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March 23, 2009March 23, 2009  1 comments  wine


Israel is a small country, about the size of New Jersey; but, the world of wine here is even smaller. There's many migrations of winery workers and even winemakers between wineries. Gil Shatzberg, the currrent head winemaker at Recanati Winery, since 2008, previously served as the winemaker at Amphorae wines for seven years , which was considered one of Israel's most promising wineries due to his efforts. Before that he worked at Carmel, Israel's largest winery and at two wineries in California including the reknown Jordan Winery.  Ido Lewinsohn, Recanati's other winemaker, previously interned at the prestigious Margalit Winery under Asaf Margalit and at wineries in Europe and Australia. 

The red wine being sold now is that of founding winemaker, Lewis Pasco, but the whites are all Gil's and both recently won recognition at the Israeli Wine Awards at the David Intercontinetal Hotel in Tel Aviv on March 30th, 2009.

Recanati Line-up

Some Stars from Recaniti Wines including their Award Winning Petite Sirah-Zinfandel


The Recanati Winery offers four series of wines: The Yasmine series, the Recanati series, their Reserve and Special Reserve series. All of Recanati wines are made dry with no residual sugar.

Their 2008 whites I tried were a good entry point into understanding what their new winemaker is crafting at Recanati. Although he's 's continuing with the same vineyard program as under Pasco ( growing the same grapes in silmiliar ways), Gil will be pushing for more Old World style (more nuance, less fruit forward) than the wines once offered by Recanati.  It will take a couple of years before all the wines, particualrly the reds show his influence. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, however, are subtle yet savory wines bridging the gap between Old World and New World styles. Less mineral than a Chablis, the Chardonnay shows off a good wine at a good price and why Chardonnays are becoming more and more popular in Israel as they have worldwide (though I think Viognier, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat or French Columbard have greater export potential to bust off the Kosher wine shelf to the International or Eastern Mediterranean shelf).


2008  Recanati Sauvingon Blanc 44 NIS (about $10.50)

sweet on the palette with expected grapefruit, smooth but with crisp acidity 13% alcohol no oak aging as expected of most Sauvignon Blancs.

2008 Recanati Chardonnay 52 NIS ( about $12.50)

these grapes come from Kibbutz Manara in the Upper Galilee overlooking the border of Lebanon

with 13% alcohol the tropical fruit the nose matches well pear on the palette and hints of coconut brought on by a few months in oak

Award Winning Chardonnay

Award Winning Chardonnay

2006 Recanati Shiraz 52 NIS ( about $12.50)

these grapes come from Ezrael and famed Ella Valley vineyard

14.5% alcohol 8 months in French and American oak barrels

exhibiting lots of black fruits: Plum and Black Cherry

don't be surprised if in the future these same grapes are offered as a Syrah and with less American oak to suit Gil's preference for Rhone varietals.

David Enjoying Recanti

David Tasting & Enjoying the 2006 Recanati Shiraz


2006 Recanati Reserve Merlot

with grapes coming exclusively from the Ella Valley, this wine was treated to the wineries finest grapes and it's newest barrels. Both French and Hungarian oak was used for 16 months to produce a wine with lots of black fruit and a sweetness that doesn't come from any residual sugar but what the winery claims is a reflection of the Hungarian oak. This a wine sure to please fans of Merlot and maybe make a few new fans along the way.

14.5% alcohol

Gil, David and the Rabbi

Kosher Supervisor Rabbi Weiss, Wine Journalist David Rhodes & Winemaker Gil Shatsberg

2006 Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah-Zinfandel

This is what I would call a "California-blend" since these two grapes are more popular in California than anywhere else. This was one of Lewis Pasco's pet projects and maybe is a reflection of his time studying wine at UC Davis. Since Gil also studied there it's not suprising that this wine will continue in their future line-up.

This wine showed the best of both varietals, the octupus ink purple and busty body of Petite Sirah with the raspberry jam fest Zinfandels fans come to expect. The tannins are smooth for such a heavy hitter and easily accessable now.

With only 14% alcohol, a little less alcohol than one might expect from a California version but that is what might make it feel a bit more balanced.

Recanati Winery

POB 12050

Industrial Zone, Emek Hefer

(south of Hadera about a 10 minute walk off a Route 4 Bus stop)

Tel: o4 6222288  Fax: 04 6222882




March 30, 2009March 30, 2009  1 comments  wine

Here's a partial list of the winners of the Israel Wine Awards, presented at a gala event Sunday March 30th, 2009 at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv (across the beach from the Eastern Mediterranean).

I didn't find out about the event until the night of the event which is a shame since it was also a charity event raising money for troubled adolescents, which I would have liked to get people to attend to donate or particiapte in the wine auction.

