There is no shortage of new wineries popping up in Israel. Every day seems to bring new ones. However one new venture caught my eye. This is a new winery called Kerem Montefiore.
The winery is apparently named after the plot of land we now call Mishkenot Sha?ananim and Yemin Moshe in Jerusalem. When purchased in 1855 by Sir Moses Montefiore, this area was initially called ?Kerem Moshe Montefiore,? which means Moses Montefiore?s Vineyard. ?It was the first Jewish land outside the Old City Walls and it was to become the cornerstone of modern & western Jerusalem.
The winery is a joint venture between Arnon Geva, David and Rachel Montefiore. Arnon Geva, the founder & CEO says: ?This is a winery connected with historical roots of both wine in Israel and of modern Jerusalem. My partners are the first Israeli Montefiores. This is a family that has contributed a great deal both to Israel and to Israeli wine. Furthermore, for me it is personal. I was brought up in Yemin Moshe!? Yemin Moshe is a beautiful neighborhood, adjoining Mishkenot Sha?ananim and overlooking the Old City.
He goes on: ?We have made wines with two guiding principles in mind. Firstly, that the vineyards had to be as close as possible to Jerusalem in keeping with Moses Montefiore?s legacy. Secondly, we decided to work only with grape varieties which are particularly suited to the Israeli climate and Judean Hills? terroir.?
The look of the bottles and labels of the first Montefiore wines are very elegant and stylish. (Geva tells me the graphic designer is also from Yemin Moshe!) The entry level wines have already gained notice for being innovative blends, which are at the same time good quality and great value. The Montefiore White is made from Colombard and Chardonnay and the Montefiore Red is a blend of Malbec, Shiraz & Petite Sirah. Both are unoaked. These labels feature a drawing of the Montefiore Windmill, one of Jerusalem?s most famous landmarks.
The upper level wines are oak aged varietals. There is a Syrah and a Petite Sirah. These are two varieties that may well be at their best when grown in the Judean Hills. Both wines show an early drawing of Mishkenot Sha?ananim on the label. A prestige label and olive oil is on the way.
Some of Israel?s finest restaurants have already put the Montefiore blends and varietals released so far, on their wine lists.
Arnon Geva is 45 years old. He grew up in the shadow of the Montefiore Windmill. After originally working in Life Insurance, he entered the wine business where he has worked for over 20 years. He has experience in both managing a boutique winery and working for a large one. He was a founder partner of Domaine du Castel, regarded as one of Israel?s finest small wineries. He was Managing Director of the company and also acted at Sales & Marketing Manager for Israel and export markets. During his time there, he helped build the Castel name for quality.
After this, he became the International Business Director for Carmel, Israel?s largest winery, & their subsidiary, Yatir Winery. He was at Carmel for five years, and was instrumental in returning the export sales to profitability.
?He was also for a five year period the founding Chairman of the Judean Wine Route, developing what was the pioneering wine route in Israel and advancing the Judean Hills & Judean Foothills wine region.
His partners are the children of Israel wine industry veteran, Adam Montefiore, who worked for the Golan Heights Winery in the 1990?s and Carmel in the 2000?s. Both David & Rachel Montefiore have followed their father into the world of wine.
Whilst graduating with honors from Tel Aviv University in Classics & English Literature, David Montefiore, 29 years old, became one of Israel?s best mixologists (bartenders), winning the national award sponsored by Findlandia and subsequently representing Israel in international competition. Gradually he moved from the grain to the grape, studying wine at the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust), in London. He is considered an on-premise specialist having been wine & spirits manager and sommelier for some of Israel?s leading restaurants in Tel Aviv, such as Tapeo, Yaffo Tel Aviv & Toto for over eight years. ?He also has overseas experience having worked with Rocland Winery in the Barossa Valley (Australia) and with Capcanes Winery, nr Priorat (Spain).
Before finding her way into the wine trade, Rachel Montefiore, 26, was the Israel Squash Junior Champion for two years in a row and won a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games. A qualified fitness trainer, she first studied Nutrition & then, whilst studying Chinese Medicine, also edged towards a career in wine. She started in retail, working at a boutique wine shop called Vino Cigar (in the Azrielli Center) & then for Derech Ha?Yayin, Israel?s leading chain of wine stores. She then moved into on-premise, being sommelier at both Pushkin Restaurant and the celebrity chef restaurant, The Blue Rooster. For a period of time, she also worked for a distributor marketing Austrian, Sicilian and Bravdo wines from Israel, before taking over responsibility of sales & marketing of Montefiore wines.
