(May 15, 2022 / )“But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home” (Ezekiel 36:8).

The words of Ezekiel are coming to life on the ancient hills of Shiloh, where a local winery has harnessed the history of the Jewish people in their land to develop one of the finest wines in the country, and the world.

“This is where everything started,” said chief winemaker Amichai Lourie, his arms outstretched to take in the mountain ridge that runs down the spine of Israel, where he plants his grapes. The mountains overlook the coastal plain to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east. “We left Egypt and wandered the desert for 40 years. When we finally came to Israel, our lives started in Shiloh; Shiloh was the capital of Israel for 369 years before King David and Jerusalem,” he said.

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The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were kept in Shiloh. But it was also a place of agriculture and business, Lourie explained.

“The grape was one of the seven blessed species; winemaking was among the main occupations and wine was one of the most important aspects of the economy,” he said. Wine became among the people of Israel’s largest export back then, according to Lourie—a claim backed up by the numerous ancient wine presses discovered in the area.

But the terroir is also among the most unique in Israel. The vineyards sit at an elevation of between 650 and 900 meters (up to 2,700 feet) above sea level. While the land is very stony, making planting vineyards challenging, the grapes enjoy the Israeli sun on the one hand and the cooling winds from the Mediterranean Sea on the other.

“There is none of the humidity there is elsewhere in Israel, and the high elevation ensures cold nights and a longer growing season,” according to a blog entry on Shiloh Winery’s website. “There are frequent cold spells, and even snow during the winter months. The high elevation, Mediterranean climate and hot sun during the summer make this a winemaking paradise.”

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Prophecies coming to life

Wine is part of a Jewish life from the very beginning and surrounds a Jewish family or community wherever they go throughout their life, from weddings to holidays to entering and exiting Shabbat, said Lourie. It likewise was and by tradition will be an important part of Temple rituals.

To Lourie, to harvest wine in Israel is to see prophecies coming to life.

“Mark Twain walked around Israel, and he said that there was nothing here,” said Lourie. “He and several other historians and travelers came to Palestine [in 1867], and described it as desolate.”

“The further we went the hotter the sun got,” Twain wrote in his book “The Innocents Abroad, “and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became…There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

But, Lourie explained, the prophets said that when the Jews were ready to return to their homeland, it would begin flowering again.

“You have to be blind not to see the prophecies coming to life,” he stressed.

He noted, however, that the quality of a wine is due not only to the land, but also to the love that goes into every bottle.

Shiloh Winery’s Amichai Lourie. Credit: Wine on the Vine.

‘We’re making amazing wine’

Shiloh was founded in 2005, and since then no investment has been spared, the winemaker said. They use temperature-controlled tanks, pneumatic presses and the finest oak barrels, bottling more than 230,000 bottles of wine a year on the premises. Around half is exported.

Shiloh wines have scored top points in international wine competitions, including scores of more than 90 and as high as 96 in the Decanter World Wine Awards, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator rankings.

“One can not begin to understand the standard of perfection Amichai has for this winery until they have tasted his wines,” said Adam Scott Bellos, the founder and CEO of the Israel Innovation Fund, which runs Wine on the Vine. “Nothing compares to his standards and you can see that in the scores of his wines.”

Shiloh Winery offers the following labels: Privilege, Shor, Legend, Secret Reserve and Mosaic.

Shiloh Winery wine list – wine descriptions courtesy of wine websites, as noted:

Shiloh Rose 2021 – The Shiloh Rose is a bright red-pink in color. It possesses a fragrant nose, with notes of honeysuckle, lavender, strawberries, sweet black cherries and a hint of pink grapefruit. Palate of tart, red berries and stone fruit, with hints of stony minerals, with the acidity carrying through the moderately long finish (description by IsraWines).  Buy now.

Shiloh Secret Reserve Petite Syrah 2019 – The harvest of the Petite Sirah grapes for this Secret Reserve Petite Sirah is carefully done by hand and at night from the best vineyards in the Holy Land. This wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months. Only the best barrels are chosen before bottling. Deep purple in color, with amazing notes of fruits and spices. The palate shows nuanced, complex fruit flavors, making this beautifully balanced wine the ideal choice for those seeking only the best. Due to its distinctiveness and structure, aging will further enhance its taste. To keep its outstanding quality, this wine is unfiltered (description by kosherwine.com). Buy now.

Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 – Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a luxurious wine a dark red color and aromas of black fruit and cassis. It’s a smooth wine, full of flavor and notes of fruit. It’s rich bouquet of tobacco and coffee make for a delightful long finish (description by IsraWines). Buy now.

Shiloh Mosaic 2018 – Mosaic is Shiloh’s flagship. This wine is a blend of 40% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for a period of 20-months in French barrels. The wine has an opaque and dark purple color. It has intense fruit aromas, along with black raspberry, roasted coffee beans, and cacao bouquet. This is complemented with a complex and varied flavor: black fruit, blueberry and raspberry and a soft acidity. It has a robust body and is rich in tannins. Its finish is elegant and prolonged. To keep its outstanding quality, this wine is non-filtered and sediments might appear (description by IsraWines). Buy now.

Shiloh Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – The Shiloh Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes grown in the fertile vineyards of Israel’s Judea and Samaria. Light gold, with a delightful aromatic blend of ripe citrus fruits, pineapple and grass. Crisp and elegant with pleasant acidity balanced by fruit and citrus flavors on the palate (description by IsraWines). Buy now.

Each of the above varieties can be read about on the Wine on the Vine website and purchased from Israel or from the United States and Europe.

“We are making amazing wine,” Lourie said. “I am very proud.”

 

This article is written in cooperation with Wine on the Vine. JNS is proud to partner with Wine on the Vine to bring Israeli wine to your table. Buy now and receive 10% off with coupon code JNS10.

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