The Awards were decided by a panel of 20 judges, many of them wine writers, but were limited to wineries who submitted their wines to the competition so even though the award winners deserve credit and congrats for their award winning wines; these results and similar results from other events need to take that not all of israel's wines were represented into consideration.

i'll post all the winners as the official results are published and I'll give you some of my insights of the event

Sauvignon Blanc

3rd Place Carmel 08

2nd Place Galil 08

1st Place: Gamla 08


3rdPlace:  Recanati 06

2nd Place: Ella Valley 07

1st Place:Yarden 06


Read the separate blog on the Recanati winery

Special White

2nd Assaf Viognier 06

1st Vitkin Riesling 07

Blend White

2nd Yasmin Recanati

1st Avanim Galil

Cabernet Sauvignon

3rd Asaf Reserve 06

Tie  2nd Place: Evigan reserve & Alexander the Great 05

1st Place: Ella Valley Reserve 05

read the separate blogs on the Alexander Winery and on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape


3rd Yarden 04

2nd Place Ella Valley 06

1st Place Recanati Reserve 06

read the separate blog on the Recanati winery


3rd Place

2nd Place

1st Place

Cabernet Franc

3rd Tulip



Read the seperate blog on the Cabernet Franc grape

Special Red

3rd Recanati Petite Sirah Zinfandel 06

2nd place malbec Teperberg 07

1st place Petite Sirah Carmel  05

red the separate blog on the Recanati Winery


Ist Place Amphorae 05 (Gil Shatsberg: Wine Maker)

Dessert Wines

3rd Place:  Moscato Golan 08

2nd Place:

1st Place:  Carmel Gerwurtraminer

March 31, 2009March 31, 2009  1 comments  wine

      While I make an effort to taste every wine from every winemaker in Israel, I'm getting lost quite a bit.  It's OK I'm embracing the humor of it and knowing there's wines I've never tried (mostly amazing) waiting for me at my eventual arrival helps me deal with the proliferation of bad directions, signage and bus drivers who have no idea where to drop me off. Many of the smaller wineries are very poorly marked and barely noticeble from the roads they're on and many of them are hidden away on back roads on communal (kibbutzim) or collective (moshavim) farms.  Following Israel's most popular, if only wine map, led me to the vicinity of the Alexander Winery in Beit Yitzhak but it was still more than an hour walk for me from the maps closest refence point and I passed by the winery before I was directed back to this no-sign, low profile facility. Did I mention my backpack had my laptop and a bunch of wine books and camera equipment too?


The Alexander Winery as seen by the road

....9 Barrels to Lead the Way... the only street side clue to the location of the Alexander Winery

        Before getting started I had to first quench my thirst with water. Wine at this point would have been gulped and not tasted and probably would have made a short day for me.  I first met with Assistant Wine Maker Shalom Amzleg.  Shalom is one of many observant Jews across Israel who assist non-observant owner/winemakers to assure that their wines are eligible for kosher certification by a supervising rabbi.  Shalom has only been at Alexander for less than 10 months and previously has worked at Carmel, Tishbi, and Recanati (three of Israel's top producers). When he isn't drinking Alexander wine, Shalom's fond of downing Dalton wines which he finds as good value wines for everday drinking. His favorite Alexander wine is the Cabernet-Merlot blend, by which I believe he meant their Sandro series.

    Several minutes after recovering from my hike, owner/winemaker Yarom Shalom pulled up in his company truck and trailer. The timing was perfect as I was just getting my wine glands glowing with excitement by what many told me would be a special treat.   I was a little apprehensive about this winery visit more than any other I've been on so far. My Hebrew skills are slowly progressing and Yarom was fairly insistent on the phone that I try to converse in Hebrew. So I came into thinking I might taste a few wines and get a lousy interview. Well turns out, it was one of my favorite days wine spelunking in Israel.

     When I make these forays into wine, I give a whole day to the prospect I'll be following the winemaker around and being patient until they basically go home or get swamped. I don't end the interview. I let them set the pace and give them a chance to wow me.  Not only that there's typically other interesting winos who make cameo appearances. Yarom turned out to be much more hospitable than out initial conversations led me to believe I should expect.  We both speak wine as a common language and between his English and my Hebrew we did a fine job asking and answering each other.

Dave at work... really I'm working

David Rhodes at work... really, he's working, taking one for the team as it were...

       This time of year a lot of Northern Hemisphere wineries are apt to be bottling wines (a convenient time when the winemakers aren't dealing with vineyard or harvest/crush issues). As I arrived, a new worker Yuda, was bottling the 2006 Wine of Alexander Merlot.  Well, that got me my first taste of Yarom's craft and I was impressed by the wine's smooth tannins brought about by it's 2 years in 90% French Oak and 10% American barrels. I picked up some dark cherry, a preceived sweetness, and a mouthful of plums. There was a slight hint of a fair amount of acidity which should help this fruity offering age gracefully if not distinctly.


A glass of 2006 Merlot     

...the last moments of a glass of delicious wine Alexander's award winnning 2006 Merlot


     One of my favorite parts of visiting the wineries and meeting the winemakers personally is I usually gather tidbits if not chunks of "insider information" about Israeli wine not published in articles or wine books. I embrace the strange as well as the nerdy wine "roots and vines" as well as the "grapes" and like getting to the dirt of what going on in the winery and the industry. For instance, Yarom and I got to talking about Grappa production in Israel.  Grappa is one of my pet projects. For those not familiar with Grappa, and many Anglos are not, Grappa is traditionally a peasant's spirit in the Mediterranean region (Greece, Italy... where it originated, Spain and elsewhere) where the leftovers of wine production ( stems, seeds and skins) are further pressed and the crushed fluid is distilled as a liquor (rather than fermented as a table wine).

