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DavidRhodes / wine / Margalit: One of Israel's First Boutique Wineries Paved the Way for Hundreds to Follow
Margalit: One of Israel's First Boutique Wineries Paved the Way for Hundreds to Follow
The Margalit Winery started as a boutique winery in 1989 and has established itself as one of Israel's most respected wine farms. Located south of Hadera, in the Sharon region, in the foothills of Mount Carmel, the unpretentious surroundings amidst citrus orchards would never give a hint of the superb quality and outstanding reputation (well-deserved) attained by these family vintners, Ya'ir and Assaf Margalit.
In their first release in the 1989, the winery released a modest 900 bottles or about 3 barrels of wine. They growed gradually, though steady, to a current production of 20,000 bottles a year or about 1600 cases. Many wineries have grown much larger in a 20 year span but it's the family's committment to quality over quanity that has cemented it's name as one of Israel's premier wineries.
I recently had a chance to meet with Assaf and sample some his works in progress. He tastes his wines every two weeks to ascertain how they're aging and to gauge how he might blend them. On this occasion, he invited winemakers from a larger commercial winery for the informal tasting. While some winemakers are more guarded about their craft, Assaf is quite generous in the amount of time he gives to aspiring winemakers, sommeliers and wine writers as my case might illustrate. He mentors those who even if they've gone to work for would be competitors and seems open minded towards suggestions from those he respects in the industry. Not that he needs their advice but I believe he and his father, as do I, see wine as an intellectual pursuit as much as a career or craft and he enjoys the banter about wine as much as the process and results.
Earlier, in what would prove to be just my first of many visits with Asaf we visited with one of his previous interns who is helping the Depawn Winery in it's fledgling stages. This garagista looked like any other rural house on approach but touring about one saw a secluded lab and a tempeture controlled barrel room (attached to the owner's house) able to secure some blessed vintages as they mature. Assaf was kind with his praise and constructive with his criticism which has gained him obvious affection and respect among others in the field. Winemakers are as much artists as scientists and engineers and need reassurance when things go right and even more encouragement and guidance when things go wrong. No, winemaker wants to wait for the market's feedback because it will be of little use once the wine is made because next years wine will be different even if just subtlely. Different vintage, different grapes, different wine.
He and his father/founder Ya'ir (who I would meet on my second visit) both give classes all across Israel as far north as Tel Hai along the Lebanon border and in nearby Tel Aviv. Ya'ir, a chemist by training, is a respected author on winemaking and wine technology and the books are for sale and use as text books in wine schools globally. Assaf trained in agricultural studies at Hebrew Univeresity in Israel (which gives him better insight than most about what makes good wines grapes good) as well as training as a winemaker in California. Ya'ir, first had his interest sparked while doing research as a chemist at UC Davis.The proximity to one of the world's best academic wine programs held it's sway and he's been a winemaker in theory or practice ever since.
The wines of Margalit are worth exploring though you may to go to a wine store to purchase them as currently they only open to the public three times a year for special events. This may change if they grow into larger targeted environs more North in Binyamina but few wineries in Israel are so universally praised as Margalit's so if you're a wino at heart you shouldn't be dissappointed.
The Winery divides their production into 3 lines of wines: their premiere Special Reserve, their selection of single varitietal Margalit series, and their newest series Enigma which presents one new Bordeaux blend each year. In their 2006 Vintage for example, they released their Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a Margalit series Caberent Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (though most years they have also released a Merlot) and that years Enigma: a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc and 17% Merlot.
PO Box 4055
Caesarea, Israel 38900
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David Rhodes worked at wineries in California & Israel, hosted over 100 wine parties.as a sommelier & adviser for the SDSU Business of Wine program. He speaks weekly about wine on Rustymikeradio.com & writes for ESRA magazine. Israeliwineguy@gmail.com