Golan Heights Winery: The Winery that put Wines from Israel on the Map

Mar 13, 2018

The Golan Heights winery markets brands under the Golan, Yarden, Mount Hermon and Gamla labels and is parent company to Galilee’s Galil Mountain Winery.

When I started writing this article about the famous vineyards in Israel, it was my aim to avoid a particular subject matter. What I’m talking about (let’s call it a term) may be an overused expression or it may be a concept that is misunderstood. Specifically, I’m talking about the realm of the wine geek. As much as I tried, I could not write about Golan Heights Winery without using the term! So, what is a wine geek? Just go with me on this…..

A wine geek is someone who pursues something with vigor and in a manner that is nearing obsessive-compulsive. A wine geek isn’t just a wine lover, moreover he or she is devoted to developing an extensive knowledge of grapes, wines, soil types, farming and methods of winemaking. Wine geekery is not just about enjoyment of wine, but also about having a deep understanding of wine that exceeds the wine knowledge of most.

Golan Heights is a winery in Israel that has no shortage of wine geeks behind the scene. It is important to Golan Heights Winery to be ahead of the game in every way possible as a producer of fine wine. This is all good news for the lover of wine….one person’s wine geekery translates into everyone’s wine enjoyment!

Let me tell you how this healthy obsession all came to be….

Where in the World is Golan Heights?

The Golan extends about 44 miles (71 km) from north to south and about 27 miles (43 km) from east to west at its widest point. The area is long and boat-shaped and has an area of 444 square miles (1,150 square km). The better agricultural land lies in its southern portion; the stony foothills of Mount Hermon in the north, with patches of woodland and scrub, are a stock-raising area. The Israeli portion of the Golan rises to 7,297 feet (2,224 meters) at its extreme northeast point on the Mount Hermon slopes.

The Beginnings of Golan Heights Winery:

After planting the first vineyards in the Golan in 1976, the winery was established in 1983 by four kibbutzim (collective communities) and four moshavim (cooperative communities). In 1984, the winery released its first wine – the 1983 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc – creating great excitement in Israel and abroad. It is widely accepted that Golan Heights put wines from Israel on the map.

Geek Out on Terroir:

Anyone with a keen interest for terroir, will love to hear that the Golan is perfectly ideal for viticulture. Golan Heights’ vineyards sit at high elevation, ranging from 1300 to nearly 4000. The soil is a vineyard manager’s dream – volcanic, basalt soil with excellent drainage makes for deep rooted vines and concentrated grapes. The climate is defined by the kind of extremes that people may not love, but grapes on the other had do! The gusty snow storms in winter, the cool nights and the long, hot and dry days of summer are what the vines love to thrive and produce well-balanced mature grapes.

In pursuit of deep terroir comprehension, soil mapping research has been conducted by the winery in cooperation with the world renowned geologist Dr. Joshua Megger. Soil mapping and deep investigation into soil types have begun to teach the dedicated people at Golan Heights how to understand the million year old volcanic soil composition and diversity of soils in different sites within the Golan.

Discovery of new information about the region’s terroir is irresistible to a team of people that make up a winery devoted to deep understanding of the uniqueness of their place. The people of Golan Heights discovered that soil on the Golan’s mountain slopes, for example, formed atop a base of tuff. For that reason it is well-drained with minimal rock. In the center of the Golan, they discovered shallower and very rocky soil composed of volcanic rock of varied sizes. In the south, the soil is older, very deep, and not as rocky.

No Two Vineyards Are Alike:

The Golan is so varied with respect to topography and climate, so the Golan Heights winery has a vast array of vineyards, each with their own separate altitude, aspect and different soil types and climatic conditions. This enables them to plant different varieties in optimal conditions, resulting in a multitude of attractive flavors, fragrances and bouquets.

The 28 vineyards sprawl over 600 hectares (1,500 acres), are divided into some 430 blocks. Each vineyard is recognized separately for its unique character. The fruit of each block is nurtured individually as the grapes are grown, harvested and brought to the winery. The grapes from each block are stored and handled separately throughout the winemaking process until the wine’s character and final blend are determined. The objective is to identify the separate terroirs and find the best way to express them in the final product.


Who doesn’t like to talk about propagation? If you’re reading this far, I know you likely won’t object to the conversation.

In their quest for the very highest quality possible, Golan Heights Winery saw a threat that had the potential to get in the way of that quest for quality. In 2004, the winery began to see a problem with vineyard viruses which prompted them to make some major changes. They decided to take full control of their vines and therefore turned to the notion of Vine Propagation as their next unwavering pledge towards deeper knowledge and quality in wine production.

Ok. Here’s where it gets geeky….