     As an aromatic brandy like beverage, with an alcohol level anywhere around between 40 to 60% or 80 to 120 proof, Grappa can knock your socks off and is typically drunk after the meal as a digestive aid to help dissolve heavy and hearty dinners.  Traditionally, it was thought of a poor man's drink and often an underground moonshine but producers now have taken an oportunity to upsell it publicly and make some fine high-end well sought after bottles.  I'm fond of the idea of Grappa if not the reality becuase i see it as it as a "green" carbon frinedly drink using the waste of one process to produce another product.

   So, it was with this in mind I told Yarom about my desire to seek out or encorage grappa production by Israeli winemakers. To my surprise and delight he did tell me ther eis some being produced on the quiet. Distributed by some owners off the market to friends and good clients or amoungst the workers, I hope I come across some and will let you what I find when i do. It will most likely be featured as a seperate blog posting. (Since, this visit I came across a Grappa prouduced by the Tulip Winery in Israel.  I'll be doing a follow-up essay on Tulip, it's wine and Grappa (non-kosher) and any other Israeli Grappa I come across).

   Another one of my favorite parts of the winery visits are the guided tastings by the winemakers. For two reasons, no one knows their wines better and they'll often serve up what their proudest off aging in the barrel.  At Alexnader's on this my first visit, Yarom fed into one of my guiltiest pleasures. He took a vial from a barrel and poured me a taste of a familar looking wine that sparked immediate salivation. Without initailly recognizing it, I was having sme kind of Pavlovian response to sense memories of what has been one of my favorite wine styles. I think I resisted believing it because I've been suggesting to winemakers to try but most seemed resistnt to make Armarone.

     Armarone, like Grappa, is a bit of a cult drink. Not every or most wine drinker is familiar with it. It's price, typically, starting at least $50/ bottle keeps out of the reach of many and it's rarely ever served by the glass in restaaurants or wine bars.  Yet, if you get into wine, go to wine events and hang out without adventerous winos someone will eventually slip you a glass and say "you gotta try a glass of this"!!!  Armarone is a style of Italian wine making where the grapes are dryed into raisins and then pressed for their juices for making wine. The drying is important to the efffect of Amarone because it reduces the water content of the grapes and concentrates the flavors and aromas of the wine eventually produced.

    Yarom's creation was that kind of a concretrated pleasure punch to the palatte. Having been aged already for two years and not being expected for release for another two, we were catching the wine in still it's early stages but it showed more than it's fair share of indications it was going to be a market changer and once trying it other winemakers in Israel might do the same.




Alexander Winery

POB 8151

Moshav Beit Yitzhak 42970

Tel: 09 8822956 Fax: 098872076


currently exporting to Canada, Holland and Germany




April 19, 2009April 19, 2009  0 comments  wine



      There's a few different doors through which people enter into working with wine.  Many come into wine through the hospitality industry. Caterers, hotel and restaurant workers and owners have many opportunites to learn about wine through tasting the wines they serve. The wineries and distributors will often go to great effort and expense to give their staffs training (Eli Ben Zaken at Domaine du Castel for example was the owner of the Italian restaurant Mamma Mia in Jerusalem before making his fiirst wine).  In Israel, many children were lucky enough to have their parents catch the bug before them and have had a winery to set their sights on early in life. (Assaf Margalit and Golan Tishbi are examples of such winemakers who followed in their father's footsteps). Many winery owners switched from wine successful career paths in unrelated industries to the more romantic venture of winemaking (count Dalton and Recanati amoung these Israeli wineries). Some others entered through their curiousity while following academic pursuits ( I first studied wine through my college's geography department and Yair Margalit was a research chemist at UC Davis, which hosts one of the world's most famous wine programs). Much more rare but becoming more common is when a child paves the way for a parent. Ido Lewinsohn and his father Amnon are such a pair of aspiring wine entrepeneurs. 

     Ido has gained an immense amount of diverse winemaking experiences in a relatively short span of time.  Besides launching his new and promising winery, Ido serves as a winemaker at the award winning Recanati winery under the tutelage of noted winemaker Gil Shatsberg.  Ido has been been there for about two years so he was there when the winery went through it's transition from Recanati's founding winemaker Lewis Pasco in 2008 to Gil who had come over from the pretigious boutique Amphorae. Amnon Lewinsohn, had a long and fruitful career as a mechanical engineer before partnering with his son on making fine wines.  For a small winery, a mechanical engineer is an asset of immeasurable value. There are so many devices that need tinkering and many processes that can benefit from a trained eye especially in the limited space starting wineries often inhabit. Incidently, Ido mother's maiden name, Winezoff, loosely translates from Polish into "wine taster" so maybe a recessive gene is partly responable for Ido's devotion to oenology.




     Unlike many of the previous generation of Israeli winemakers, Ido and many of his contempories have had intensive training and work expereince in international wine schools, vineyards and wineries. Ido started quenching his curiousity about wine at the University of Milan where he studied oenology and viticulture. Since his initial studies, his practical experience has been bountiful and well traveled. From the "Old World"of European origin, he worked at the 2002 vintage of Domaine Haut Lirou in the Pic St. Loup appelation in the Languedoc region of France. In 2004, he returned to Italy to the Sassicaia Winery, in Tuscany, a producer of of notable "Super Tuscans."  In 2005, he gained valuble expereince creating a new winery in France's Rhone Valley, the Mas du Notaire in appelation Costieres de Nimes. He continued there the following year as well as crafting the wines at the Haut Lirou.

