When we think of Israel, it’s rarely wine that comes to mind (it’s usually Bar Refaeli, if you’re wondering). The so-called “start-up nation” is widely known for its innovation and growth in the high-tech sector, not winemaking — until 2012, anyway, when Golan Heights Winery won Wine Enthusiast magazine’s New World Winery of the Year award, besting vineyards from powerhouse companies like Argentina and Australia. Announcing the award, the magazine highlighted Golan Heights Winery’s use of “state-of-the-art equipment like vineyard meteorological stations and electro-conductivity soil scanning to aid in its viticultural success”. No surprise there.
The man who accepted the award was Victor Schoenfeld. He’s been Head Winemaker at Golan Heights Winery since 1992, where he’s spent time studying and understanding the terroir of northern Israel, building a groundbreaking vine propagation facility (to provide disease-resistant vine clones to his vineyards and others in Israel) and ultimately making wine that’s considered some of the best in Israel and in the world. Schoenfeld is a California native who worked for several big guns in his home state and at the Champagne house Jacquesson & Fils before joining Golan Heights Winery.
Not bad for a guy who dropped out of high school. He told us all about that and more when we met him at the winery for their 30th anniversary celebration.
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Men also need to know how to correctly and confidently open a bottle of sparkling wine. Check out this video for a tutorial. Practice on a couple of cheaper bottles in private before going public.
Personally, wait for my wife. She had a medical emergency and was rushed to the hospital. I accompanied her the whole way up to the door of the operating room. They told me they would try to save her life, that it would probably take an hour, and then showed me to a waiting room. It took closer to one and a half hours. She lived. That last half hour was especially tough.
I couldn’t live without at least one of my six grills (if I get another one, my wife just may divorce me).
I love to cook, which I find therapeutic. Making wine is a long-term endeavor, and if you are going to get a great wine in the end, you have to be very focused on all the endless myriad details of its making over years. With cooking, I see what high-quality products I can find, and get right to it, without recipes, going by taste. Cooking for family and friends is one of the major ways I express my love to people I care about.
The other big influence for me is geography: climate, soil and topography. Good wine should be an expression of a certain place, including the people involved in its making. I have been exploring — in many different ways — our wine growing area for over two decades. I feel as we become more intimate together, the wines can better reflect this spot on the planet. What’s for sure is this: I never imagined when I started that the potential for high quality wine here is so great. Today, I am more optimistic about the potential wine quality of our region than I was 20 years ago.
I guess I would pick one of the best restaurants on the planet and have a very long tasting menu. The menu would have to be varied enough to pair with it a long list of wines. I would like a group of close family and friends with me. The group should be small enough so we could all talk as a single group at times, but big enough for a bit of noise. I would certainly look for a festive atmosphere, a celebration of life.
Another possibility could be to dine at one of Japan’s best kaiseki cuisine restaurants and be carried to eternity on a cloud of exotic flavor and visual stimuli. Of course, while I would be happy to drink green tea (genmaicha preferably), sake and shochu, I would still have to insist at least on some great Champagne.
Learn more about Victor’s work at Golan Heights Winery at golanwines.co.il.
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