Chef Jacques Leonardi at the Golan Heights Winery
9:30 A.M. isn’t too early for wine, especially not when you’ve been up since 4 A.M. After a sunrise artillery demonstration at the base in the Golan Heights, the group headed to the Golan Heights Winery in Katzrin for a tasting. On the table were 10 wines, including two that won the winery top awards in Europe earlier this year: the 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard, a rich, oaky white; and the 2009 Yarden Heights Wine, a sweet dessert Gewurtztraminer with a surprisingly large array of fruity flavors. Crowd-pleasers included the HeightsWine; the 2007 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom Vineyard, a single-vineyard wine; and the 2010 Yarden Gewurtztraminer, a dry wine with a sweet tropical fruit smell.

The winery, for the record, doesn’t consider 9:30 A.M. too early either — they’ve started as early as 6:30 A.M., said Michael Avery, the winemaker leading the tasting.

Chef Alon Shaya told the group that he saw Israeli wines catching a foothold — if not in the United States as a whole, then at least in his restaurant. Customers come in and ask for “a chardonnay,” they’re served an Israeli wine, and the next time they come and ask for that specific Israeli chardonnay, he explained.

There are inevitable side effects to any good wine tasting, and the bus ride away from the winery was a joyous one.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s happier than before,” guide Miri Cohen said jokingly.

(By Liz Steinberg)

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