     Though his wines show an evident respect for Old World traditions of lower alcohol, less oakey, more nuanced wines, Ido isn't without his New World winemaking expereinces.  In 2003, he worked with the Margalit family in Israel (who themselves are noted for merging the best attributes of Old World and New World winemaking) and has maintained a close working relationship with the Margalit's ever since.  In 2007, Ido went to the far reaches of the winemaking world when he ventured to spend that vintage year at the Domaine A on the Austrailian island of Tasmania. This immediatley preceded his return to Israel and his start at Recanati. This was also the stage at when Ido transitioned from a student of wine into a teacher as he became the director of the winemaking course at Ariel University in the West Bank. These winemaking courses are evolving into a one year program for those aspiring to establish boutique wineries.

    The Lewisohn line-up is typical of many Israeli boutique wineries offering 3 wines: two reds, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon and a for the one white a Chardonnay.  Though all of his wines equal or surpass the quality of many of Israel's other reserve wines, there is a barrel of Cabernet which might be later released as the winery's first reserve. Although the choice of varietals is not surprising, the special care he has taken in nuturing these wines manage to convey qualities rarely seen in their Israeli peers and could compete for bragging rights against well recognized international offerings.

     There are few distinct steps that Ido credits for his wines unique appeal, to me and to the select few who've been treated to his first vintage and a sneak preview of the the 2008's.  First and most importantly is Ido buys only the best grapes including some from the Margalit family's Galilee vineyards. He pays a premium to secure grapes he knows makes the highly sought after Margalit wines from their Kadita vineyard in the Galilee. Many winemakers will admit that you can only make great wine from from great grapes and I've heard some credit what happens in the vineyard accounts for 85 to 95% of the quality of any given wine.

     Not only does he secures great grapes he picks them at a lower than usual Brix level (sugar level) which provides for higher acidity than usual and lower alcohol levels. The lower alcohol and higher acidity levels allows for a wine that can convey more balance, a longer finish and more complexity unmasked by higher alcohol.  The lower brix picking has also been adopted by the Margalit's and that's good company to be keeping.

     Warmer weather regions typically have shorter growing seasons than cooler regions because the fruit ripen quicker which can give more dependable harvests but don't allow for more complex flavors and acidity to develop.  In Israel altitude can often make up for latitude and hilly and mountainous regions such as the Galilee, Golan and Judean Hills can produce grapes associated with more northern climes (or southern if you think of southern hemisphere wines in Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand for example).

    Even more unique than harvesting lower brix grapes is how Ido implements gravity in processing his wines. Gravitation winemaking is when the winemaker at every stage or even at critical stages uses gravity to assist the crushing, fermentation and even bottling processes.  During crushing the Lewinsohn's can accompish this by using a small crusher/destemmer that can process about a ton of grapes an hour but can be placed directly over the tank the juice is intended for.  This allows the grapes to avoid being being pumped to the tanks as most wineries do.  During pumping, the skins, stems and seeds are handled more harshly according to gravity proponents and this translates into more bitter tannic tasting wines with more vegetative aromas.  To complement this, instead of pumping over the juice to let the grapes slowly gently open up Ido uses open top tanks which allow for "punching down" which he asserts is even more gentle with the potentially problemeatic seeds, stems and skins (oh,my).

   Another suggested advantage of gravity processing is that the less pumping and other mechanical manipulations of juice from the grapes to tanks to barrels to the bottles, the less mechanical energy transferred to the grapes and the juice and the less interference with the natural tastes emerging from the wine.  Some winereies have gone to making 4 or 5 story wineries that allow every stage of the processing to use gravity to assist in the wine migrating from one stage to another. However, Ido considers "100%" gravtity assisted winemaking a marketing ploy and and an unnecessary extravagent expense and that it's only in certain stages (crushing,fermenting and bottling) that these efforts translate into noticeble differences.  Never the less, no Israeli competitors are 100% gravity assisted and few if any are known to be using it to the extent he's adopted. If his wines gain the respect they deserve, look forward to others to follow though it's far more manageble on the smaller scale of a boutique winery than a larger more industrial producer.


    An even more unique innovation Ido is introducing is sur lees aging to his reds. Now sur lees aging, aging the feremented juice with the already spent yeast, is quite common with white wines, but seldomn used with reds and almost unheard of with for aging up to the year Ido is aging his reds.  The sur lies provides another nuance to the taste and feel of the wines as the yeast cells impart a certain flavor but also as they break open impart a fuller body as they release polysaccarides into the wine. Polysaccarides by definition area long chain of sugars which give way to a  fuller body to the wines can provide balance otherwise  lost to lower alcohol levels due to the lower brix harvesting.

     Though his efforts supporting Gil Shatsberg at Recanati are more easily accessable in Israel and overseas, Ido has secured a few placements with Israeli restaurants that have been buying up his whole production of Lewinsohn Wines at between 4 to 6,000 bottles a year so far.  Al Ha'mayim, Messa and the Metushelach Wine Bar would be worth investigating just to try Lewinsohn wines and  if they have sought out such a high quality winery for their list, it wets one's imagination what else they might carry and what food they may serve to complement their wines. Currently, the 2007 Chardonnay is selling off the wine lists for 220-240 NIS/bottle (about $55- $60/bottle which isn't bad for a premium Chardonnay over dinner). The wines are retailing for 110 NIS for the Chardonnay and 130 for the reds (about $26 and $30 respectfully).

