A few months ago, Israel Wine Tour staff was lucky enough to attend a Winemaker dinner with Ariel Ben Zaken, son of Eli Ben Zaken, the owner and founding Winemaker of Domaine Du Castel winery in the Judean Hills.
Castel winery is one of the oldest boutique wineries in Israel and certainly the oldest in the Judean Hills. It remains an Estate Winery and interesting enough, the winery still produces only four types of wines, an oaked Chardonnay, a small batch of Rose and 2 reds, Petit Castel and Grand Vin.
One note Ariel made that we found interesting was on the process of making his “C Blanc Du Castel” Chardonnay. He said that when pressing the grapes, Castel’s methodology is to throw in a few stems into the soft press. By doing so, Ariel feels that additional “green” flavors are added to the juice. That was a surprise for me as the Castel Chardonnay is most certainly an oaked, woody, full bodied wine, so learning they still wanted that type of freshness was news to me.
Another comment that I found interesting was when a barrel tasting of the 2012 Grand Vin was poured, People loved the wine and were wondering how Ariel felt it compared with the 2010 Petit Castel Magnum bottle that was opened earlier that evening. Ariel said he was happy that people were excited about a future wine and any mixed feelings about a wine that is sold out are fair.
Scheduling a tasting at Castel is not the easiest of tasks. The winery does not have a visitor center and tastings are led in a small tastings room compared to those of neighboring wineries. The wine is wonderful and although Castel is producing more than 150K a year, they constantly sell out all of their wines. Robert Parker, Mark Squires and Serena Sutcliffe have given this winery its fair share of recognition, but a simple tasting of the wine ultimately speaks for itself.