Images on this page courtesy Har Bracha Winery
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Biblical Heritage and Modern Craftsmanship
Har Bracha wine is produced in the ancient lands of Mount Blessing, one of the most significant sites in the Jewish faith. Joshua's blessing bestowed on Mount Gerizim created a lush land ideal for cultivating some of the most flavorful grapes for Israeli kosher wine production. Now the home to the Lavi family, owners of Har Bracha Winery, we explore the unique blend of ancient tradition and modern viticulture here, highlighting its deep roots in Israeli culture and innovative approaches to winemaking.
The Biblical Roots of Mount Blessing
Har Brakha, or "Mount of Blessing," is located on a hill 879m above sea level south of Mount Gerizim, near Shechem (Nablus). The name refers to Mount Gerizim on Shechem's south side, which God instructed Joshua to bless following the Exodus from Egypt. Facing Mount Ebal, the area is where God instructed Joshua to gather the people for a ceremony held after entering Canaan.
He was to bless Mount Gerizim and curse Mount Ebal, as described in Deuteronomy 27, 11-13. Referred to as the mountains of "cursing" and "blessing," Shechem was also where God first repeated his promises to Abraham when he moved to the Promised Land.
Visionary Founding and Family Legacy
The Lavi family settled on Har Bracha in the land they regarded as the cradle of the culture of the Jewish people, Samaria. As the home to Samarian wines, they felt the location was ideal for planting vineyards overlooking the Jordan Valley with the Gilead Mountains to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Nir Lavi is the winemaker and founder of Har Bracha Winery and moved to the area with the notion they wanted to settle the land.
Despite producing Israeli kosher wine today, it connects to returning to the land and grapevines that brought them back to Har Bracha. Despite not knowing how to plant their vines in 1998, they sold their first grape harvest to a sizeable Israeli winemaker and realized that winemakers had a good thing going. As a result, they planted more vineyards and expanded to open a winery in 2007. They now offer ten varieties of wine with the entire family involved in the work. The Har Bracha Estate Winery also produces Jozef brand wines, including cabernet sauvignon and merlot. They've become local champions in operating a 49.5-acre vineyard, visitor's center, and restaurant. Producing almost 50,000 bottles a year, they maintain complete control of their wine production, with Nir's favorite, Har Bracha Merlot, their shining star.
The Terroir: A Blend of Culture and Nature
Har Bracha is in Israel's largest kosher wine-growing region, Samaria, or Shomron. The combination of the Carmel Mountain Range and the Mediterranean creates the ideal location, in hand with medium-heavy and limey soils. The typical Mediterranean climate provides warm summers and cool, fairly humid winters.
Also, warm days and cool nights give the grapes the warmth to ripen and produce sugar to enhance flavor and color, while the cool of night ensures the grapes don't ripen too fast and lose their acidity. Too much heat makes flavor profiles go from fresh to jammy in a snap, while cold nights preserve the fresh flavor and retain pleasing aromatics acquired in the first stages of ripening.
The Winemaking Process: Tradition Meets Innovation
The Har Bracha Winery is a testament to the versatility of Israeli winemaking and the history of Israeli kosher wines. The industry was rejuvenated after centuries of oppression when the ideal terroirs of the area attracted French-born Baron Edmond James de Rothschild in 1882. His investment in an Israeli vineyard and commissioned study of the area allowed him to understand how to make quality wine in the country. In the case of the Lavi family, they, too, started by growing and harvesting grapes for use by local wineries but discovered a turning point that led them to make their wine.
The revival of Israel's wine industry with the first winemakers in the area in the mid to late 1800s set the groundwork for the modern wine industry inspired by Israel's diverse heritage. However, the ancient landscapes provide the perfect environment for vineyards and wineries to thrive. The innovative souls of the people in the area also contributed to the wine renaissance in Israel, where the unique microclimates and terroirs now provide homes to over 300 wineries. Tradition meets innovation, with each Israeli wine region providing a distinct terroir that creates the complex profiles of Israeli wines.
Here, winemakers use traditional methods while leveraging technology, such as advanced irrigation techniques, to nurture grape cultivation. As a result, Israeli wines continue to gain world recognition and offer a growing number of varietals to kosher wine drinkers and wine aficionados alike. Modern techniques have led to a wine-crafting rebirth, adding a new chapter to Israel's storied winemaking history.
Har Bracha Wines
A Symphony of History and Flavor
Har Bracha Winery produces an impressive selection of wines, including:
This delightful white boasts jasmine citrus aromas yet delivers a pleasing contrast with notes of sweet lychee and tart grapefruit. The result is a crisp wine best enjoyed chilled.
Highlander Cabernet Franc 2019
An exquisite blend of grapes carefully picked late in the harvest season results in a rich, deep purple hue emitting an aroma with notes of black and green peppercorns, roasted walnut, and layers of dark chocolate. On the palate, expect the sweetness of lychee and blackberry in a full-bodied, well-balanced red that delivers a smooth flavor and refined finish.
Highlander Shiraz/Merlot 2018
Aged for 24 months in new French oak barrels, this full-bodied, balanced red is characterized by a rich purple hue and a fully balanced body. Tones of cherries, berries, and dark fruits and aromas of oak create a long-lasting, pleasing finish.
Highlander Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve
This delightful cab has flavors of bright cherry, blackberry, and oak with a delicate sweetness that comes together in a full, balanced, smooth body. You'll also discover a subtle astringency with complex flavors from a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Merlot.
Har Bracha Jozef Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
This distinct Cabernet Sauvignon has a blend of 10% Merlot and 5% Verdot, producing a deep burgundy color and a sweet, delicate finish. The blueberry and cherry flavors are pleasing to the palate and, despite not being made with barrels, still offer tones of oak.