     Besides enjoying the fruits of his own labor with Lewinsohn's and Recanati's line-up of wines, he indulges in Margalit and Clos de Gat wines. His days in Europe weren't for naught and he does like to invest in Italian Piedmont wines when and where they're available.

   Fans of Israeli produced wines should be enthusiasic that Israel is nuturing and producing skillfull and concientious winemakers like Ido Lewinsohn and I hope they find ways to supports his efforts at Recanati or his own Lewinsohn wines less he be recruited to once again ply his craft overseas.

    I'll be looking forward to tasting his soon to be released 2008 Chardonnay which relied on grapes from Red Poetry vineyards.






June 30, 2009June 30, 2009  3 comments  wine

         There is much skepticism from wine writers in Israel and abroad if Israel's warm Eastern Mediterranean climate can produce the grapes required for making great white wines. Cooler climates such as the Rhine Valley in German and France's Graves, Champagne, Alsace and Burgandy regions provide vintners with longer growing seasons. Cooler climates also provide for lower alcohol levels and higher acidity levels which give a great white crispness and a clean finish and allow whites to age without the tannins found in the skins of red wine grapes. Never the less, against conventional wisdom many Israeli winemaker's are making great efforts to make "Great Whites" and some are showing tangible results in the process.

Lewinsohn Winery

        One such winemaker new to the scene is Ido Lewinsohn. I've previously discussed Ido's unique style of making his red Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and how his garagista might be making some of Israel's best made reds. Well, lightining has struck twice. He's also making some of Israel's best white wine in his 2008 Lewinsohn's "Garage de Papa" Chardonnay. In it's only second year of production, the Chardonnay is gaining a cult following as it's mostly sold through just a few of Israel's most renown eateries. Selling for about 225 NIS to over 300 NIS or about $55 in restaurants or about 175 NIS retail (if you can find any) it's definitely priced as one of the best white wines in Israel.


Lewinsohn 2008 Chardonnay

The 2008 Lewinsohn Chardonnay under the new "Garge de Papa" label.

     Of course, one reason for the higher than average price is the rarity. Only 880 bottles of the 2008 Lewinsohn Chardonnay was only made or about 3 barrels worth. About the same amount of the 2007 was produced and the winery sold that out completely and only a handful of those bottles remain in circulation on resturant wine lists. Few garagistas (garage wineries) just producing a few or several thousand bottles a year even tackle making white wines. Whites can be such "little princesses" that require so much attention to detail and extra stages to make it commercially appealing (compared to a reds) that many starting winemakers wait until they're making wine on a larger scale before they invest their time, effort and their blossoming reputation.  The time investment for whites can be much more intense and more suited for larger production runs.

    After tasting any of the three Lewinsohn labels it's quite apparent Ido isn't the typical garage winemaker.  First, he's no beginner. He's been neck deep in winemaking for almost a decade working on vintages in great wineries in France (where he opened a winery), Italy (where he attended the Univeristy of Milan), Tasmania and Israel. He's one of the two winemakers at the frequent award-winning Recanati Winery having worked there under its founding winemaker Lewis Pasco and now under Gil Shatzberg who came over from Israel's notable Amphorae Winery. Second, although he admts you learn something new every vintage, he 's not merely a student. He teaches and directs a winemaking program here in Israel to aspiring boutique winemaker's and seems to challenge himself not to just make wine he likes but to take his vast and varied experiences to make in theory what he thinks it takes to make the best wine in Israel.

     Having worked at the revered Margalit Winery in 2003, Ido seems to follow the lead of that father and son team of winemakers: Yair and Assaf Margalit. This prestigios winery that's been around now for almost 20 years only makes about a modest 20,000 bottles a year but it's on almost everyone's list of Israel's best wines. 20,000 bottles isn't the ideal level of production to be commercially viable so both Yair and Assaf have become prolific, respected and even adored instructors teaching how to make wine in classes from Tel Aviv to Tel Hai. Barry Saslove, another esteemed instructor has also gone on to create the well regarded Saslove Winery. As Ido and his contempories exemplify, the old American adage of "those who can't, teach" surely dooesn't apply to it's winemakers.

    The 2008 Chardonnay under Lewinsohn's new Gargage de Papa label might easily be mistaken for a Burgandy white than a "New World" Chardonnay. With stoic mineralitly up front, crisp acidity, hints of vanilla and bartlett pears on the finish this is a Chardonnay for those who don't like how Chardonnay'shave mutated in the last 20 years into buttery oever-oaked alcohol bombs. Ido thinks as this wine evolves it will even engender stronger Old World components. Currently, he's sur lees aging this wine for 8 mnths with only 2/3 of the wine in new French oak. He intends to use old oak as hs barrels mature to lessen the oak flavors interferring with the varietal purity of the choice Chardonnay grapes he contracts.

Ido at his

Ido at his "day job" at the much larger Recanati Winery as one of its two great winemakers

   With Ido's small production and focus on quality he's been able to carefully select distribution to those outlets that he believes have the conviction and know how to talk about his wines enthusiastically and intelligentllly.  At about 160 NIS ($35) retail and 220 to 240 NIS ($55-60) in restaurants, this Chardonnay ranks as one of Israel's most expensive white wines and I agree with Ido that it might take an educated staff to sell this wine against New World Chardonnay expectations but the informed consumer should be pleasantly surprised and even elated consuming this wine in contrast to similar or even higher priced international Chardonnays. Get it now before everyone else catches on to what I'm saying and what magic Ido's is making in his state of the art micro-winery in his father's modified temperture-controlled garage.

