignan from Mount Carmel, and syrah, cabernet franc and marselan from the Upper Galilee, showcases red and dark fruits, sweet spices, Mediterranean herbs and has enough contemplative oomph to engage the senses, as well as accompany meaty Israeli foods.

Vitkin, Pinot Noir, 2016 ($30): Grown in the Ella Valley region and aged in French oak barrels for 10 months, this unfiltered, Mediterranean take on pinot is bright, light, fruity (cherry, cranberry, raspberry), mildly earthy, with some interesting herbal notes. With soft tannins and decent balancing acidity, this is easy to drink on its own, but really hungers for poultry or salmon. L’chaim! 

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