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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Walk right in, it's around the back...

No, not Alice's Restaurant (if anyone still remembers Arlo Guthrie's well-loved anthem), but rather a tiny winery that is literally 15 minutes from our house.

This past Friday, one of Zahava's business contacts invited us to join him, his wife and a small group of friends at a winery located in Moshav Nes Harim.  He knew that we enjoyed good wine (and spirits) and figured that despite Fridays being a crazy day for most people, that the close proximity to our home would offer enough of an enticement.

Little did he know that for a nice wine tasting, Zahava and I will gladly forgo most of the usual Friday routine.

This place is not the typical pretentious yuppy winery with polished wood and a carefully landscaped setting.  It is a rough-hewn building on a tiny moshav.  And if you miss the lone wooden sign pointing the way down a dirt track once you are inside the moshav... you'll miss it.

The meet-up at the winery was called for 10:00AM, so naturally when Zahava and I pulled up at the stroke of ten, nobody was there but the proprietor who was just opening the place and stoking the rustic wood-burning stove against the chill of the morning mountain air.  He directed us to drive around the back and received us with the warmth and sincerity of someone who genuinely loves what he does and who wants to share his good fortune with others.

It was nearly 30 minutes before the rest of the group showed up, but it was long enough for us to have a leisurely espresso with the proprietor and to find some of the inevitable connections that exist between all Jews... provided they have enough time to talk, of course.

Once everyone was there (we were a small group of 7 or 8 couples) he set out a bunch of pristine wine glasses and proceeded to bring out one wine after another.  Each wine was  introduced with many apologies that it wasn't quite ready... or that it "really needs another year in the bottle to reach its peak".  But IMHO, the wines were incredible.  The Cabernet Savignon, in particular, was the best I've ever had!

Rather than allow himself to become the center of attention, the proprietor was happy to tell a bit about the grapes, the characteristics of the wine and maybe his own thoughts on the tonal accents... and then let us talk amongst ourselves.  In short, he was the perfect host.

In addition to the unbelievable Cab, there was a really special Port-like wine that he brought out at the end almost as an afterthought.  I had already told him which wines I wanted to buy, but when I tasted the label-less Port, I told him I wanted a case of that.  He smiled and said he'd be happy to give me a bottle... but that he wasn't really selling it yet.  When I pressed him, he asked me if I had children.  When I said yes, he offered the following:

"Sometimes your children ask you for permission to do something that your life experience tells you is a big mistake.  The more you try to explain to them the reason behind your refusal, the less they seem to understand.  Finally you have to say "The answer is no.  Some day you'll understand why I'm right and you're wrong... but right now you simply have to trust me because I'm your father".  I'm not your father, but you're going to have to trust me about this wine.  Right now it is pretty good, but in two or three years it will be incredible.  If I sold you (and everyone else who wanted some) a case, there will be nothing left in a year, much less two.  You can take a bottle home now... and you can even come back once in a while to pick up another.  But you'll have to trust me when I tell you that you'll thank me in two years that there is still some of this stuff in the world."

As we left the little winery perched on the side of an evergreen dappled mountain, I was delighted to have been introduced to this little treasure so close to home.  You won't see their wine here in Israel as they sell most of it in the US to the upscale wine crowd.  But if you are under the mistaken impression that you have to go to the Golan heights or Zichron Yaakov to find decent wine in its natural habitat, you should set your sights a little closer to home:

Katlav Winery, Ltd.
Moshav Ness Harim
Tel: 972 2 570 1404

Ask for Yossi Yittach.  He can open the place for you on a Friday morning for intimate private tastings... and if you can commit to a group of 25 adults, he opens the place a couple of times a week (maximum) to private wine and grill parties (all strictly kosher).

Enjoy!

Posted by David Bogner on December 14, 2008 | Permalink

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Excellent post! I haven't had Katlav wines (although I suspect they are available here, in small quantities?), but always great to here your and others experiences with Israel's great wines (and feel free to send me a guest blog for my Israeli wine blog)

Posted by: Avi | Dec 14, 2008 2:39:09 PM

how does it compare to ours?

Posted by: dave | Dec 14, 2008 2:54:46 PM

Did I read this right? You went to a wine tasting at 10 AM? Gee, Dave, even for YOU, a former deadbeat musician, isn't that a wee bit early to be imbibing? Here in Galut it would have to be the 2nd day of a chag for that kind of decadence!

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Dec 14, 2008 3:38:40 PM

Actually, you can find Katlav wines in some of the Jeursalem wine shops. Interesting little winery...visited there a couple of years ago. Nice to see that he's managed to develop things in the meantime.

Posted by: eliot | Dec 14, 2008 4:14:16 PM

Trep,

Would I need a car to get there, or is there a bus or sherut that stops nearby?

Posted by: dfb1968 | Dec 14, 2008 5:54:14 PM

Avi ... There are actually three or four great boutique wineries within a 30 minute drive of my house. Life is good.

dave ... Ours was good (some of it excellent). But this guy is world class.

Marsha in Englewood... Didn't you go to college? :-)

eliot... Still plenty of room for him to grow.

dfb1968... Absolutely. But a taxi from Beit Shemesh or Jerusalem wouldn't be that expensive. It would allow you to drink a bit more without worrying too. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 14, 2008 6:28:03 PM

With all the build up I hope that wine is as good as he says it will be.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 14, 2008 7:11:08 PM

Party! Party! I love the balance of this blog. We get deep, political thought. We get family updates. We get restaurant and winery reviews, and travel tips. There is no boredom at Treppenwitz. Thank you for taking the time.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Dec 14, 2008 8:14:22 PM

Sounds like a great place wherefine people make great products. Thanks for sharing. They probably don't sell abroad but who knows maybe one day...

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Dec 14, 2008 11:51:50 PM

They are imported to the US by Abarbanel
http://www.abarbanel.com/wines/katlav.shtml

Posted by: Raz | Dec 15, 2008 3:13:23 PM

Yes, Trep, but I lived at home. I HAD NO LIFE!!!!!!:-)

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Dec 15, 2008 5:25:44 PM

"anyone still remembers Arlo Guthrie's well-loved anthem.."

Are you kidding? Listing to that song each year on Thanksgiving is a tradition second only to eating turkey! Classic rock stations here in the US invariably play it at noon on Thanksgiving Day.

Posted by: Elie | Dec 15, 2008 5:37:23 PM

Enjoy, if you have the time
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8DtpdXZi0M

Posted by: raz | Dec 16, 2008 3:08:39 PM

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