Grape Escape Trio: Galilee, Israel




Galilee is an administrative region as well as a registered wine region. Similar to Napa- Napa Valley is a wine region that can go on a bottle, and Napa County is an administrative region that can set taxes. Although the region is located in the Middle East, the climate is Mediterranean – think Greece, not Arizona. The vineyards are scattered throughout the region with many of them clinging to rocky outcroppings at high elevations (1,500 ft) – similar to the mountains in Napa Valley. The resulting wines fall solidly into the fruit forward ‘New World’ style, although the region has grown grapes since ancient times. Honestly, when I was tasting the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon from Golan Heights I would have swore it was from Sonoma Valley, or a cooler vintage from Napa Valley. 

While Cabernet Sauvignon and other ‘modern’ grapes dominate the viticultural landscape there are other grapes, some that date back to Biblical times like Argaman. Labels for wines from this region may simply say ‘Galilee’, or if sourced from smaller regions: Golan Heights, Upper Galilee or Lower Galilee. 

If you love Jordan, Chateau Montelena or Prisoner, you should try these:

Tulip, Just Cabernet Sauvignon, Upper Galilee 2021 From the fastest-growing wine region in Israel, this Cabernet is rich with notes of coffee, clove, and black raspberry. It’s a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Carignan, and 5% Viognier.
Jezreel Alfa, Galilee 2020 This blend of Syrah, Argaman, and Cabernet Sauvignon is named for Beth Alfa, a 6th-century synagogue located at the foot of the Gilboa Mountains. Complex and spicy with a long, lingering finish
Vitkin Winery, Cabernet Franc, Upper Galilee 2016 One of my personal favorites out of Israel. It’s Cabernet Franc first off, which always means a little more structure. But this wine really broke the mold – it tastes Old World. Reminds me of red blends out of Lalande-de-Pomerol in Bordeaux. Crush red berries and potting soil.