First (but not last) Visit to Eyal Winery
Now that we have moved to Binyamina I have lots of new wineries to investigate. Aside from the Big Three, there are two in Atlit, two in Kerem Maharal, three in Zikhron, three in Binyamina, one in Givat Ada, one in Amikam, four in Givat Nili, two in Pardess Hanna, and probably a few I don’t know about.
Since I was off work for all of Pesach, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to visit some of these wineries. While I routinely drink non-Kosher Israeli wine year round, I am rather strict about Pesach, so to make sure there’s no risk of hametz, I stick to Kosher wines during Pesach. This rather limited my plans since there is only one Kosher boutique winery in the area – the Eyal winery in Givat Nili.
So I called Eyal one afternoon and he invited me to come by that evening.
Givat Nili is just about 13 km from where I live so it was a quick journey. On the way I saw a gorgeous moonrise over Givat Ada and actually managed to get a decent picture.
When I reached the Eyal winery I saw what looked like a very nicely laid out courtyard, though it was hard to tell in the dark, with a small building that housed the winery’s visitor’s center. Inside I found proprietor/winemaker Eyal Ohayon waiting for me behind the beautiful hand made wooden counter.
By way of background Eyal explained to me that his family has been growing grapes in the area for three generations. Most of their grapes were sold to other wineries, but some were always reserved for making wine for their own use. With the 2007 vintage Eyal started making more “serious” wines, and he formally opened the winery in 2008. The following year, for the 2009 vintage, Eyal converted the winery to Kosher production.
Today Eyal makes about 7000 bottles annually all from grapes grown in the family’s vineyards, in and around Givat Nili. Currently Eyal is offering six wines, of which I tasted three.
We started off with a white blend of Chardonnay and Emerald Riesling called Blanko. Before tasting, Eyal “warned” me that he makes his wines to satisfy his own personal taste; if your taste is the same as his you’ll love his wines, otherwise maybe not so much. Eyal likes his whites somewhat sweet, so that’s how he makes the Blanko. The Chardonnay is completely dry, with a hint of oak from four months in used barrels, but the Emerald Riesling is anything but, resulting in a semi-dry blend. The flavors in the wine are full and pleasant, but a bit too sweet for me. Having said that, I believe this wine will be quite successful, and I would probably enjoy it more as a desert wine.
Of the reds, there are four varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Carignan, and a Cab/Merlot/Shiraz blend called Shani, named for the color and after Eyal’s sister-in-law/graphic artist. I got to taste the varietal Merlot and the Shani blend. The Merlot is a very very fruit forward mouth filling wine with very soft well integrated tannins. Even shortly after opening the Merlot was very enjoyable. The Shani blend had a lot in common with the Merlot varietal, which is not surprising as it is 40% Merlot, with the remainder being 35% Cabernat Sauvignin and 25% Syrah. I could definitely taste the Syrah, and it was especially evident in the aroma of the wine, but the Cabernet was not at all pronounced. As is frequently the case, I enjoyed the blend more than the varietal.
Against my protestations, Eyal opened new bottles of all three of these wines for me to taste. Then he decided that I should take the two open reds home with me. This was extremely generous as both bottles were about 3/4 full. When I got home, I put vacuum stoppers in both bottles and put them in the fridge hoping that they would keep for Shabbat dinner when we would be having a lot of guests.
When Friday evening rolled around I took out the bottles and found that they had improved in the two days since they had been opened. The extreme fruitiness had subsided a bit, making the wines more balanced. Everyone enjoyed these wines with Dina’s marvelous Shabbat dinner (I helped but it was mostly her). Quite fittingly, my brother-in-law, Eyal, was particularly fond of these wines. One day I hope to take Eyal to meet Eyal so he can try the rest of Eyal’s wines.
Eyal (the winemaker) told me that he has wine and cheese evenings at the winery with live music, so I’m definitely looking forward to another visit.
Of course, all of Eyal’s wine’s can be purchased at the winery, and you can also find them at the Livyatan meat shop in Beit Hananya, the Gan Shmuel supermarket, the Sitonaut Binyamina bottle shop behind the train station in Binyamina, and on the wine list at Koya in the Caesarea industrial area.