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Wine and Spirits / Established in the Shiloh settlement of the Shomron region, with vineyards at an altitude of 700 to 900 meters above sea level, this boutique winery has released its first wines from the 2005 vintage. Production in 2005 was of 5,000 bottles and in 2006, 17,500 bottles were produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay grapes. The winery is currently releasing wines in an upper-level Masada and a mid-level Herodion series. To purchase the wines, contact the winery directly at (09) 792-1292.

Gvaot, Merlot, 2005: Dark royal purple in color, with orange reflections. Reflecting 18 months in barriques with spicy oak and mouth-coating, near-sweet tannins in fine balance with minty, herb-scented cherry and berry flavors, those with overlays of milk chocolate and mint. Full-bodied, with fine tannins and a caressing finish. Drink now-2010. NIS 85. Score 90. K

Gvaot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Herodion, 2005: A medium- to full-bodied blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Merlot, reflecting sweet and spicy cedar wood from its 14 months of development in French oak, the wood in good balance with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and fruits. Medium- to full-bodied, aromatic and showing deep currant, black cherry and dark red fruits. Finishes with a touch of heat but that will integrate nicely given time. Best starting in 2009. NIS 85. Score 88. K

Gavot, Red, Herodion, 2005: Dark garnet in color, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and gentle oak integrating nicely, this blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 percent Merlot was aged in French oak for 12 months. Aromatic, round and soft, with appealing aromas and flavors of blackberry and purple plum fruits, those supported by hints of spice and chocolate. Drink now or in the next year or two. NIS 75. Score 87. K

Gvaot, Chardonnay-Cabernet Sauvignon, Masada, 2005: Not a typographic error - truly a blend of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (75 and 25 percent respectively, the Cabernet with minimal skin contact yielding a rather unique blanc de noirs. Full-bodied, with a texture of cream and glycerin, showing a surprising but appealing array of citrus fruits, pear and wild berries. A complex and "interesting" wine but not one for more than short-term cellaring. Drink now. NIS 75. Score 86. K

With new boutique wineries appearing on the local scene at a remarkably rapid pace, it is almost a relief to find a major development taking place in what is the country's oldest winery: Zion.

Founded in the old city of Jerusalem in 1848 by the Shor family, this winery until recently produced primarily wines for sacramental purposes. With the ninth generation of the family now involved in the business, starting three years ago the winery began to release dry wines and from the 2005 vintage made the leap into wines that would compete, largely in supermarkets, with wines that were of acceptable quality and good value for money.

Now located in Mishor Adumim, not far from Jerusalem, the winery produces some 1.5 million bottles annually of which 100,000-150,000 are of interest primarily to those switching over to dry wines. The wines are released in three series: Armon, Tidhar and Erez and. Rely on the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carignan, Petite Sirah and Emerald Riesling grapes.

Zion, Tidhar, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: A garnet red, lightly oaked, medium-bodied and softly tannic blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Merlot and 5 percent Petite Sirah. Black and red berries, ripe purple plums and light spices run through, making this an easy to drink quaffer. Drink now. NIS 30.Score 85. K

Zion, Erez, Merlot, 2005: Dark ruby in color, blended with 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and showing straightforward red berry and currant fruits. Not complex but pleasant. Drink now. NIS 40. Score 84. K

Zion, Erez, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2004: A blend of 52 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 44 percent Merlot and 4 percent Petite Sirah. Medium- to full-bodied, with chunky, country-style tannins and an all-too-heavy dose of wood after having spent 14 months in oak and with the black fruits going in an herbal-earthy direction. Past its peak. Drink up. NIS 40. Score 78. K

Zion, Tidhar, Carignan-Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Light ruby in color, lightly oaked, light- to medium-bodied, with soft tannins. Opens with light minty aromas and flavors and goes on to raspberry and plums. Fresh and refreshing, a good quaffer. Drink now. NIS 30. Score 84. K

Zion, Erez, Petite Sirah-Merlot, 2005: Petite Sirah and Merlot in equal parts. Ruby to garnet, clean and fresh, with soft tannins, a hint of spicy wood and generous red fruits. Not complex but easy to drink. Drink now. NIS 30. Score 83. K

Zion, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Tidhar, 2005: Medium-dark cherry colored, medium-bodied, with firm tannins that do not seem to want to "let go." Appealing berry and currant fruits but somewhat biting on the finish. Drink now. NIS 30. Score 80. K

Recanati Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: Dark garnet, with orange and purple reflections, its tannins yielding and integrating nicely, this full-bodied wine shows generous but well-balanced spicy wood opening to reveal currant, plum and blackberry fruits supported nicely by light hints of herbs and cedar wood. Drink now 2010. NIS 89. Score 91. K

Recanati, Reserve, Merlot, 2004: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with firm tannins and near-sweet oak integrating well. On the nose and palate, black cherries, berries and currants on a tantalizing earthy-herbal background. On the long finish, hints of chocolate. Drink now-2011. NIS 84. Score 90. K