In every wine producing country there is some father figure to whom the quality revolution in that country is credited. In America though the most visible winery in the wine awakening was Mondavi, the guru who actually changed the way people thought about making quality wine was a Russian ?migr?, Andre Tchelistcheff. In France the person that updated & simplified the complicated world of winemaking was Emile Peynaud, who recently died. In Australia it was Max Schubert. In Israel, without doubt there has been a revolution in both viticulture and vinification techniques ensuring the quality wine available from so many wineries today. The man responsible for this more than anyone else was Peter Stern.
When Shimshon Welner, the first General Manager of the Golan Heights Winery, was looking to California to find a Jewish U.C. Davis trained winemaker for his new winery project in 1982, he was given the name of Peter Stern. As he presumed he was Jewish, he invited him for an interview. Even though it transpired that he wasn?t, it started off a relationship between Peter Stern & the Golan Heights Winery that was to last 20 years.
Peter Stern was invited to design the winery and to be the winemaking consultant. He was the one who chose the now famous Yarden name & logo. He was given the task of finding winemakers and brought a succession of young U.C. Davis graduates to act as winemakers ? all of whom went on to make a name for themselves in the wine world benefiting from his supervision & direction. It was the first time since Chateau Lafite sent its Maitre de Chai to visit Carmel in the 1890?s, that an Israeli winery had imported international expertise.
Stern was the first to return Israeli winemaking to the vineyard and to pursue standards of excellence in the winery itself. The wines produced by his prot?g?s won quick recognition ? the Yarden & Gamla wines launched in 1984 were immediately acknowledged as Israel?s first world class wines. In 1987, the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 1984 won both the gold medal and The Winiarski Trophy as the best wine in the famous International Wine & Spirits Competition. Israeli wine was on the international stage. It was appropriate, that when Yarden Katzrin 1990, the first super de luxe wine, was launched in Israel, it was Peter Stern who signed the back label. From the 1990?s onwards, the Golan Heights Winery gathered together its own Israeli born, but internationally trained, winemaking team under the admirable Victor Shoenfeld.
Golan Heights Winery has a record in international tasting competitions enviable to any of the world?s finest wineries.
When not visiting Israel, Stern acts as winemaker for Herzog Cellars, the California winery owned by Royal Wine Corp. and owner of brands: Herzog Reserve, Baron Herzog, Weinstock & J.Furst. Herzog Reserve wines became the first kosher wines ever to receive over 90 points in Wine Spectator, a success they have repeated over five times. Blind tastings both in Israel & abroad consistently show Herzog reserve wines are some of the finest available in California. The Baron Herzog brand represents value for money at a certain price point. Both are represented by Carmel in Israel.
Therefore Peter Stern was involved with the two most successful kosher wineries in the world: Golan Heights Winery & Herzog Cellars.
Born & bred in California, Peter Stern has worked for both Gallo, the largest winery in the world, and Mondavi Winery, which really heralded the quality revolution in California. In his youth he was a close friend of Michael Mondavi and travelled with the family in the early 1960?s when they strove to find the secrets of the great European wines.
Today Peter Stern is the winemaking consultant for Carmel, advising & assisting Carmel?s large winemaking team. This includes the seven new young winemakers Carmel has employed in the last 18 months to run their large wineries at Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Ya?acov and their new boutique wineries: Yatir – at Tel Arad, Zichron (within the Zichron facility) and at Ramat Dalton in the Upper Galilee.
There are many Israeli wineries producing international class wines today. They have Israeli born winemakers who have studied at the major wine universities of California, Australia, France & Italy. They make wine from the vineyards and are up to date with the latest innovations & technology. A far cry from the 1980?s when only the Golan Heights Winery had internationally trained American winemakers. Both Peter Stern & the Golan Heights Winery were the pioneers who set the standard and raised the flag. Their efforts and the example they set for the Israel wine industry should not be downplayed today.