I’m a firm believer in networking and cooperation in developing my wine tours. Today I had a couple of very positive meetings which I believe will be a great help in promoting wine tourism in Israel. But the best part of my day was my visit to the new Sphera Winery with owner and winemaker Doron Rav Hon. Sphera Winery is located on Kibbutz Gat in the Southern Shephela Region. Doron was trained in Burgundy and worked as the winemaker at Ella Valley Vineyards from its inception through the 2011 vintage.
When he started out on his own, Doron wanted to make only white wines. The name “Sphera” reflects his holistic approach to white winemaking. Everything in the winery was planned to enable Doron to make quality white wines. Doron chose his press for its suitability for white wines; the fermentation tanks are almost as wide as they are tall, again optimized for white wines.
Sphera’s branding and graphics reflect the minimalistic, exact approach that Doron has to his wines. Sphera wines were born with the 2012 vintage. Doron decided to limit his wines to four labels-three in the White Concepts series and one in the White Signature label. Each harvest Doron will choose what wines will be issued in each label.
Doron currently sources his grapes from eight different vineyards. Three are under his complete control with long-term contracts. He controls another two, and is constantly searching for additional vineyards for quality white wine.
One of the more interesting varieties and vineyards that Doron has found is the Pinot Gris in Latrun. As far as Doron and I know, no one else is using Pinot Gris in Israel. The vineyard belongs to the Trapist Monastery in Latrun, perhaps not so great winemakers, but with these old vines, great vignerons.
With Doron, I tasted two of his wines, the White Concepts Chardonnay 2012 and White Concepts First Page 2012.
White Concepts Chardonnay 2012 is produced from grapes from four different vineyards. Most of the grapes see no oak; only 20% are aged in mostly old barriques for six months. The White Concepts Chardonnay is surprisingly aromatic with a subtle and harmonious touch of wood. Like all of Doron’s wine, the Chardonnay did not undergo secondary malolactic fermentation.
White Concepts First Page 2012 is a blend of Pinot Gris (40%), Riesling (40%) and Semillon (20%). The First Page is a virtual bouquet of aromas: floral, citrus and white fruit. 60% of the wines in this blend were aged in barriques.
In order to ensure good acidity, aromas and low alcohol (12%) Doron harvests his grapes relatively early. Most of the grapes are batch presses with the exception of the Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc whose stems would add too much greenness and bitterness to the wine. The result is a welcome addition to the Israeli wine scene-elegant, balanced white wines whose quality reflect the quality of the fruit and the talent of the winemaker.
What do we have to look forward to from Doron Rav Hon and Sphera Winery? First of all, the upcoming release of the Signature Labelwine. Each year the Signature Label will represent the best wine from Sphera Winery. The first Signature Label wine will be a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling. Doron has no rules for his Signature Label except the best of the best. If in the future, a single variety will produce the exceptional wine of that vintage then it will be released in the Signature Label. Another wine to look forward to in future vintages will be a sparkling wine produced in the traditional methode champenoise.