Ξ February 23rd, 2008 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine History, Wineries |
Dir Rafat Monastery, Beit Shemes, Israel
When I visited the Mony winery this month I knew nothing of its story, but it would appear to have one of the more interesting backgrounds around and is hopefully a sign of what is possible in this troubled region.
Mony is set in the grounds of a Christian monastery, is owned by an Arab-Christian family and makes Kosher wines. For years wine was produced by the resident monks of Dir Rafat, famous for its painted ceiling with the words “Peace” written in hundreds of languages. The Artoul family worked in the winery until Shakib Artoul leased the land and established Mony in 2000. The winery is named for Dr Mony Artoul, Shakib’s first son who tragically died of a heart condition in 1995 – a plaque dedicated to him hangs over the entrance to the tunnels and cellar at the back of the winery. Nur Artoul is the winemaker and with his father and two remaining brothers they oversee the winery operations.
I tried the line up of Reserve reds, all from 2003 – a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The Merlot was well balanced with a mix of mild oak and berry fruits – I’m not much of a Merlot fan but this was a pleasant drink, although probably at its best and unlikely to age further. I moved onto the Cabernet Sauvignon, and again it was an easy and balanced drink, but much lighter than I was expecting, medium bodied at best. Finally the Shiraz, and I was looking for something with a bit of depth, but unfortunately it was very similar to the first two, uncomplicated. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all three, but for a Shiraz and Cabernet my hopes were higher, particularly after just having tried a couple of very good wines from the Agur winery. It was therefore with a little surprise that the bottle I chose to buy was the Merlot, since it gave me exactly what I was expecting from the grape, and I plan on drinking it on a quiet weekend sometime in the next 6 months.
I then noticed a Muscat of Alexandria Dessert wine and asked for a taste of that. Although, for me, it was much too light to be considered a true dessert wine I still bought a bottle as it reminded me of something semi-sweet from Alsace, with a rich mouth-feel and a nice dry bitterness on the finish.
Before leaving I had a quick look at the tunnels dug, over the last hundred years or so, into the hillside at the back of the building. Walk down some steps and you see ahead a short tunnel containing 3 large wooden benches used for events, group tasting and festivals . I can imagine some great parties here, drinking their wine with a generous selection of the olives, goats cheese, honey and olive oil they also produce and sell. To the left a door is locked with a Hebrew notice indicating a Kosher environment (all Mony wines have been Kosher since the 2005 vintage) but you can look through the glass and see barriques stretching away in the distance.
I enjoyed my visit here, the people were friendly and accommodating and although they couldn’t speak much English I had my colleague Yaron with me to translate. The wines were reasonably priced – together the Merlot and Muscat I bought came to 95 Shekels, so about £13 ($26) – and the history of the winery added an extra level to the visit.