I recently had an opportunity to taste wines with Shraga Rozenberg, winemaker and owner of the Gush Etzion Winery in Efrat. I last tasted his U.S.-available wines nearly a year ago. The sample of single vineyard Syrah he brought to the tasting is a promising addition to the lineup that should be hitting stateside.
Religious Zionists who moved from Jerusalem to Efrat in 1986, Shraga Rozenberg and his late wife, Tamar, first began tinkering with the idea of starting a winery in the early 1990s. They gave up their day jobs to focus on it full time in 1995. Thus was born the Gush Etzion Winery. A decade later, the Rozenbergs’ commitment led to the opening of a revamped, modern winery with a visitors center, an kosher dairy restaurant and an outdoor event space.
A few years later, they hired Itay Lahat, arguably Israel’s most famous wine consultant, and their wines noticeably improved. Today they grow 17 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. While I’ve always enjoyed their whites, of late I’ve been most impressed by their reds.
For a while they were imported by a passionate but small kosher wine importer, so distribution outside of the New York area was spotty at best. They are now imported by the Herzog family’s mammoth Royal Wine Corp. Distribution is no longer an issue.
Gush Etzion Winery, Lone Oak Tree, Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 ($22): Light and pleasantly aromatic, offering notes on the nose and palate of melon, stone fruit, citrus and fresh herbs, with enough acidity to more or less hold together, but not quite enough to shine. This is entertaining, but better with food.
Gush Etzion Winery, Lone Oak Tree, Gewurztraminer, Judean Hills, 2016 ($20): Fairly full in the mouth, offering enjoyable slate-like minerality, this is nicely floral if slightly green, medium bodied, with some typical Gewurtz characteristics, but the balance is just slightly off, keeping it perfectly congenial, but not as fully refreshing as past vintages.
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, tobacco, dark chocolate, a touch of spicy oak and a hint of toasted herbs. Rough fairly full-bodied, the overall style is remarkably light and refreshing on the palate.
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. It is 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. This wine offers a deeply pleasing finish.
Gush Etzion Winery, Cabernet Franc Reserve, Judean Hills, 2014 ($43): A medium-bodied, ripe fruit (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. It has a nice
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. With good balance and nice complexity, yet still supple and easy to drink. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].