Yaffo Winery in the Elah Valley

On a crisp winter day, I headed to visit with winemaker Stephan Celniker at Yaffo Winery at the winery located in Moshav Neve Michael at the eastern extent of the Elah Valley.

Entrance to Yaffo Winery

Stephen, the son of Moshe and Ann who started the winery in 1998 has a degree in agriculture from the Hebrew University and studied wine-making in Burgoyne.

Stefan Celniker

Yaffo Winery is located in a row of abandoned chicken coops, a victim of Israel’s ridiculous zoning laws which define wineries as industrial rather than agricultural and prevent building beautiful wineries in the vineyards.

Yaffo Winery

Yaffo Winery produces about 25,000 bottles of wine a year and is Kosher. The winery started in the basement of Moshe and Ann Celniker in Jaffa (hence the winery’s name) and moved to its current location near the vineyards in 2007.

Stefan opened a bottle of Syrah Merlot 2010.


Yaffo Syrah Merlot 2010 aged 13 months in French and American oak barrels. On opening the Syrah was dominant with dark fruit and plums with spices dominating. After opening up, the Merlot steps in to mellow out the wine a bit.

Stefan pours the Syrah Merlot

The Syarah Merlow has gentle tannins and a long smooth finish.

Next Stefan asked Yishai Mualem , the winery’s Kashrut Supervisor to pull some Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from the vat to taste.One of the requirements of Kosher wine is that only Sabbath observant Jews can contact the wine from the time the grapes are pressed until the bottle is sealed.

Yishai Mualem Pulling Wine for Tasting

The CS 2011 will be bottled next week. It is young and fruity, will grow in time but definitely approachable now. While Israel is at the Southern edge of the Northern Hemisphere’s wine growing region and is known for “hot” wines, Stephan tries to add Old World influences to his wines by lower temperature fermentation and by limiting the amount of time the wine spends on the skins.