Golan Heights Winery: Irresistible Israeli Wines

When I got invited to a wine lunch at Union Square Cafe to meet winemaker, Victor Schoenfeld of Golan Heights Winery, how could I say no? At the age of 18, Schoenfeld dreamed of becoming a farmer. It was during his fourth year at UC Davis the he went into winemaking. He’s considered one of Israel’s most influential winemakers. Let’s keep it real, wine from Israel use to be “meh”. Now Israel is quickly becoming known for having wines that are just as good as France and Italy.

 (me & Victor Schoenfeld)

The Golan Heights Winery is Israel’s third largest winery. It produces wine under four labels: Yarden, Gamla, Mount Hermon, and Golan. The winery is owned by eight kibbutzim and moshavim who also supply the grapes for the wine.

The wine pairing lunch consisted of four courses  paired with eight wines from Yarden’s portfolio.

Lunch Menu

Yellowfin Tuna Crudo

Capers, Preserved Lemon, Pea Shoots


Asparagus, Crabmeat, Lemon Mascarpone, Chives

Braised Lamb Shank

Salsa Verde , Cannellini Beans, Spring Mustard Green

Selection of Farmhouse Cheeses

The welcome wine was the Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009 ($30). This bottle of bubbles is made in the traditional method and aged for at least four years. If you like Champagne this is a great selection. It’s a wonderful aperitif and pre-game to a meal. I also recommend pairing it with any meal, because sparkling wine is great with so many different foods.

The Yarden Gewürztraminer 2016 ($21) was paired with the Yellowfin Tuna Crudo. The Gewürztraminer is a medium-bodied  dry wine with floral, spice, and peach aromas. The wine has a bit of a kick to it as it hits the palate so it would excellent to pair with spicy food, Thai food, chicken and seafood.

The Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay 2014 ($33) and Gilgal Rose 2016 ($18) were wines selected to go pair with the Frascatelli. While the medium-bodied Chardonnay was dry and oaky with pear and lemon aromas, the Rosé made from four different grapes was a bouquet of floral aromas. It was interesting to have the pasta with two very different wine. I really thought the Chardonnay was spectacular. I love it when I find a good one that doesn’t taste like a stick of butter.

When the Braised Lamb Shank course was served, it was a paired with the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($96)  and Yarden Malbec 2013 ($33). The Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery’s flagship wine. It’s aged in French oak barrels for 18 months where it then has layers of delightful aromas of oak, berries, leather, and chocolate. I’m not a big lamb eater, but I did this enjoy this pairing. I would love to have the wine with beef.  The Malbec was just a good. As this wine opens up there are berries and spice on the nose.

The Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (N/A) and Yarden Brut Rosé 2011 ($34) were served with the Farmhouse Cheeses. Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is an array of ripe fruit, chocolate, and cherries. Good luck finding this one, only twenty barrels of this wine was made. As for the Brut Rosé, it’s kind of wine that made me say “ooh la la”. The sparkling blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir gives crisp apple and brioche as it flirts with the palate.

All of the wines were stellar. I think the biggest surprise for me were the Blanc de Blanc and Brut Rosé. The sparkling wines hold their own and can give sparkling wines from other regions a run for their money.

Long story short, it’s time to give Israel their props in the wine world. For years Israel had been known as the place that supplied kosher wine, now just think of it as a region that makes really good wine. L’chaim!


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