Wine has, of course, been made in the foothills of the Judean Mountains for millennia and Clos de Gat takes its name from a 3,000-year-old winepress still to be seen on the property today ('gat' is Hebrew for winepress). But this estate and winery is a relative newcomer, co-founded by winemaker Eyal Rotem at the Kibbutz Har'el, north of the Ayalon Valley, in 1998.
Eyal trained in the US and at the renowned Giaconda estate in Victoria, Australia, but has his own way of doing things and the wines he makes are very much rooted in their place.
They now have 19 hectares of French vine varieties planted on thin soils overlaying a limestone bedrock. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, syrah, muscat, semillon and chardonnay, with smaller, experimental parcels of sauvignon blanc and viognier are planted and Eyal, unusually for this part of the world, does not irrigate.
He produces very low yields of grapes that are fermented using only natural yeasts in order to obtain as much expression of the terroir as he can and the winery sits in the middle of the vines, so they have no distance to travel, while the altitude of the site in the hills helps to moderate the heat of the Israeli summer.
Oak is used judiciously for reds and the chardonnay and all are bottled in their own facility, allowing them complete control of quality. The result is some of the very best wines of Israel.