The Other Side of The Cork: Shiloh, Wines Living Up To Divine Promise
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
Originally published in Special FLEISHIG Edition, Milchigs: The Dairy Issue, Issue No. 36, May 2022.
If there was ever a winery full of wines that marry perfectly with foods that are Fleishigs, it's Shiloh winery. If you have not heard of Shiloh winery and its winemaker Amichai Lourie I am not sure if you are one of the tribe at all! This winery is a unique expression of the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people in ancient Israel and a testament to the destiny of this parcel of land to produce fine wines both in modern and ancient times.
Shiloh winery was founded in the small village of Shiloh in 2005, with the logo of an ox to represent the area of land, which was designated and distributed by G-d to the tribe of Joseph, whose symbol was an ox. The Torah is quoted as saying about the tribe of Joseph "In majesty, he is like a firstborn bull, his horns are the horns of a wild ox." Dr. Mayer Chomer of Mexico City is the owner and founder of this winery. He is as much a lover of Israel as a lover of fine wines. He has traveled the world and, by chance, met Amichai Lourie on one of his trips to Israel. Amichai has always been passionate about winemaking, and it was evident to Dr. Chomer that Amichai was a very talented winemaking hobbyist. Dr. Chomer saw an opportunity, grabbed the ox by the horns, and offered Amichai the winemaker position at his winery.
Amichai Lourie and his wife Yael live in Ma'aleh Levona near the Ariel region of Israel. Amichai is originally from America, born in Boston, and made Aliyah to Israel, where he settled in Jerusalem with his family at four years old. Amichai is the face and powerhouse behind Shiloh. He draws his love for food and wine from his parents and upbringing. Amichai's father heavily influenced his interests and talents as a professional chef and chazzan. Amichai has early memories of drinking Emerald Riesling with his mother, who was an excellent and creative domestic cook. This upbringing was the foundation for who and how Amichai became an internationally recognized and successful winemaker in Israel and a not too shabby home cook! Amichai is very meticulous and draws on his experience as a contractor in his previous profession. He has a pretty meaningful yet straightforward philosophy when it comes to making wine. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Amichai and Yael's home is one of delicious food and hospitality. Yael is in charge of growing the vegetable garden. Amichai is the chef baking his own bread, making his own Matza for Pesach, and preparing delicious succulent meats for his guests to enjoy with a few bottles of Shiloh wines.
Amichai did not start as a professional winemaker. However, he and his wife were very invested in doing things correctly while still making wine as a hobby for 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 2000s. 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 that 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-altering 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.
This winery had one mission from its inception: to make the best kosher wine in the world, sparing no expense. Shiloh is extremely popular and produces over 250,000 bottles of wine yearly, with over half exported and enjoyed outside of Israel. The winery's labels rise from Privilege to Shor, Legend, Secret Reserve, and the flagship wines, Mosaic and Mosaic Exclusive Edition.
The vineyards are at high elevation, from 650 to 900 meters (1,950 to 2,700 feet) above sea level. On a deep bedrock of limestone, a mix of shallow Terra Rossa clay is the soil mixture and composition in which the vineyards are grown. The land is very stony, making planting vineyards a major undertaking. The vineyard sites are bathed in the Israeli sun, but with maritime cooling winds coming from the Mediterranean Sea in the west. The area is not humid like other parts of Israel, and the high elevation and cold nights create a longer growing season. It is not unusual to have snow in the vineyards during the winter months.
Shiloh Winery vineyards come under the Judean Hills appellation. The region is proving to be one of Israel's finest wine-growing areas. Israel is well-known worldwide for its creative and technologically advanced agriculture, and these skills come together in the winery's vineyards. 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 ancient city of Shiloh is situated on a mountain ridge between Judea and Samaria. The Torah postulates that the region was always destined to produce the best and most delicious wines from grapes grown in local vineyards. The Mishkan, or Tabernacle, stood in Shiloh, leading to many Jews settling there to do their worship and service. Wine was required for all the services in the Mishkan and every Jewish holiday and celebration of Jewish life. The grape is considered one of the seven species of fruits the Land of Israel was blessed with. That is why wine from Israel has such special status and place in our lives.
Shiloh wines have and continue to win medals, trophies, wine competitions, and the highest scores from wine critics and magazines like the decanter, wine advocate, wine enthusiast, and wine spectator year after year. Shiloh wines won the Eshkol Hazahav (Golden Cluster) award in 2011, 2016, and 2020. Shiloh is not only winning awards. It is winning palates. It is arguably one of the most popular kosher Israeli wineries out there today. Everyone who drinks kosher wine has heard of Amichai Lourie and Shiloh winery's incredible track record. The Secret Cabernet Sauvignon alone has won the first place, Gold Medal, on no less than five occasions in the last ten years.
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.
One secret to Shiloh's success, besides its excellent winemaker, is its connection to its Jewish roots. The laws of kashrut are adhered to at the highest level without compromising on the quality of the wine. There is a unique label of wines made in the 6th year before the shmitta year called Secret Reserve Heroes Edition: three single-vineyard wines dedicated to different vineyards. The Torah promises an extra bountiful year right before shmitta is observed in the seventh year as the land lays fallow and unattended to. These winegrowers who meticulously observe shmitta are the heroes of this particular label since their dedication to the words of the Torah and halacha is absolute. As a kosher Israeli winery, Shiloh strictly observes 'trumot and maaserot' annually giving tithes to the priests, religious leaders, teachers, and the poor and needy. Furthermore, every third and sixth year, they donate unlabeled bottles to a charity organization that donates wine to those that cannot afford a bottle of wine to make the Kiddush on. It is a winery with a Jewish heart and soul, which in no way contradicts the effort to make high-quality wines. I will certainly drink to that! L'chaim