Let us return to Israel, as is the innate desire for some of us, and visit Gush Etzion, which lies south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and north of Hebron.

Gush Etzion has played a part in much of Israel’s state and pre-state history, and the area is rich and deep with Biblical lore. Stories of the matriarchs, patriarchs, and as the setting for the Book of Ruth, Gush Etzion holds great importance to not only the State of Israel but to the very story of the Jewish people.

So it’s no surprise that for millennia, wine has been produced in this notable junction between Jerusalem and the Hebron, and between the modern-day state, and ancient Jewish history.

Gush Etzion Winery is a microcosm of the story of modern-day Israel. Built from the ground up by wine hobbyist Shraga Rozenberg, and his late wife, Tamar, religious Zionists who moved to Efrat in the 1980s, Gush Etzion Winery began with Shraga’s fermentation of fruit from the small blackberry bush in his garden. Via the prodding of his friends, Shraga planted some grapevines, started producing wine, and even stored his wine in barrels in the living room! His love for the process blossomed into a winery that is now widely distributed in Israel and the United States.

Shraga Rozenberg on an early planting (Photo courtesy of Gush Etzion Winery)
Shraga Rozenberg on an early planting.
(Photo courtesy of Gush Etzion Winery)

By 2005, the Gush Etzion Winery was officially born, and the surrounding kibbutzim all had a hand in producing the grapes that would fill the barrels and bottles of Gush Etzion Winery. The wine is called “Spring River” or “Nahal Hapirim,” named for the “long vertical wells connected to an ancient aqueduct built by King Herod more than 2000 years ago, where water flowed from Gush Etzion to Jerusalem.”

With this wonderful history in mind, I swirl my glass of 2016 Gush Etzion Winery Spring River GSM (Grenach-Syrah-Mourvèdre). GSM is a classic Côtes du Rhône red blend. While not exactly reminiscent of a Rhône GSM, I very much enjoyed this bottle.

The 2016 Spring River GSM is in fact 48 percent Syrah, 40 percent Grenache, and 12 percent Mourvèdre (SGM), aged in oak for 12 months, and shows as dark purple but translucent. The nose is of dark fruits, licorice and blackberry (maybe the blackberry story is in my subconscious, who knows?).

The body is medium with a long and bitter, tannic finish, which I enjoyed, owing to the firm spine of the Mourvèdre. There is nicely distinguished acid with enough fruit to balance the glass, and the oak is there without being overwhelming. Perhaps riper than a standard Rhône GSM, the Gush Etzion Spring River GSM shows characteristics of its hot Judean Hills birthplace. I rather enjoyed this bottle and the history, both of secular Israel and biblical Eretz Yisrael, and the characters that live, work, and love in the Land.

Pair up this interesting bottle with some Moroccan lamb meatballs with Jamie Geller’s pareve tzatziki sauce with mint. Toss ’em inside a fresh Parisers pita, pop the ’16 GSM, and envision yourself in the Gush, even if you are just blocks from Greenspring Avenue.

With this wonderful history in mind, I swirl my glass of 2016 Gush Etzion Winery Spring River GSM (Grenach-Syrah-Mourvèdre) ($26, available online and locally).

Dr. Kenneth Friedman
(Provided Photo)

Dr. Kenneth Friedman is a Baltimore-born kosher wine aficionado/connoisseur. He is known for his unsolicited wine advice and runs many local kosher wine tastings.