Israel – a land of many blessings, including wine
Shiloh Winery overlooks the Shiloh River and the Judean Hills. (photo from shilohwinery.com)
The second in a short series featuring nine Israeli wine producers features Mayer Chomer of Shiloh Winery, situated above the Shiloh River overlooking the Judean Hills.
Mayer Chomer: Shiloh Winery was opened in 2005. That’s when we started running operations. We started in a very small garage, making boutique, very selected wines. I think that we’ve been making good product, good wines. Now the winery has built up to 10,000 cases and we’re growing.
Yossie Horwitz: Can you tell a little about the winemaker, the philosophy of the winery, what types of wines you’re trying to make?
MC: So, we started wanting to make just quality wines. We’re not interested in the volume business. We wanted to make very, very unique wines, quality wines, and obviously we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the rest of our colleagues and competitors. So, our philosophy is really making no compromises in our process: making and investing as much as we can in our equipment and, obviously, trying to be and to make always the best wines possible based on our grapes, our varieties that we have available and, you know, we invest a lot of money planting our vineyards so we can really control our quality. We’ve been just – thank God, you know – selecting good grapes based on a lot of research and making the wines that you see in the market. Thank God, people are acknowledging it by its quality.
YH: What types of wines do you make? Do you make single varietals or blends?
MC: We do have several series. We have the Mosaic, which is our flagship, a blend of five different grapes. We have a series that we call Secret Reserve. We have a merlot, a shiraz and a cab – straight cab. We also have the Shor series. Shor means bull in Hebrew, and the reason why we call it the Shor is because we inherited the lands of Joseph. It recognizes the bull that he slaughtered in the Bible. We also have barbera, merlot and a cab. And we have a lower blend; we call it Mor. We have a white wine, we have a dessert wine – we have all kinds of range!
YH: What’s special about the terroir where your grapes come from?
MC: I can tell you all the things about my terroir, but I’m going to answer you with a quote from the Bible…. The Bible says that Joseph got an extra blessing from the patriarch Jacob…. You know, many people … comment [o]n the Bible, one of them was Rashi, who was very famous, he asked: “What is so special about this blessing? Why did he [get] this land? [Does] Shiloh ha[ve] an extra blessing?” And, on this spot, Rashi answers, “Because the fruits are sweeter.” So, we have a gorgeous, gorgeous place to grow and plant our vineyards. As a matter of fact, many of the wineries are planting vineyards in Shiloh because of this quality. Outstanding quality!
YH: What are the plans for the future?
MC: Well, continue to do good wine, keeping the quality at all costs. And we want to grow, obviously, but we want to grow as per the request of our customers. If our demand will grow, because people will continue acknowledging our quality, then we’ll grow. Otherwise, we will stay where we are, always doing different things and new important things that can be attractive to our customers and clients. But always keeping proportions, meaning we want to be always a quality winery, as opposed to a mass winery.
YH: Can you tell us a little about how you got started in the wine business?
MC: To make this very long story short, I lived in Spain for several years. I was working and doing my PhD. I’m a lawyer by defect!… So I was there and, obviously, Spain is a very important wine region. And every time I would have people over to my house for holidays or for the Sabbath, I was very frustrated that I couldn’t get a good kosher wine. So, back in the [United] States, I was a little bit naïve and I thought, “I’m going to change the world! And I’m going to have just good quality wines, and I’m going to go to Israel and make a good winery.” And that was the beginning of it.
YH: When was this?
MC: This was in 1997. I was in Spain until 2001. So then, when I moved to Israel, I was working for a couple of years and then I decided, “OK, let’s make the dream come true!”
YH: What other regions inform your style of winemaking?
MC: I don’t know if I can answer that. I love French wines as well as Italian wines, which are very different, although they are the Old World. I really respect the New World wines: New Zealand, California. I think it’s important to have a combination of New and Old, just not be limited, but actually just making the best wine possible. We like to make wines that we know customers will appreciate, because customers nowadays start looking for something new, something interesting and attractive. At the same time, you always have that romanticism of good quality, classic wines.
– This article is reprinted courtesy of the Grape Collective, an online publication for all things wine. For more information, visit grapecollective.com.