Fifteen years ago, in the course of working the ground at a family winery that was being established on the rocky hills on the West Bank, an opening was discovered which led to an amazing cave from the period of the Second Temple. This cave now serves as a naturally cool and perfectly humid wine barrel cellar directly next to state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and stainless steel tanks. In addition, the coin that appears on many of the winery’s bottles is based on one found during the renovation of the cave and reportedly dates from the period of the “Great Revolt” (66-73 CE). And those are just some things that make this winery and its wines so unique.
That winery is the Psagot Winery founded by Yaakov and Na’ama Berg in 1998. By 2010 the winery produced 80,000 bottles and this year’s production has grown to almost 200,000 bottles. Located in a communal Israeli settlement in the West Bank north of Jerusalem at 900 meters above sea level, Psagot has vineyards planted on hard limestone and rock terraces in a classical Mediterranean Greek-Italian fashion. Of particular interest is the fact that settlers and Palestinians work side by and have created an island of co-existence in a sea of distrust.
Another unique aspect of the Psagot Winery in that each vine is at least one meter from the next because of the rocky terrain. This technique means a very low yield but one that offers incredibly high quality grapes to create wines of rare and intense complexity. The harvesting of the grapes is done by hand during the early morning hours.
Here are some personal tasting notes of the Psagot wines currently available:
Psagot Cabernet Franc 2010—made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes aged in oak for 13 months—a spicy and smooth wine that works well with many different meals.
Psagot Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010—deep purple in color, a big rich fruit-forward wine considered by many to be one of the top ten commercially available Kosher wines—best with heavy meals. (This wine is allocated and sometimes difficult to find. )
Psagot Prat NV—a delicious port-style wine characterized by a rich sweetness and velvety chocolate flavors—best accompanied by any and all desserts.
Psagot Merlot 2010—a Merlot with rich flavors of plums and cherries and a lingering finish—excellent with both meat and poultry meals
Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon 2010—a crowd pleaser aged in oak for 14 months—a classic Cabernet Sauvignon with rich berry, plum and raspberry notes.
Psagot Edom 2010—the winery’s flagship wine, intense yet elegant with full bodied flavors—a complex wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon,Merlot,Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grape varietals.
Psagot Shiraz 2010—made from 100% Shiraz grapes—rich and deep in color with a creamy texture and a spicy long finish.
Richard Fishman is the Kosher Wine Buyer and Advisor for Wine Country of Bergenfield, New Jersey
By Richard Fishman