January 11, 2016

Psagot Winery: A Boutique Israeli Winery that is Fond of Taking on the Best Kosher Wines

Psagot, Israel - It is less than a 20 minute drive from the center of Jerusalem, but yet its near 50 acre vineyards produces nearly 220,000 bottles of some of the world’s best kosher wines. “On a clear day, you can see all the way to Jordan,” explained American transplant Eli Sales, Psagot’s export manager, trying to point to the hills covered in a haze, buffeted by high winds and sand. “This is where it all began,” points out its founder and owner, Yaakov Berg, as he explained the rich history of the Benjamin region, where King Saul ruled and where the early mishkan (tabernacle) was situated in Shiloh before it moved to Jerusalem. But as much as Yaakov is compelling about his award-winning wines and the ideal terrain for the cabernet grapes, he is even more passionate about the history of the land, observed Chavi Feinstone, who together with her husband Yaakov, an ophthalmologist were visiting from Brooklyn. The terrain, which is 900 meters above sea level, is what creates the amazing vintage that competes favorably with some of the best European wines. “The climate is pretty consistent which means that we can count on a good crop each year and a good time to pick the grapes when they are at the peak of the correct mix between acidity and sugar.” Not so for European grapes, he points out, that depend on wildly fluctuating seasons.

Yaakov began his venture in 2003, producing a mere 3000 bottles; today 220,000. 60% of his wines are destined for export, most of it imported by Royal Wines. “It is a winery that is the showcase of Israel’s bourgeoning kosher wine exports,” says Nathan Herzog. Nearly $48 million of Israeli wines are exported to the US, a significant percentage by Royal. In 2012, both Psagot’s Cabernet Sauvignon and its Merlot received a 90+ rating from the prestigious Wine Enthusiast. More than 100,000 Psagot bottles are sold in the US.

A visit to the winery means enjoying the charming building with its spacious public auditorium, including an amphitheater and of course a tour of the cellar with its 400 barrels aging the wine an average 13-18 months and state-of-the-art production facility. As if to emphasize his passion for pairing the wines with good food, Yaakov offered some of Israel’s fine cheeses along with his excellent Yoav wine and some of the other varietals he produces.  The Psagot wines feature a replica of an ancient coin found in the area on the face of the bottle, just another reminder that Psagot (literally translated as peaks) is about more than simply great wine.