About Katlav Wines
Katlav Winery's wines are full-bodied, and characterized by strong, dark colors, excellent bouquets, balanced acidity and high alcohol content. The is no filtration of the wine, but rather the natural process of racking, in which the wine is carefully syphoned from one barrel to another. The winery produces several different wines, some varietals (one predominant grape variety), others blends. They all have one thing in common: to create a harmony of taste from quality wines. And to do it with no compromises.
Abarbanel is proud to release Katlavís 2006 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Wadi Katlav, a triple blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz all aged in 100 percent French Oak Barrels for a minimum of 18 months. New for Passover 2009 is Katlavís first-ever Chardonnay blended with 10 percent Viognier and aged for 13 months in French Oak.
The Place & the Vineyards
The Katlav Winery and its vineyards are located in the Judean Hills village of Nes Harim, south-west of Jerusalem, at an elevation of 2,275 feet (700 meters). The "moshav" or cooperative-type village was founded in 1950 by Jewish immigrants from Kurdistan and Morocco. The Moroccans left the moshav at an early stage, all but two young singles, who married and raised a family. They were my parents, and our family remains the only one of Moroccan extraction in the village to this day.
The members of the moshav were farmers from the beginning, making their living from orchards and vineyards. Already back then, they saw the advantages of cultivating vineyards around the village. The fertile soil and unique climate produced unusual results, even without irrigation. The Israeli wine industry was still undeveloped, however, and it was a long distance for Nes Harim to transport its grapes to the large wineries. After a few years, the farmers moved on to other crops.
I was raised on stories of the early days, and I understood that if I wanted to plant vines, it would be on that same land. And so it came about. In 1998, I began a vineyard on the same small mountain terraces on which they had tended vines all those years earlier. But I was living in a different era, one in which there was an awareness of quality wines, with good grapes earmarked for private wineries. I realized the excellence of the grapes, and how special, complex and fine were the wines that they produced.
The Katlav Stream trickles its way down the eastern slope of the ridge on which Nes Harim is built. It is named for the tree (Arbutus) that grows there in profusion, with its beautiful reddish trunk and clusters of red fruit. Good friends agreed that it would make a fine name for a local winery - Katlav.
A Bit of History
Over the generations, Jews made wine for their own use on the Sabbath and religious holidays, and in celebrations. In his book "Yeinam" (Am Oved), Prof. Haym Soloveitchik presents evidence of wine consumption among certain Jewish communities abroad in the years 1435 and 1455. It seems that the average was a bottle per person per day, and a Jewish family might consume about 1,400 bottles a year!
Jewish religious rules about the making of "kosher" wine (i.e. wine that was ritually "fit" for consumption) were always extremely strict. This was often a burden for communities that had to fend for themselves, for the law forbade non-Jews to be involved in the wine-making process. Some communities, especially in Europe, were fortunate enough to live in wine-growing areas, and made their own high-quality wine. Many others lived in the Muslim world, in which alcohol was forbidden by Islamic law. They were compelled to make wine from table grapes under impossible conditions, and to do it in secret, at risk to themselves and their families; some paid with their lives. In either case, Jews suffered because of their need for kosher wine. Those who refused to trade in wine with non-Jews suffered alienation and sanctions, and, in extreme cases, blood libel and the annihilation of entire communities. The wine Jews drank in Islamic lands was so poor that they would mix in sugar to overcome its bad taste.
For me, there was never any question that the wine I made would be kosher. If Jews abroad had risked their lives to make sure they would have kosher wine for sacramental purposes like "Kiddush", surely I - privileged to live as a Jew in Israel because of them - would follow in their footsteps. Beyond the religious rules that only observant Jews should be involved in certain stages of kosher wine-making, there are other aspects that are unique to the Land of Israel, like orlah (not using the fruit for the first three years after planting) and shmittah (leaving the land fallow every seventh year, and not using that season's crops).
We find archaeological evidence of a flourishing wine industry throughout Israel, and especially in the Judean Hills. The large quantity of well-preserved, rock-hewn wine presses tell a great deal about ancient wine-making techniques, wine-growing areas, and the choices made by vintners at the time. About the winery and the wine
The Winery and the Wine
The Katlav Winery makes its wines using a combination of traditional techniques and advanced technology. I learned our special process from a Persian Jewish family who naturally had to make their own wine in Iran. There was relative freedom of religion under the Shah, and Jews could grow or buy good-quality wine grapes, and make fine dry wines. (Some say the Shiraz variety takes its name from the Iranian city.) With the know-how I acquired from that family, I began to make wine. At the same time, I went out to study wine-growing, and the chemistry and technology of wine-making.
I planted vines of different varieties. The strict attention to low yields, proper irrigation and constant care produced results. The vineyard's small areas allowed me full control of the characteristics of the grape, and maximum precision in timing the harvest - a good recipe for achieving perfect balance.
The grapes are harvested by hand and at night, when their temperature is lower, in order to avoid fermentation before they reach the winery. In the winery itself, they are carefully checked, separated from the bunches, and gently broken before being put into small, stainless steel fermentation vats. There they remain at low temperature for 18 to 24 days, for the most part without the addition of any artificial yeast, until the wine has taken on the best characteristics of the fruit. After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 14 months. The only filtration of the wine is by the natural process of "racking" - syphoning it from one barrel to another - which is done from time to time.
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