Yatir Winery was founded in 2000, but the first releases did not reach the market until 2004. However since then the winery has been catapulted to become one of the top wineries in Israel and arguably the hottest of all the ‘new’ boutique wineries.
The winery experienced high profile success at the highest possible level in the first ever tasting of Israeli wines by the wine oracle, Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate. Yatir Forest , the winery’s first label, was ranked Israel’s top red wine, scoring 93 points. The Yatir blend, the second label , received 90 points .
In the Wine Spectator’s first feature on Israel for 10 years, Yatir Forest was ranked again as Israel’s top wine with 92 points. The scores for Yatir Forest in both the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator equaled the highest ever scores for Israeli wines in these influential publications.
In Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2009, Yatir Winery was awarded three stars ***. This equates to a ‘well known, highly reputed’ winery.
Yatir Winery started as a joint venture between Carmel Winery and the wine growers of Yatir Forest, a unique area between the Judean Hills, the Judean Desert and the Negev Desert. The winery is situated at Tel Arad, itself a fascinating archaeological site with 3,000 years history. It is situated in a very understated, modest building, but inside lies one of the most technologically advanced, state-of-the-art wineries in the country. No money has been spared to give the Yatir a technological edge.
The winery sits in the north east Negev, in a semi arid area at around 500 meters above sea level. Yet less than half an hour to the east, is Israel’s most unique attraction: the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.
Yatir’s special vineyards are situated only ten minutes away by car, but in a vastly different area. From the winery there is a climb up to 900 meters above sea level to Yatir Forest. This is Israel’s largest forest, which was planted in 1964. Within this area are four blocks of vineyards, which provide the precious fruit for Yatir’s award winning red wines.
This is an area that reeks of wine history. It was the province of Judea in ancient times and there are many ancient wine presses that provide evidence of a winemaking past. Yatir Forest is the southern tip of the Judean Hills. It is because of this that the logo of the winery is a lion – the symbol of the tribe of Judah in Biblical times.
The People Behind Yatir
The winery is 100% owned by Carmel, but managed independently. The general manager is Ya’acov Ben Dor, a man of the soil. He was one of the pioneers who developed agriculture in the forest and he foresaw the idea of a winery. In 1997 he encouraged the first planting of vineyards.
The winemaker is Eran Goldwasser, one of Israel’s top, young winemaking talents. He graduated in Adelaide University, Australia and then worked for a Southcorp winery (owners of Penfolds, Lindemans etc.). He returned to open the winery.
However marketing, sales and distribution is made through Carmel. Export is in the hands of Arnon Geva, export director for Yatir Winery & Carmel. He was previous part owner of Castel Winery, so knows how to develop a quality brand overseas.
As far as the wines are concerned, the prestige, first label is called Yatir Forest. This is always a blend, but the grape varieties change each year. The winemaker though tries to maintain the unique Yatir character and the wine is always based on Cabernet Sauvignon.
The second label is Yatir. There is a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot Shiraz Cabernet blend. The varieties for these red wines all come from Yatir Forest, in the Judean Hills. However there is also a Sauvignon Blanc, which comes from the Ramat Arad vineyard, next door to the winery. This is the only wine not from Yatir Forest and it comes under the Negev appellation.
The success of Yatir Winery has almost been immediate. Below are listed some of the credits for Yatir Forest since the first release of the 2001 vintage, which show a consistency of excellence.
Yatir Forest 2005
92 points from the Wine Spectator
94 points from Daniel Rogov
Yatir Forest 2004
90 points from the Wine Spectator
100 Most Exciting Wines – Wine Report
Yatir Forest 2003
93 points from Robert Parker & the Wine Advocate
Yatir Forest 2002
Gold Medal Eshkol Hazahav – Best Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold Medal Terravino
Yatir Forest 2001
Gold Medal Challenge International du Vin, Bordeaux
Trophhee de Prestige, Vinexpo, Bordeaux