Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Shiloh Winery is a unique winery, which represents the journey of the Jewish story from their beginnings as a people in Biblical times, to the flowering of Israel today. A modern, technologically advanced winery, in the place where wine flourished thousands of years ago. In a short time, it has become one of the finest, most sought after wineries in the country.
Shiloh is situated in Judea and Samaria, on the mountain ridge that runs down the spine of Israel, overlooking the coastal plain to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east. Of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, it lies in the area allocated to Joseph, who himself was compared to ‘a fruitful vine’ in his blessing by his father, Jacob (“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine by a spring; whose branches climb over the wall.” Genesis 49:22.) Three thousand years ago, the Ancient Israelites settled here and Shiloh was the place where the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant were kept. This even preceded Jerusalem as the most important worship site of the Israelites. Wine was required for the Temple, and also used for religious ritual, including the Sabbath, festivals, and life cycle ceremonies.
Those days were a golden age of wine production. The grape was one of the seven blessed species, winemaking was the main occupation and wine was the mainstay of the economy. It became the largest export. Archaeological finds and numerous ancient wine presses in the region, give witness to a bountiful winemaking past.
Shiloh is a place that resonates with meaning for Israelis and Jews worldwide, but it is also the Holy Land to Christians everywhere. Here, the winery of the same name, planted vineyards once more and again made wine like their forefathers.
Shiloh Winery was founded in 2005 in the modern town of Shiloh, near Ancient Shiloh, the ancient archaeological site, in the heart of Judea and Samaria. The winery chose the bull or ox, as their logo, this being a symbol of the Tribe of Joseph: בְּכ֨וֹר שׁוֹר֜וֹ הָדָ֣ר ל֗וֹ וְקַרְנֵ֤י רְאֵם֙ קַרְנָ֔יו “In majesty he is like a firstborn bull, his horns are the horns of a wild ox.” Deuteronomy 33:17. The objective from the beginning was to make the finest wine possible. The finest winemaking equipment was purchased, with no expense spared. Temperature controlled tanks, pneumatic presses and the finest oak barrels were purchased. The winery today produces 230,000 bottles a year and uniquely, up to 60% is sold in export markets. Shiloh wines are exported all over the world, to North and South America, Europe and the Far East. They are in great demand from wine lovers and connoisseurs alike and are regularly sold out. The labels of the winery rise from Privilege, to Shor, Legend, Secret Reserve, up to the flagship Mosaic.
Dr. Mayer Chomer from Mexico, is a lawyer, entrepreneur, wine lover and Zionist. He is much travelled, spending time in America, Spain and Israel. Whilst doing his PhD in Spain, he despaired of finding high quality kosher wine to entertain his guests. So, in 2005 he founded a boutique winery with the intention of making a handcrafted wine of the highest possible quality. By chance, he tasted some of wine lover Amichai Lourie’s domestically made wines, heard him talk about wine and observed his passion. Showing great foresight, he invited him to become the winemaker by saying “Why don’t you turn your hobby into your profession?” The rest is history.
Amichai Lourie is the face of the winery. He is married to Yael, has four children and is a very proud grandfather with eight grandchildren. His family was from Boston, USA and he was born in Pennsylvania, brought up in Jerusalem and lives in Ma’ale Levona. His great grandparents were originally from Eastern Europe and immigrated to America in the late 1890s. His parents made aliyah to Israel when Amichai was only four years old. His father was a Hazzan (Cantor) and a professional chef. Amichai had early memories of drinking Emerald Riesling with his mother, who was an excellent and creative domestic cook. This may explain the deep roots of Amichai’s love of Judaism, food and wine.
