Gush Etzion Winery
By Joshua E. London
One of the many Israeli wineries that have been steadily gaining a wider audience in the United States is the family-run Gush Etzion Winery. A modern Israeli boutique winery on the road to Alon Shvut and Kfar Etzion, the Gush Etzion Winery is about 20 minutes southwest of Yerushalayim; it is just off the junction at Highway 60. Attached to the winery is a lovely kosher l’mehadrin dairy and fish restaurant with very satisfying food that nicely pairs with the wines produced there. Shavuos is approaching and the wines of Gush Etzion should make for a good accompaniment with your dairy foods. Their refreshing white wines will help beat the coming summer heat as well.
The winery’s inspiration began not with grapes but with blackberries and cherries. When Shraga Rozenberg and his late wife Tamar relocated from Yerushalayim to Efrat in 1986, their new home came with a garden that produced abundant blackberries and cherries. Routinely saddled with more fruit than they knew what to do with, Rozenberg—a former social worker and retirement home manager—decided to tinker with producing blackberry wine and cherry liqueur in his home.
“When we first came to Efrat,” Rozenberg reminisced, “I wanted to make something with my own hands; something agricultural. So, I began with making blackberry and then also cherry wines and liqueurs.”
Before long, Rozenberg progressed from blackberries and cherries to grapes as he began to dream of vineyards and winemaking. By 1995, the Rozenbergs had given up their day jobs and devoted their efforts full time to establishing the Gush Etzion Winery.
“We didn’t have any great wealth, so we had to do everything slowly and step-by-step,” he says. Fueled by little more than a personal sense of mission and optimism, he also sunk his savings into this new venture and acquired a little land to cultivate grapes.
Skip ahead to 2005, when the Rozenbergs—in partnership with the Tishbi Winery of the Binyomin Region and an American investor’s support—opened a newly constructed modern winery at its current location. To this was added a modern visitor’s center, a kosher l’mehadrin dairy and fish restaurant, and an outdoor event garden/space. A few years later, they hired Itay Lahat, arguably Israel’s most famous wine consultant; their wines noticeably improved.
Today they grow more than a dozen different grape varieties on 37 acres, producing some 120,000 bottles of wine annually under four different series: Emek Bracha or Blessed Valley, Alon HaBoded or Lone Oak Tree, Nachal HaPirim or Spring River, and the limited edition Migdal Eder. The Gush Etzion Winery has proven a critical and modest commercial success and has also inspired many others. Today the area has over 150 acres under vine.
Though they produce a broad range of wines, twelve of which are currently exported to the United States, the winery is best known for its fabulous white wines. As Shraga Rozenberg put it, “we like to focus on our whites because the white wine grapes do especially well in our area and nicely reflect our terroir. Most of our whites see no oak, and all our wines are minimal intervention production; so, they express the land well and make the most of what God gave us in the vineyard.”
All of their wines are enjoyable and non-mevushal. In particular, consider the following four wines:
Gush Etzion Winery, Lone Oak Tree, Viognier, 2021
(Judean Hills, Israel; SRP $25). Grown at an elevation of 950 meters above sea level (around 3,117 feet), this vibrant, aromatic, crisp, refreshing, beautiful wine offers rich aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, peach, tangerine, and honeydew melon; the finish is long, engaging, and very satisfying.
Gush Etzion Winery, Lone Oak Tree, Dry Gewürztraminer, Limi ted Edition, 2021
(Judean Hills, Israel; SRP $25). They also produce a beautiful semi-dry Gewürztraminer and an enjoyable late harvest edition. This lovely, lively, rich, and aromatic wine offers spicy tropical aromas and flavors of guava, grapefruit, apricots, white peach, and distinct, appealing lychee. It is very well-made and very refreshing.
Gush Etzion Winery, Lone Oak Tree, Sauvignon Blanc, 2020
(Judean Hills, Israel; SRP $25). This wine offers charming aromas and flavors of lemongrass, mild poppy seed, and subtle passion fruit with notes of ripe pear, white pepper, grapefruit, and white peach; decent acidity to keep it lively, and a little more heft on the palate than expected; craves a bit of food—refreshing and very easy drinking.
Gush Etzion Winery, Loan Oak Tree, Rosé, 2021
(Judean Hills, Israel; SRP $25). A brisk, bright blend of 48% Grenache, 43% Mourvedre, and 9% Pinot Gris, offering notes of slightly underripe strawberries, both raw and gently cooked quince, and light grapefruit aromas and flavors, with a subtle, slightly drying salinity, making for a tart, mildly fruity, zippy, yummy, and refreshing rosé. Serve chilled, and then give it a little time to open in the glass.