Lewinsohn Winery's Mascot

Every fan of the film Mondovino knows many great wineries have a loyal mascot



Ido Lewinsohn

can be contacted at:




June 30, 2009June 30, 2009  3 comments  wine

    As I make my rounds to Israeli wineries, I've visited some wineries more than once. My schedule of visits is  based on a few factors: Finding a good time that works well with me and the winemaker, new developments and releases by the winery and the convenience of visiting any one winery in relation to where I am on any given day in Israel. Of course, it helps if I like their wines and enjoy talking wine with the winemakers. Additionally, wineries that stand out as harbingers of what is coming up in the country or as an example of the potential of winemaking in Israel have a special attraction. The Recanati Winery is one such winery.

Recanati Winery Emek Hefer

Recanti Winery in Emek Hefer

       Recanati has just started releasing it's second generation of wines as the wines of Gil Shatsberg are coming into maturity.  As founding winemaker Lewis Pasco moved to America, Gil was brought over from Amphorae to fill Lewis's big shoes. Since their Reserve & Special Reserve reds can take a few years to make before release and even more before their fully appreciated it will be 2-5 years beofre Gil's impact on the reds become evident to the public and critics at large. Though, the 2007 & 2008 whites and roses are  examples of the change in leadership. The 2008 Recanti series reds are being released which might give a hint of what's to come but the jury is still out until their higher end 2008 reds start appearing in the marketplace in 2010 and 2011. 

       It's a matter of opinion if the wines will be better than Pasco's award winning years but they seem destined to be different and worthy of attention from a different segmant of wine drinkers than before. I did get to taste their 2008 Recanati Cabernet Franc Reserve that was still maturing in the bottle and it reaffirmed my belief that Cab Franc's have a great potential to be a flagship wine for Israel.

Recanati 2008 Cab Franc

Rich and Expressive 2008 Recanati Cabernet Franc


     Their 2009 Carigan also shows great potential as it ages it continues to age in the barrel. This will be Recanati's first release of Carignan and it's slated for release as a Reserve wine. It's shows a lot of concentrated black fruit flavors, intense colors and tannins and indications that this wine has the potential for

     One reason I call what's happening a new genration in wines at Recanati is an evolution in style. Under California trained Pasco, Recanati had been one of the better producers of "big, New World Israeli wines."  In fact, a Recanati just won "best Israeli wine" and a gold medal at the VinExpo in France (Barkan also won a gold medal tying Israel with France for the two medals in the compettion. No small feat considering Israel makes less than 1% of the wine of France). It was one of Pasco's wines that won so it's brave change to make wines that deviates from critical and commercial success.  Gil seems to favor Old World preferences for lower alcohol though still flavorful wines that shouldn't disappoint Recanti's loyal base and even attract an even wider following.

     Another asset of the Recanati Winery that shouldn't be overlooked is the presence of winemaker Ido Lewinsohn. Serving under the leadership of Gil Shatsberg, for a winery it's size Recanati might have the best one-two winemaker combo in Israel. Ido trained principally in Italy at the University of Milan but also had worked several vintages in France, Israel and far off Tasmania before landing at Recanati. He even has his own garagista wine "Garage de Papa" that has been gaining quite a cult-following.

    The winery offers a four series of wines much like other medium and larger wineries in Israel. This gives the winery flexibility in offering different levels of quality and pricing depending on the quality of grapes available and used and the efforts at the winery expended.

     The Yasmin Series is their introductory series and comes in the Yasmin White and the Yasmin Red.  It's an irony of winemaking that blending of varietals in New World wines typically happens at the highest and lowest ends of production.

    The Recanati Series is their second tier of wines and as for most wineries it's where quality and value seem to coincide.  A  Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay make uo the Whites with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah available as Reds. A commitment to make a Rose every year has proven to be successful as well.

    Where their Rose in the past had been made from their Cabernet Franc (like many wineries) , it's now being made exclusively from Recanati's Barbera grapes, an Italian variety known for it's high acidity and fruitiness. This has lent itself to Recanati's 2008 Rose as being one of the best if not the best Rose in Israel. Winemakers Gil

2008 Recanati Rose

Winemaker Ido Lewisnsohn stands behind Recanti's 2008 Rose featuring 80% Barbera and 20% Merlot grapes

    The top two tiers are made up of their Reserve and Special Reserve series and offer mostly expected varietals with a few pleasant surprises.

    In the Reserve series, a Chardonnay is the only white offered. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc make up their single varietals with a unique award winning Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend pioneered by founding winemaker Lewis Pasco rounding up the mix. 

Their one Special Reserve offered each year is reminiscent of popular Cabernet/Merlot Bordeaux blends


Recanati has no current plans to make any dessert or sparkling wines.


Recanati Winery

POB 12050

Industrial Zone Emek Hefer

telephone: 04 6222288

the winery is off Rt 4 north of the Kfar Vitkin turn off and south of Hadera (though much of their grapes come the Galilee)

go west into the Emeq Hefer Industrial Park and take the first right going North

at the end of the road go left (west) and it will be dow nt e oad about 100 meters on the north/right side of the street

give onself about an hour and a half driving from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv

as for most Israeli wineries for best results call ahead of time for the best experience.