Lourie became a renovations contractor known for the speed and quality of his work. He was known to be meticulous, with great attention to detail. His attitude was that if a job was worth doing, it was worth doing well, and best of all, was to do it oneself. This also applied to his preparation of food. As a keen amateur cook, everything was, and still is, homemade. He grows his own vegetables for family use, bakes his own bread, makes his own Matza for Passover. As an amateur winemaker, he then also made wine for his family and friends. With this in mind, he and his wife decided to take a practical winemaking course with the Soreq Winery School of Winemaking in the early 2000/1. This was with the shared family attitude “if we are going to make wine, let’s learn how to do it properly.” A broken wrist which took too long to heal, a chance meeting with Mayer Chomer at a winetasting he hosted, and an increasing passion and fascination with wine, led to a life changing career change.
Amichai Lourie, a charismatic personality, is an inventive, instinctive winemaker with a proven record of success. He is a hands-on perfectionist and he has gathered around him a team equally devoted to his pursuit of excellence.
The vineyards of Shiloh Winery are in the Central Mountains of Judea and Samaria. The views are sparse, beautiful and almost Biblical. The vineyards are high elevation, from 650 to 900 metres (1,950 to 2,700 feet) above sea level. Soils are very shallow terra rossa clay, on a deep bedrock of limestone. The land is very stony, making planting vineyards a major undertaking. The vineyard sites are bathed in the Israeli sun, but with cooling winds coming from the Mediterranean Sea in the west. There is none of the humidity that there is elsewhere in Israel and the high elevation ensures cold nights and a longer growing season. There are frequent cold spells and even snow during the winter months. The high elevation, Mediterranean climate and hot sun during the summer, make this a winemaking paradise.
Shiloh Winery vineyards come under the Judean Hills appellation. This is proving to be one of Israel’s finest wine growing regions. Israel is well known worldwide for its creative and technologically advanced agriculture, and these skills come together in the vineyards of the winery. The winemaker has close contact with the growers and insists on regularly walking the vineyards to keep in touch. No work in the vineyards takes place without the authorization of the winemaker, who also decides exactly how to prune and when to harvest, and all activities in between.
The wines made by Shiloh Winery come under the following labels:
Privilege. This is an entry level, premium wine, representing quality and good value. The name illustrates the gratitude of being able to make wine in a place so resonate with Jewish and winemaking history.
Shor. This is a series of super-premium varietals. ‘Shor’ is the Hebrew for bull or ox. The wines include a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and rare in Israel, a Barbera. They are fruit forward and flavorful, showing great quality, consistency and value. The wines show good typicity of the various varieties. The white wines, (Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) and rosé, are a sub-series of fresh, crisp wines, with fun, playful labels.
Legend. Legend is an ultra-premium label of quality blends, which honor Jewish legends. There is the Fiddler, which is an innovative and unconventional blend of Petite Syrah, Petit Verdot and Shiraz. This wine’s name is from the musical ‘Fiddler on The Roof’, which pays homage to the connection between art, music and wine. Honi is named after ‘Honi HaMe’agal’, and it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Honi was a Jewish sage of the 1st Century BCE, who once ended a severe drought. As rain is often scarce in modern Israel, his memory is particularly relevant.
Secret Reserve. This is Shiloh’s much awarded ultra-premium label of varietals, including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Syrah. The word ‘secret’ in Hebrew is ‘sod’, which carries the same numerical value as the Hebrew word ‘yayin’ (wine.) In the Talmud it is written: נכנס יין יצא סוד “When Wine comes in, Secrets come out…” From this phrase comes “in vino veritas”, which translates to “in wine there is truth.” The wines are high quality, elegant, expressive, with layers of complexity. These are classic wines representing the character of the main grape varieties and the terroir of their high altitude vineyards.
Mosaic. The flagship wines are called ‘Mosaic’. These wines are blends, or ‘a mosaic of different components’, from the best quality, individual plots in the finest vineyards. Archaeologists have uncovered mosaics at excavations of Ancient Shiloh. The prestige, luxury wine of the winery is Mosaic, a Bordeaux style blend. It is usually made from Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot taking the dominant role. It is rich, velvety and complex, with a long, lingering finish. It is an excellent gift for wine lovers that appreciate the highest quality.
