Gamla wines satisfy, no matter the name

A recent visit to Israel has reaffirmed our enthusiasm for the Holy Land’s developing wine culture. Besides the different wineries that seen to be cropping up nearly every week, there is a palpable sense that enjoying wine is becoming as fundamental to Israelis as their love of coffee.

Most of the commercially viable Israeli wineries eventually become (or already are) certified kosher. This bodes well for visitors and for those in the diaspora who will eventually see some of these wines on their local shelves.

An example is the Gamla Syrah 2010, which we enjoyed at Kitchen Station, a new restaurant located in Jerusalem’s renovated First Station site. Made by the Golan Heights Winery from grapes grown in that region, it was aged in French oak for 12 months and opens with bright red berry and slightly smoky aromas. Medium bodied and fruity — but lighter in style and not nearly as complex as many of the more familiar syrahs — it shows good balance and has well-developed blackberry and dark cherry flavors, with accents of cedar, spice and earth.

One additional, confusing point: Here in the United States Gamla wines are sold under the Gilgal label, so as to not confuse them with the still extant but now discontinued Israeli “Gamla” wines from the Herzog family’s Royal Wines company.

Golan Heights Winery continues to produce wines in Israel under the Gamla label; these remain widely available in Israel and roughly 30 other countries, just not in the United States.

Gilgal wines are hard to find in the more traditional kosher wine outlets outside of the New York metropolitan area. Yet they are out there — you just have to look. Here in the United States the Gilgal Syrah 2010 retails for about $15.

Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon write a weekly syndicated wine and spirits column. For more reviews see