July 7, 2009July 7, 2009  2 comments  wine

I'll be attending tonight (Tuesday) and probably Thursday, if you want to meet the man behind the words... 052-702-9463

Annual Israeli Wine Festival


Art Garden at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

August 4th, 5th and the 6th (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday)

19:00-24:00 (7PM-Midnight)

60 NIS for the tasting including the glass

with over 30 wineries participating including kosher Recanati, Yatir, Alexander, Segal, Tishbi,Tzuba,Tepererg,Tabor, Psagot, Tzora, Dalton, Barkan, Binyamina and Galil Mountain

and non kosher Avidan, Pelter, Saslove



Israel Museum: 02-6708811





August 24, 2009August 24, 2009  1 comments  wine

      So, when you work in the wine industry, everyone thinks you must be some kind of a drunk and though I might get intoxicated time to time I can assure I probably drink less in quanity but maybe more in quality than many of my readers or friends.  One way this happens is many times when I'm near wine I'm talking business or tasting wine (which usually includes spitting) and other times when I'm drinking wine it's with other wine people and we savor what were drinking and I can enjoy smelling a great wine as much as drinking it. I also like enjoying letting a wine open up in the glass a half hour or and hour tasting it as it opens up.

Recently, I had a chance to drink with some of my favorite wine geeks in Israel (and meet a few new ones). This is heavan for me. If there's an afterlife I hope they're serving good wine accompanied by good food, good company and good conversation. Such was this day at Ido Lewinsohn's Lewinsohn Winery as about a dozen of us dined with his family and tried a verticle and horizontal tasting of his ever more popular cult status "Garage du Papa" wines.

    There's some winemakers and wineries that have been extremely generous with their time and wine as I journey through and journal about Israeli wines: the Tishbis, the staff at Carmel & Yatir, the Margalits, Eli at Domaine Castel and Ido with his wines and those of Recanati.  There are others who have been as generous but time after time the forementiond have been great mentors and from time to time I should thank them publicly as much as I hope I do privately. 



    So, I mention this because when Ido asked me to come to a tasting at his family's house/winery, I didn't have to think twice about booking a spot at his table. Another reason is that Ido much like his mentor and friend Assaf Marglait are wine mavens who have many of Israel's most interesting, influential, dynamic and curious winos in their gravitional orbit so when I meet with them it can often lead meeting another chain of wine contacts and if I keep my ears open and my taste buds ready I'm bound to learn a thing or two more about winemaking and what makes these wizards of wine and their tick.

   Those of us lucky enough to be invited weren't only rewarded by his fabulous wines but his mother cooked us crepes (maybe to bolster our tolereance levels) and there was some treats set as we drank 2007, 2008 and the still fermenting 2009 Lewinsohn "Garage du Papa" Chardonnay. This wine has been selling out due to the efforts of just a few outlets. Granted only a few barrels were bottled but still at about 150 NIS to 175 NIS retail ($45 to $55 two to three times that price in Tel Aviv restuarants where it's mostly sold.  This "Old World" style Chardonnay is making some noise in the marketplace as one of the most expensive and hard to find (but worth every penny or argarot) Israeli white wines.



October 28, 2009October 28, 2009  0 comments  wine

October 28th, 2009

      Today, I made my way back to the Recanati Winery located in Emek Hefer, Israel. Recanati is celebrating a banner crop this year exceeding 1,000 metric tons of grapes in the 2009 harvest in contrast to about 800 tons harvested for the 2008 vintage.  Higher yields were evident throughout Recanati's Upper Galilee & Jerusalem vineyards. Higher yields are typically more preferable in grapes destined for their value Recanati and Yasmin series wines than grapes destined for their higher quality wines. Although, these higher quality grapes still experienced higher yields, the yields were still within the spectrum of yields desirable for flavor, color and tannins expected of their quality wines (about 1 ton to 1.2 tons per dunam... a dunam is about 1/4 of an acre... and not the 4 tons per dunam destined for bulk wines). An increase in the quanity of quality grapes assures better Recanati wines through their whole series as much of this juice filters as free-run juice in their higher series to additional pressings in their lower series. So if the winery commits to keeping production of their higher series at about the same most of the 2009 wines should benefit. Recanati consumers should look forward to enjoying these wines as they hit the shelves in 2010 and beyond.


Recanati winery

the Recanati Winery in Emek Hefer, Israel

   Increased sunlight on their vines last year is suspected to contributing to greater yields for Recanati.  As well,  grapes from new vineyards and varietals coming into their pipeline contributed to the significant increase in production.  This has increased the quanity, quality and variety of grapes available to Recanati's winemaking team of head winemaker Gil Shatsberg and winemaker Ido Lewinsohn.  Gil was until last year the winemaker at the well respected Amphorae Winery. Ido continues in a similar role to that which he served under Recanati's founding winemaker, Lewis Pasco, spending a lot time monitoring and assessing the progress of Recanati's many vineyards although Gil has utilized Ido more as junior partner in the whole process than Lewis who may have regulated Ido to serving as an underling.  This dynamic duo of winemakers is already showing to be strong team in their first full year of releases together and Recanati's wine buyers are sure to take notice as demand increases for the fruits of these winemakers' efforts.

