Judean Hills…The Ben Zaken family of Domaine du Castel and Ra’ziel wineries in the Judean Hills is still recovering from the fires that engulfed their original vineyards in Ramat Razi’el on June 10th. A fire of unknown origin devastated significant parts of the vineyards. Investigations of what and how the fire started and spread so rapidly are still ongoing. Firefighting teams flew planes overhead to diminish the flames and to extinguish the raging fires as quickly as possible. The estimated damage is about 20 tons of grapes from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is unclear yet if the surrounding vineyards and grapes will suffer from smoke taint just weeks before the 2021 harvest.
Eli and his family have been living in that village for several decades. Born in Egypt, they emigrated to Israel after a few stops along the way in Italy, Switzerland, and the UK. The Ben Zakens started growing vines in the Judean Hills in 1988, and in 1992, founded Domaine du Castel, one of Israel’s first and most iconic boutique wineries. In solidarity with the Ben Zakens and Castel winery, wine enthusiasts from around the world opened their favorite Castel and Razi’el bottles for Shabbat meals for the weekend of June 11th. The affected vineyards according to Eli Ben Zaken are Kerem Fuli, Aviv and Itamar. Domaine du Castel winery produces over 20,000 cases of wine a year