?By: Yonatan Sternberg
Photos: Israel Preker
Established in 2001, Ella Valley Vineyards is situated adjacent to the Netiv Halamed Hey Kibbutz, in a valley which according to tradition was the setting for the monumental battle between David and Goliath. Judging by the various archaeological findings, even back then, the Ella Valley was a prominent source for grapes and wine. Fast-forward to the end of the 20th century – a group of entrepreneurs decided to plant vineyards and start producing wines in the area, and 10 years later (first wines were released from the 2002 vintage), Ella Valley is still producing fine red and white wines that seem to have a very devoted following. ? Ella Valley Vineyards produces some 200,000 bottles per annum with roughly 40% intended for export. It is not small enough to be considered a boutique winery and not a large commercial winery with millions of bottles to be found at every store and outlet, it is not a ?cult winery? like Zeev Dunia?s Sea Horse Winery situated a few miles away, but rather a winery that is somewhere in between, while showing its own character and style; a winery that people relate to and most importantly a winery that has shown stability and quality over the years.? ??????? ?? ????? After some ten years of working with talented winemaker Doron Rav Hon, a new winemaker, Lynn Gold joined the team and will be at the helm starting from the 2011 vintage. Gold will be stepping into big shoes, and it will be interesting to taste the future Ella Valley offerings. ? I recently had the opportunity to visit the winery, meet Gold and taste some of the winery?s old-new wines. While working as a lab assistant at the Tavor Winery alongside winemaker Arie Nesher during her university studies, Gold fell in love with the world of wine and decided to pursue her studies as a winemaker. After she completed her BA studies in Israel, Gold packed her bags (and her husband) and traveled to the University of Adelaide in Australia to become a professional winemaker. To date, Gold worked a couple of vintages in Australia and for the 2010 vintage joined the Chateaux Golan Winery before being recruited by the Ella Valley Vineyards. ? When speaking with Gold it is evident that she is very passionate about her job ?I am still in a learning process at the winery, I visit the vineyards whenever I get a chance, study the terroir, sample the wine still in the barrels and wines from previous vintages to better understand the winery and its character. I have no intention to change the style but definitely hope to have my own finger print on future wines. Given that Doron and I are two different people, even if I decided to try and emulate his wines, that wouldn?t work. Our customers and friends have nothing to worry about; Ella Valley wines will remain concentrated and elegant as they were over the years?.??? ?????? ? I was rather surprised to hear that the winery is re-launching their Merlot 2004. The winery set several cases aside and see how they develop over the years and the result was quite positive. Merlot from the Ella Valley as well as from other vineyards in the Judean Hills region has been showing excellent results; a Merlot that is full of character and at the hands of the right winemaker can produce concentrated and elegant age worthy wines. ???? ? Showing much less age than one might expect, the Merlot 04 is still quite enjoyable suggesting pleasant aromas and flavors of plums, dried herbs, dark chocolate and slight earthy and leathery notes all leading to a medium-long finish. ????? ? The newer offerings were the Ella Valley, Chardonnay, 2010 and a limited edition vino dedicated to former winemaker Doron Rav Hon, labeled Personal of the 2008 vintage. ???? Ella Valley, Chardonnay, 2010 ? 100% Chardonnay grapes with 70% developed in oak and the balance in stainless steel, straw with bright gold reflections, medium bodied, suggesting melon, green apples, apricot, citrus and pleasant buttery notes all backed by a refreshing acidity. Not too heavy, not too light, overall a well balanced and very enjoyable wine. ? Ella Valley, Vineyard?s Choice, Personal, 2008 ? mostly Syrah with some Cabernet Sauvignon as well, dark ruby in color, medium-full bodied, on the attack, plenty of dry flowers followed by notes of red cherries, blackberry fruits, coffee, black pepper and just a touch of smoked meat all coming together nicely and leading to a long finish. ? L?Chaim! ? ?