In 2007 Golan Heights Winery decided to establish their very own propagation facility. They didn’t simply google how it’s done, as you can imagine. No, they prepared themselves with

in-depth study and focused consulting with industry experts worldwide. All that meticulous preparation lead the winery to move ahead with their plans to create their own propagation facility with the cooperation of ENTAV.

ENTAV – What’s that?

Geek alert again!

ENTAV is France’s National Technical Association for Viticultural Improvement and is the world’s oldest and largest foundation plant material bank for wine vineyards. Established in 1962, ENTAV has over 1,200 defined clones and rootstocks, the majority of which are sold by authorized nurseries.

These are the geeks that will come to the rescue if your vines somehow get destroyed and you need to replant or if you want to start a new vineyards with a specific robust clone that will work in your particular area or terroir. This is the vine bank that may just meet all vineyard planting needs.

What ENTAV does is measure each vine clone based on quality parameters relating to plant, fruit and wine characteristics. ENTAV also checks that plants are healthy and virus-free on an ongoing and strict manner.

ENTAV maintains “mother” plants for all their clones and rootstocks, and supplies foundation material to propagation blocks that are usually owned and operated by commercial nurseries. Most of these certified nurseries are located in France, with others scattered worldwide.  So, you could say that ENTAV is sort of in the business of drawing up family trees for grape varieties and clones around the world.

You can imagine that Golan Heights Winery’s nursery is state of the art. They follow all of the standards dictated by ENTAV and the facility has been built entirely under insect-proof netting, making it unique in the wine world. The winery adopted ENTAV’s treatment and management standards, while developing their own growing methods, which are suited to the unique growing conditions in the netted greenhouse.

 The geeky pursuit of creating a Vine Propagation facility has its perks:

-Golan Heights Winery can officially say they are partner of ENTAV in Israel

-They now have their own specially selected and propagated vine block

-Their nursery not only meets the internal needs of the Winery, but also supplies high-quality vines to other wineries in Israel.

The People:

The people at Golan Heights are very serious about their grapes. The winemaker’s resumes are truly impressive. Many of the winemakers have several degrees, most of them include an education at California’s UC Davis. All of Golan Heights’ winemakers have cut their teeth at wineries of prestige from around the globe, including Champagne Jacquesson and Fils, Château St. Jean, Robert Mondavi, Navarro Winery in the Anderson Valley, Stags Leap Winery in Napa,  Gloria Ferrer in Carneros and Kangarilla Road Vineyards and Winery in South Australia’s McLaren Vale.

The Wines of Golan Heights Winery 

Yarden is the premier label and flagship brand. The finest grapes from the best vineyards are reserved for Yarden wines. The word “yarden” is Hebrew for Jordan River, which bisects the Golan Heights from the Galilee. The label features a symbol of ancient Israel: an oil lamp decorated with mosaic tile. Yarden offers a wide selection of wines: sparkling wine, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, gewürztraminer, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet, syrah, a Portuguese blend, as well as organic chardonnay.

Galil Mountain Winery is a modern and innovatively designed facility that sits atop the Upper Galilee mountain range and is committed to revitalizing the region’s rich history of winemaking. They specialize in producing wines of blended international varietals.

Mount Hermon is all about accessibility and fresh juicy wine for everyday drinking.  They make a delicious moscato as well as a Bordeaux blend and blends from international varietals.


“A nose of cassis and vanilla sets the scene for avors of black cherry, black- berry, butterscotch, juniper and violet. It’s easy on entry, offering smooth tannins that slowly reveal themselves, culminating in a oral and cranberry finish.”


“Inky garnet in color, this wine offers aromas of blackberry and green pepper. There is a good combination of fruit and savory avors, notably dark plum, black cherry, smoked meat and roasted red pepper. Smooth tannins lead to a zippy pomegranate nish.”


“Dark violet in color, this wine has aro- mas of black cherry and fennel bulb. A network of silky tannins supports well-integrated avors of blackberry, plum and anise that culminate in a surprisingly bright cherry finish.”


“A bouquet of raspberry, strawberry and Mediterranean herbs preps the palate for avors of blackberry, cassis, vanilla, laven- der and black pepper. It is well integrated, with velvety tannins and spicy finish.”

Did I Mention the wines are Kosher?

The Golan Heights Winery is entirely Kosher Lemehadrin. The winery has been followed, from the very start in 1983, by Hagaon Rabbi Avrohom Dov Oyerbach Shallita, rabbi and head of the rabbinic court of Tiberias. He gives the Kashrus certificate, he makes trumot and ma’asrot every year.


As you can see, there is an abundance of thought and study that goes on at Golan Heights Winery which is never ending.  There is so much to know in winemaking. The people of Golan Heights are perpetual students on a path to wine wisdom, and the wines produced by them is the evidence of some serious wine geekery! If you want to taste for yourself the first internationally notable wine from Israel, pick up a bottle of Yarden, Mount Hermon, or Galil Mountain wine.

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