There is also a rare, exclusive, strictly allocated ‘Icon’ wine, made in tiny quantities. It is called Mosaic Exclusive Edition, a superior blend, made only in the very finest, outstanding vintages. It is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is bold, yet smooth, with many, layers of complexity and a very long, well balanced finish. It is a wine sought after by private collectors and connoisseurs.
Shiloh Winery produces wines of high quality at different price points, which have been praised the world over. They are suitable for drinking young, but also age splendidly for those that wish to put them away for a few years.
COMPETITIONS & INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION
Shiloh wines have had an astonishing record of gaining medals, trophies and high scores. In the main Israeli competitions, the winery has won the Gold Medals in the major red wine categories year after year. In 2011, the winery came to national prominence at Eshkol Ha’zahav, Israel’s main wine tasting competition. Shiloh Winery astounded the Israeli wine scene by winning the first place Gold Medal in no less than the three main red wine prizes, out of only nine categories. This achievement of three wines in first place, they also emulated in 2016 and again in 2020 and they succeed in winning Gold Medals every year. In the last decade, Shiloh has been arguably been the most successful of the small wineries in this important competition. The Secret Cabernet Sauvignon alone has won the first place Gold Medal, on no less than five occasions in the last ten years.
As far as international recognition is concerned, Shiloh Winery has gained notice at the highest level. Shiloh wines have scored 95 points in the Decanter World Wine Awards, 93 points in the Wine Enthusiast, 92 points in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and 90 points in the Wine Spectator. The highlight was in the Decanter WWA 2020, the most important competition in the world. Shiloh became the first Israeli winery ever to be awarded two Decanter Gold Medals in the same year. Furthermore, they were also awarded a further seven silver medals, with all the wines credited with over 90 points. This showed high quality, world class wines and an incredible depth of quality throughout the portfolio. This reflected great credit on Shiloh Winery, the Judean Hills Region and the Israeli wine industry as a whole. Any winery in the world would be content with this extraordinary record of third party recognition. These achievements illustrate that Shiloh Winery is considered one of the finest and most consistent Israeli wineries.
WINERY WITH A JEWISH SOUL
At every opportunity, Shiloh Winery proudly connects to its Jewish roots. Every symbol or nuance on the labels and winery literature has a reason steeped in Judaism behind it. They also do the maximum to observe Jewish law, whilst not compromising with the quality of the wines. The Secret Reserve 6th Year Heroes Edition is the special label they use for wines only from the 6th year. This is the one before Shmita, or the Sabbatical Year. An extra bountiful pre-Shmita vintage, is promised for those who observe the Shmita year. These are single vineyard wines dedicated to the wine growers, who are mentioned on the label. They are the heroes, because they leave the vineyards alone during the Shmita year.
The winery strictly observe ‘trumot and maaserot’, this is annually giving tithes to the priests, religious leaders, teachers and to the poor and needy. Furthermore, every third and sixth year, they donate unlabeled bottles to a charity administration that donates wine to those who literally are unable to afford a bottle of wine to make the Kiddush blessing for the Sabbath. It is a winery with a Jewish heart and soul, which in no way contradicts the effort to make high quality wines.
Up to now, the winery has invested mainly in its vineyards and the production part of the winery. The objective has been to make world class wine with an Israeli character, from the special Biblical, mountainous terroir. Results have proved, they have more than achieved this aim. Now, they plan to build a visitors’ center, which will allow tourists to visit the winery, see the vineyards, taste the wine in the place it is made, whilst absorbing 3,000 years of Biblical, Jewish and winemaking history.
Shiloh Winery produces world class wines from the Central Mountains region in Judea and Samaria. It is one of Israel’s most awarded wineries, with a record second to none. The wines represent the coming together of a beautiful unique terroir, the Mediterranean climate and the ultra-professionalism of the winery. It is a winery renewing a 3,000 year old history of winemaking. A unique winery, in a unique place.