Not long ago, I made my way to Chateau Golan for the official unveiling of nine new wines. Located in the Golan Heights, it released its first wines from the 2000 vintage. In the decade since the winery's founding, Uri Hetz, who trained in California and Oregon, has proven himself to be one of the best winemakers in Israel, his wines comfortably reflecting his style and philosophy.
A fully modern winery, Chateau Golan owns its own vineyards with production at 75,000 bottles annually. While these wines aren't inexpensive, their quality and personality make them worthwhile.
Chateau Golan, Geshem, Rose, 2010: Made with 92% Grenache, 5% Barbera and 3% Syrah, the Grenache and Syrah are pressed together, with the pink juice fermented in old barrels, the fermentation relying entirely on natural yeasts. After two months, it's blended with Barbera from the Shvo vineyard. Rose petal pink toward salmon in color, with aromas and flavors of strawberries, red berries and cassis, highlighted nicely by notes of bitter almonds and hints of white peaches and peach pits that rise on the finish. And you'll even find a hint of super-soft tannins. Drink now-2012. NIS 100. Score 89.
Chateau Golan, Geshem, White, 2009: A blend of about 40% Roussanne and 30% each Viognier and Grenache Blanc. Round, generous but not overly alcoholic (about 14% ), lightly tart and showing appealing notes of summer fruits, citrus peel and bitter almonds, all on a background of butterscotch and stony minerals. Drink now-2012, perhaps longer. NIS 160. Score 90.
Chateau Golan, Geshem, Red, 2007: At 15%, plenty of alcohol here, in fine balance with spicy wood, near-sweet tannins and fruit. Full-bodied, soft, round, rich and deep, showing almost incense-like anise notes and then opening to reveal red berry, black cherry and currant fruits. A blend of 70% Grenache with 15% each of Mourvedre and Syrah, oak-aged for 13 months. Drink now-2014.NIS 245. Score 90.
Chateau Golan, Og, 2008: Intensely dark, full-bodied, firmly tannic with a black-fruit nose and on nose and palate rich, loamy aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherries and dark chocolate, all coming together as a coherent whole. A charming, country-style powerhouse. Approachable and enjoyable now, but best from 2012-2018. NIS 260. Score 91
Chateau Golan, Syrah, Royal Reserve, 2007: A blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, fermented entirely on natural yeasts and aged in French oak for 12 months. Youthful royal purple in color, full-bodied, with its generous 14.6% alcohol level in fine balance with spicy wood, near-sweet tannins, acidity and fruits. On first attack, near-sweet plums and crushed berries, yielding comfortably to blueberries and notes of saddle leather and espresso. Complex and elegant and surprisingly easy to drink. Drink now-2015. NIS 145. Score 91.
Chateau Golan, Merlot, Royal Reserve, 2008: When originally tasted from the barrel, the winemaker observed: "If my 2007 Merlot was a dragon, this one is a teddy bear." He was correct. Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, oak-aged for about 12 months, medium- to full-bodied, with soft, gently caressing tannins. A distinctly old-world wine, dark, almost impenetrable garnet in color, with fine concentration. Opening to reveal blackberries, raspberries and cassis along with notes of chocolate-coated citrus peel and a light fresh herbal overlay that rises on the long finish. Approachable and enjoyable now, but best 2012-2017. NIS 155. Score 91.