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Domaine du Castel Winery

The Domaine du Castel winery, named after a Crusader fortress located in the Judean hills outside of Jerusalem, was founded by Eli Ben-Zaken in 1988. Ben-Zaken, born in Egypt and educated in England, immigrated to Israel in 1970. His dream was to work in agriculture. But it was only in 1988 that he planted a small vineyard on a hilltop next to his home in the picturesque Ramat Raziel. By 1992, he was crushing his first Cabernet and Merlot and by 1995 he was bottling his first vintage Grand Vin. With the encouragement of Serena Sutcliffe MW, Head of Sotheby's Wine Department, who called the Grand Vin "...terrific. A real tour de force, brilliantly made and very "classic"", Ben-Zaken set out to build the leading boutique winery in Israel producing outstanding world class wines.

Domaine du Castel's Vineyards

By adopting the traditional French method for vineyard tending and wine making, Ben-Zaken went on to plant 15 hectares (38 acres) of high density vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Chardonnay grapes. The vineyards benefit from the high altitude and terra rosa, clay and limestone soil that provide good drainage and ultimately excellent grapes, all of which are hand picked. The Castel's approach is one of "high density + low yield = top quality grapes", a system unique in Israel to the Domaine du Castel. There are approximately 4500-6700 vines per hectare producing very small yields.

The Wines of Domaine du Castel

The winery's premium red wine is the Castel Grand Vin, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The wine is aged for 24 months in new Chateau model French oak barrels produced by Seguin Moreau of Cognac, France, the leading producer of barrels. The Castel wines are unfined and unfiltered to fully preserve their flavors. Domaine du Castel's "C" is Ben-Zaken's fine Chardonnay. The wine is aged sur lie for 12 months in the exquisite underground cellars. There is a frequent b√Ętonnage (stirring of the lees), a technique that enhances its complexity. Petit Castel is the Domaine du Castel's second red wine. This is also a blend of the five Bordeaux grapes and is aged for 16 months in French oak barrels.

Castel's wines are well suited for aging and are only expected to improve with time. They are characterized by their deep color, their intense and complex bouquet, followed by rich and deep black fruit, spices and soft but assertive tannins. They are well-balanced wines that tend to be velvety and smooth and the finish is long, silky and clean. The Castel winery currently produces under 8000 cases annually.

While the many of the leading wine tasters and publications are all already praising the fine wines being produced by the Domaine du Castel, Eli Ben-Zaken will be the first to say that the best is yet to come.

Accolades for Domaine du Castel

  • Robert Parker, one of the most influential wine critics in the world, awarded all three wines from Domaine du Castel with scores above 90, denoting that these wines are all: "An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines."
  • Domaine du Castel "C" gives ELAL First Place in Business Traveller Magazine's Cellars in the Sky Competition, 2008.
  • The 1st Israeli wine awarded 4 stars by Hugh Johnson since 2008and the Castel Grand Vin was picked as one of Hugh Johnson's personal favorite 200 wines from around the world.
  • The 1st and only Israeli wine listed in Bettane & Desseauve "The World's Greatest Wines" 2007.
  • The 1st Israeli wine awarded 90 points in the Wine Spectator 2005
  • The 1st Israeli wines selected as wine of the month by Decanter. Both Castel Grand Vin 1997 and the "C" 1999 were chosen in February 2001 and the Grand Vin 1998 in July 2002.