Arnon Geva explains: ?We are a professional team driven in the search for quality and originality. To this end, we have used the services of one of Israel?s finest and most experienced winemakers.? Sam Soroka is the winemaking consultant. He has made wine in Australia, France, Canada, California and Israel. He opened Carmel?s new boutique winery in 2003 and won numerous awards particularly for the Kayoumi vineyard wines he was responsible for.
Now, 150 years after the founding of Mishkenot Sha?ananim, this new winery has been created to celebrate the life of Moses Montefiore. He was born In Tuscany, lived in England and visited Israel seven times. Montefiore was also a wine lover, who drank a bottle of wine every day and lived to be nearly 101 years of age, which must say something about the healthy qualities of wine!
He tried to encourage Jews in Israel to work instead of living off charity and was the first advocate of agriculture, buying the first land for this purpose. He believed Jews should make use of their natural surroundings and plant olive trees and vineyards. He expressed his views over 40 years before Rothschild founded a modern wine industry and Herzl proposed a Jewish State. He was a Zionist long before the word even existed.
The first recorded winery in Israel was opened by the Shor family in 1848, inspired by Montefiore?s message. Their first harvest coincided with Montefiore?s third visit to Israel. The first evidence of the Shor family?s new profession, was recorded in the census conducted by Montefiore in 1949.
Moses Montefiore has an honorable place in the history of Israel. When the New Israel Shekel was introduced in 1980, (the first time the Shekel was used as currency since Biblical times), he was featured on the bank notes along with other founding fathers of Israel: Rothschild, Herzl, Jabotinsky, Weizman and Ben-Gurion.
Arnon Geva and his Montefiore partners were inspired by Moses Montefiore?s agricultural vision, his love for wine and his passion for Jerusalem. They have decided to make the finest wine possible in his memory. The Kerem Montefiore Winery and recently released Montefiore wines pay homage to the man and the place. www.wines-israel.com wishes them every success in the future.
The winery has carefully selected varieties which are, in their opinion, particularly suitable for the Judean Hills terroir and the Israeli climate. ?Only the fruit from the highest quality plots in the finest vineyards was used.
MONTEFIORE WHITE 2012, Judean Hills
Montefiore White is an innovative blend made from 70% Colombard and 30% Chardonnay . Both varieties were harvested early and cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine was not aged in oak. It is lemony-fresh, lively and fragrant. It has a nose of tropical fruit with a green, appley tinge, a broad, satisfying mouth feel and a crisp, refreshing finish.
MONTEFIORE RED 2012, Judean Hills
Montefiore Red is a Mediterranean style blend made from 34% Malbec, 33% Shiraz and 33% Petite Sirah. The wine is medium bodied, with a very good structure, but was not oak aged. It is fruit forward and full of chewy, mouth filling flavor, with aromas of ripe brambly fruit and hints of white pepper. It has a clean and refreshing finish.
MONTEFIORE SYRAH 2010, Judean Hills
This was made from 100% Syrah grapes. The wine shows well balanced elegance. It has the classic characteristics of the Syrah variety with aromas of blackberry, blueberry and raspberry with a spicy, leathery overtone and a long finish. It was aged in small oak barrels, mainly French, but also a little American, for 14 months.
MONTEFIORE PETITE SIRAH 2010, Judean Hills
This wine was made from 100% Petite Sirah grapes grown in the rising slopes of the Judean Hills. It is a very deep colored and full bodied wine, with aromas of black fruit, plums and an enchanting hint of violets. It has a very well balanced, even elegant finish. It was aged in small French oak barrels for 14 months.
The Kerem Montefiore partners, Arnon Geva, David Montefiore, and Rachel Montefiore, are pictured at the foot of the refurbished Montefiore Windmill, when it was reopened by the Prime Minister of Israel. They are standing with Adam Montefiore of Carmel Winery, historian Simon Sebag Montefiore (author of Jerusalem: The Biography), Uri Dromi, Director of Mishkenot Sha?ananim and Raphael Hazan (Rachel?s husband).