Gil Shatsberg

Recanati's head winemaker Gil Shatsberg barrel tasting their 2009 old vine Carignan


      A 2009 Recanati Carignan Reserve will be one of the newest stars of the winery. Expect a 2010 or 2011 release depending on how the wine matures in the bottle. The wine will probably undergo less oak aging than other Recanati Reserve reds in respect to the Old Vine's Carignan already deep concentrated flavors, tannins and color.

dsr at recanati

David following Gil's lead breathing in  and tasting Recanati's promising Carignan


    Although their 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve is expected to be quite popular upon it's release in 2010, as a testament to their taking their reserve labeling seriously, a  2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve will not be made and the grapes will be mostly used for blending. The 2009 Cabernet Franc lacked an intensity of flavors (by the standards of the Gil & Ido) to be released as a single varietal but still retained some value to blend into other wines as it adds complexity and and a boost of acidity often lacking inherently in warmer climate wines.

Recanati's 2008 Cabernet Franc

Recanati's 2008 Cabaerent Franc

    As new grapes and vineyards mature in future vintages, expect the winery's entry level Yasmin series' reds and whites to more closely resemble Rhone blends. New Italian varietals are also coming online though the winery prefers their idenity to be kept secret at this time. I can assure the reader that these grapes show promise as grapes well suited to Israel's various microclimates and desirable for adding complexity to blends and potentiallly offering unique single varietals as the vines mature and become able to offer more concentrated,complex and varietal specific flavors.  Grenache grapes will become available to the winemakers next year but they are expected to be used mostly for blending as it's predicted it will many years before they are dynamic enough to be able to anchor a single varietal offering.

Ido inspecting vines

winemaker Ido Lewinsohn in one of Recanati's Upper Galilee vineyards


     Gil intends every year for the overall quality of all Recanati's wines to improve. For instance, the Yasmin wines could become " a Geshem for the people" giving homage to Chateau Golan's revered yet pricey red & white Rhone blends.  The Yasmine red had been Carignan based with Syrah and Petite Sirah added as frequent contributors. A possible future Yasmine red might be a classic Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre red wine grapes.

      One reassuring assertion by Shatsberg is that Recanati must keep pace with the Israeli consumers' demand for better and better wine and this must carry through to all their series of wines, "first, our goal is to make a good wine without flaws and then make sure that wine offers a lot of flavors and complexity".  With a bumper crop such as 2009 provided, making their wines better is far easier. As their marketing division tells the winemakers what orders need to be filled in a year with higher yields of better grapes, Gil can continue to make his Special Reserve and Reserve wines from free-run juice with some potentially left over to bolster the flavors of the Recanati series of wines with the final press making it's way to the Yasmin series.

   So what kind of differences can the consumer expect as Recanati's wines show the influence of a their new winemaker. Well, according to Gil, "Lewis (Pasco) was and is an extremely talented & technical winemaker and his winemaking knowledge exceeded my own and I work with my heart".  Now, anyone familiar with the accolades he accumalated at Amphorae will know this is a modest characterization of Gil's wine acumen and what might occur with Recanati wines under Shatsberg's supervison. He's also incorporated Recanati's other winemaker Ido into the harvesting and winemaking decision making process though Gil retains final say in all matters.

  This team of Gil & Ido might be the strongest of any two winemakers for a winery it's size in Israel. Gil spent extensive time in studying and training in California before applying his training to Israeli wines. Ido trained in Milan before spending years training in Italy, France and far off Tasmania.  This merging of  many vintages across an extentive cross section of the winemaking world have given the scope, confidence and perspective necessary to make the best wine possible.  Each winemaker has more than enough skill, talent and passion to oversee a winery but as it stands now the Recanati team is stronger than the sum of their parts.
   The two discernable differences that this new team will bring to Recanati wines will be generally lower alcohol wines and a decreasing amount of new oak barrels used to age the wines.  This is more in line with Old World wine preferences and should result in wines that are more food friendly wines and wines more affable to drinking in a warmer climate like Israel's (it's still like summer here in Israel late in October). Gil is confident that by using less new oak less vanilla, cinnamon and toast will be apparent and their wines will have more of an emphasis on fruit and elegance."  The lower amount of alcohol, some of it attributed to earlier harvests, should also contribute to a wine more balanced between alcohol, fruitiness, acidity, body, tannins and color.


Lenny Recanati

Lenny Recanati, proud owner of the Recanati Winery


     The one wine that might remain closest to it's pre-Gil roots is Pasco's creation: Recanati's Petite Sirah/Zinfandel Reserve. It will continue to be aged in American oak though Gil won't commit to a set percentage of Petite Sirah or Zinfandel and will every year assess what makes the best blend.  This wine has won the winery several awards and since the grapes are more popular in California than anywhere else it only makes sense to continue it's producton in a New World style as a highly alcoholic fruit bomb. The high sugar content of these grapes lends itself to this style regardless of a winemaker's intentions.

    As a relatively new winery that has found relevance in the Israeli marketplace, the staff and ownership of the Recanati Winery seems determined to make their award-winning wines better and better every vintage. By fine-tuning their wines they're already making by honing their viticulture practices, bringing new vineyards and grapes into play, trying out new oak barrels, developing a dynamic duo of winemakers and making sure that they don't grow so fast that quanity outpaces quality, Recanati wines should be worthy of a curious palette for many years to come.


Recanati winery's awards

just some of Recanati Winery's ever growing collection of awards



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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


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