We are transported back in time roughly three millennia. Long before Jerusalem was even a twinkle in King David’s eye, and prior to the construction of a Temple, stood the Tabernacle at Shiloh. Situated in the hills that were allotted to the tribe of Benjamin, it was the center of Jewish life for 369 years, in a time where the Jews had no kings, a time when judges and kohanim (priests) led the nation.
Multiple times a day, these Kohanim would perform the ritual process inside the Tabernacle. This process involved libations using wine that was produced in those very hills. Jewish law stipulates that wine used for rituals on the Altar must: look good, taste good and smell good.
Long after the end of the era of the Tabernacle at Shiloh and through the era of both Temples in Jerusalem, this region continued to give forth fruit of incredible quality, thereby fulfilling the blessing given to that specific region inherited by the sons of Joseph.
“And Joseph is a fruitful vine by a fountain, its branches run over a wall”.
At the end of the Second Temple era, Israel would pay tribute to the Roman Empire, where the wine would be spread out and venerated throughout the ancient world. After the Romans expelled the Jews from their land, however, the once thriving wine industry came to a screeching halt. Archaeological excavations uncovering evidence of winemaking in places such as: Beit El, Har Bracha, Psagot and Shiloh, have testified to this history
Army after army, empire after empire invaded the land, literally trampling its fertile soil and rendering it a wasteland. The Ottoman Empire went so far as to rip out of the ground any remaining grapes that were used by Christians and/or Crusaders for sacramental purposes.
Fast forward to the 1880s. Jews from Europe and Yemen begin arriving in the land. Israel’s ancient wine industry is miraculously revived in modernity by two significant benefactors, namely, Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Moses Montefiore.
Nonetheless, Israeli wines hadn’t really made any significant inroads on the global stage until the early 1980s, when vineyards were planted in the Golan Heights, which proved to be ideal for grape growing.
25 years into Israel’s modern wine journey, along came a battalion of winemakers in the region known as Judea & Samaria. One of these “soldiers” was Amichai Lourie. He would bring winemaking back to the hills of Shiloh for the first time in 3000 years.
What started out in a garage with roughly 3,000 bottles, is today a 250,000 bottle per year operation. Shiloh’s various series, namely: the Privilege, the Shor (The Bull), Secret Reserve, the Legend and Mosaic have turned Amichai into a serial medal winner, both in Israel and abroad.
For the first time ever, six Israeli wines took home gold medals in the Decanter Awards. Four of them were from the aforementioned “blessed” region and two of those four were from Shiloh Winery, namely: the Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 and the Mosaic Exclusive Edition 2016, both of which received a score of 95.
The Mosaic is a quintessentially Israeli blend, where the pallet is incomparable to anything one would taste from Europe or California, and is considered out-of-the-box by many somms around the world, given its rather unusual three-grape combination of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
With the exception of the single varietals, one may ask Amichai what he has in store for us in the coming year. That remains a fantastic question, because he himself doesn’t know until the final iterations are set, after a lengthy process of trial and error, which includes meticulous tinkering with roughly fifteen different “test blends” from a selection of seven or eight varietals.
Despite this diverse range, all of Amichai’s wines have one thing in common: the distinct fruit grown on the vines, that are tempered by the sun, in the Land blessed by God all those millennia ago.
Hailing from the priestly lineage himself, Amichai has taken us back in time, to the rituals of the Tabernacle at Shiloh and has done nothing short of follow in the footsteps of his ancient predecessors: making wines that look good, smell good and taste good.
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