Preparing Wine Where the Tabernacle Once Stood

Shiloh Winery Makes History

Shiloh Winery was established just over a decade ago, but has already managed to earn itself a reputation among wine connoisseurs from all over the world. Well, when the winemaker comes straight to the vineyard himself to take care of the grapes – it’s only natural that the wine will win prestigious international prizes.

Wine has always been an integral part of Jewish tradition. Shiloh Winery, which is one of the most decorated wineries in Israel today, chooses to integrate roots and tradition with modern winemaking methods. The winery was established in 2005 in one of the most beautiful regions in the country – the Binyamin mountains. Each wine series from Shiloh Winery is a work of art, thanks to the uncompromising talent of Amichai Luria, the winemaker. We went to meet him and get a closer look at his work.

Combination of Jewish and Unique

Amichai, how do you choose a name for a wine?

“Choosing a name is a complicated process,” Luria admits. “We try to always retain the link to tradition. For example, we called our series of varietal wines ‘Secret,’ because the Hebrew word for secret is equal to the numerical value of the Hebrew word for wine. There’s also a famous Hebrew proverb – ‘Wine enters, the secret comes out.’”

The flagship wine of the winery is called Mosaic. “The mosaic that appears on the label is one of the mosaics that was found at the archaeological site of Ancient Shiloh, right where the Tabernacle stood 3,000 years ago.” At Shiloh Winery, an effort is made to find symbols connected both to the world of Jewish heritage and to their unique location. The logo of the winery integrates the horns of a bull, and the winery even has a series of wines bearing the Hebrew word for bull – Shor.

But what does that have to do with the winery?

“Geographically, we are located in the portion of land given to the tribe of Ephraim. One of the blessings of this region appears in the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy: ‘To his firstborn ox is [given] glory. His horns are the horns of a re'em. With them, he will gore peoples together [throughout all] the ends of the earth these are the myriads of Ephraim, and these are the thousands of Manasseh.”

At first, Amichai and his wife got involved in winemaking as a hobby. They produced a few thousands bottles of wine every year at home, as part of their love of growing their own things. “In general, we like to do as many things as we can on our own,” Amichai explains. “Growing our own vegetables, baking our matza, growing olives, harvesting them and producing our own oil. Out of all of these things, wine was the one that turned into a professional business.”

They started producing their homemade wine in 1999. “It feels like yesterday,” he says, “But in fact, 20 years have gone by.” Amichai started working at Shiloh Winery a short time after the first harvest in 2005. During the first years, they produced just 20,000 bottles; today, the winery produces about 200,000 bottles, ten times more. 70% of these are for export. Shiloh Winery’s wines travel to Canada, the United States, Mexico, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and many other countries.

We Know How the Grapes Are Doing at All Times

Amichai showers love on his grapes as if they were his children.

He’s originally a Jerusalemite, but it was important to Amichai and his wife to raise their children “somewhere with a bit more open space.” Today, the couple have four married children. “From the two eldest, I also have three grandchildren from each one,” he smiles.

So red or white? Which wine do you like best?

“That’s like asking who’s my favorite child,” Luria laughs. “It really depends on what we’re eating at that meal, who we’re sitting with, what time of the day it is, etc. Usually, my wife is the one who decides what we will drink, and I join in and usually agree with her choice.”

Rumor has it that you’re a cook too. Do you cook with wine?

“Usually I prefer the natural flavor of the meat, but sometimes we also cook with wine, usually for slow cooking. But we drink wine with every meal.”

Does Shiloh Winery have its own vineyard?

“All of the grapes that we buy come from winegrowers with whom we have very long-term contracts,” Luria explains. “We planted some of the vineyards together with the winegrowers. I can say that we know how the grapes are doing at any given moment. A large part of my work and a significant factor in the success of the winery’s wines is the fact that we invest so much effort in the vineyards, not just at the winery itself and during the production process. We work very hard in the vineyards too, and that’s one of the secrets of our success.”

We Awarded Ourselves the Gold Medal

Even though everyone knows, let’s have a quick refresher – how is wine produced?

“It starts with work that takes place all year round in the vineyard, tending to and growing the grapes,” Luria explains. “There’s work to be done throughout the year. For example, now is the peak of the pruning season – we prune the grape vines so that they will wake up out of their dormancy in the best possible way when spring comes. In the spring too, when the leaves begin to emerge, there is work to do in the vineyard until harvest time, which is usually from the end of the summer until the end of autumn – from the end of August until early November. Only then do the grapes arrive at the winery and the long process of wine production begins.

From the moment the grapes reach the winery until the finished product reaches the bottle, two years usually go by. That’s without taking into account the process of selling the wine.”

Do you have special wines that are unique to your winery?

Cabernet Secret

Yes, there are wines that can only be found at our winery. For example, in our Legend series, there is a blend called Fiddler on the Roof – a blend of Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot and Shiraz. It’s a wild, one-of-a-kind dark purple wine.”

Despite its young age, Shiloh Winery is well-known thanks to the prizes and awards that it collects on a yearly basis. One year, they won the gold medal for their Cabernet, their Merlot and their Shiraz!

“The Cabernet Sauvignon from our Secret series won first place in the country four times,” Luria says with pride. In another contest, two of the winery’s blends won the highest score, so it turned out that two wines from the same winery shared the gold medal… “We have won quite a few prizes abroad too, where they really like and appreciate us. Every year, our wines consistently receive scores of over 90.”

Can we come visit for wine tasting?

You’re definitely invited to come take a tour of the winery and taste the wines. We are below the community of Shiloh in the industrial zone. Tours can be booked via our website.