A visit to Har Odem Winery in Moshav Odem at the foot of the Har Hermon Mountain.

Last week we were in Ramat HaGolan (The Golan Heights) for a week so I took the opportunity to visit the Golan Heights winery to stock up on some Yarden Pinot Noir 2006. We were very pleased to see Lisa there. If you read my blog post of the tour of the Ramat HaGolan winery then you will know that she was our wonderful guide. I took the opportunity to ask Lisa if she could recommend other wineries in the Golan area which were worth a visit. She told me that she was particularly impressed with a new winery called Har Odem (Odem Mountain winery) and that I should definitely try out their Organic Volcanic Chardonnay. It was something really special. Well I needed no second request. I made a note that we should visit this winery during the week.

We arrived at the beautiful Moshav on Tuesday at 4:10pm, surrounded by a forest made up of oak trees. To get there you need to leave the 98 road going north and travel on a single lane shaded forest road for about 15 mins. It is the highest Israeli winery both in terms of the map, being only a mile or so from the Syrian border and in terms of altitude, some 1,100 meters above sea level.

Click on map for larger view
When we got there, the sign read that the winery shop was open until 5:00pm. However the shop was dark and locked up. I phoned the contact number and was told that they actually close at 4:00pm.

We returned the next morning and this time the shop was open.

Har Odem winery was established in 2003 and already boasts an incredible collection of International Wine prizes and medals.

We were met by a woman called Zviah who welcomed us with a warm smile and, seeing that we were religious, informed us straight away that the winery has been kosher since 2007 even though they were still selling wines from before this date. We would have to check each bottle for the teudat hechshir. According to halacha it is technically permissible to sell non-kosher alongside kosher as a Jew can get benefit from yayin stam (but obviously not yayin nesech). Nevertheless, we felt a bit uncomfortable having to check which wine and year was kosher and which wasn’t.

Notice the very impressive row of International prizes. Gold, Silver and bronze medals.

With this warning, we browsed their stock. She asked me if I was interested in anything specific so I told her that we had been recommended the Volcanic Chardonnay. Before I could object, she went to the fridge and poured me out a large glass of their 2010. Having already checked the label of the Chardonnay, I knew that it was “Lo Mevushal” (uncooked) so I asked her outright (even though the answer was pretty obvious) if she was shomeret Shabbat. She replied slightly bashfully that she in fact was not but seemed puzzled as to why I had asked. I explained that according to halacha, if the wine was lo mevushal then only a religious Jew could open the bottle and pour the wine. Once she had opened it, the wine became yayin stam and it was forbidden for me to drink. However it was not forbidden to smell so we passed the glass around the family to discuss the wine’s aroma which was very promising.

I decided to buy three bottles of the Chardonnay 2010, one to open tonight when I was planning on making a fresh Salmon BBQ and taking the other two home. (Price NIS 80)

Discarding out of hand their sweet wines and liquors as well as the Heter Mechira 2008 wines, the only other kosher wines left were their Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot 2009. I asked which had less tannin in it and she suggested the Merlot. So I purchased a bottle of Merlot 2009 as well.  (Price NIS 80).

We asked about a tour but were told that this had to be arranged a few days in advanced. The winery shop also sold some local kosher cheeses so we bought a 100g of a couple of their stock for our picnic lunch. One was a white hard cheese and mature with a real punch to it. The other was a delicious although too salty Stilton type cheese. I have never seen a cheese of this type in Israel before. I would imagine that after tasting these particularly overpowering cheeses, it would be impossible to taste anything but the sweetest of wines.
Zviah packing our wines. Notice the cheese in the background.

I was very impressed with the elegant packaging.

We opened the Chardonnay (after chilling it in the fridge for an hour) that evening to drink with our BBQ. The bottle was opened and sat on the table for about 15 minutes before pouring.

As mentioned earlier, instead of our usual meat BBQs, I decided to BBQ some fresh Salmon steaks. I sprinkled some salt, black pepper, sweet paprika and lemon juice on the steaks and slowly cooked them over the coals, turning them over every few minutes. They came out simply delicious.

Now a classic Chardonnay should be a golden yellow colour, slightly heavier than a Sauvignon Blank with a buttery, creamy, wood oak and ripe melon taste. Usually a Chardonnay is matured in oak casks for some time but this Odem had been in a new French Oak cask for just 5 months in a method called “sur lise”. The label notes further tell us that the wine is made from 100% Mount Hermon organic Chardonnay grapes grown in volcanic earth and has undergone a cold fermentation process.

The colour is a subtle light leafy yellow, almost watery clear. Aroma is fresh, like Mei Eden Mountain mineral water with melon, pear and apple notes.
The taste retains that freshness but has a surprising depth and complexity to it. There is just a hint of oaky wood although I’m not sure if that’s just me simply looking for it? There is no sign of any butter taste or heavy creaminess although there is no tartness or sharpness either. The wine is best described as fresh and smooth. Initial taste is of freshly squeezed melon juice, pears, light watery (not sharp) tangerines and yellow apples flowing through mountain pebbles. The volcanic mineral / pebble taste is very noticeable in deed. Perhaps a hint of earthy ash? Not sure.

The biggest surprise is its massive aftertaste. An explosion of multiple layers of melon juice /pears/only just turned yellow bananas and stony black and grey pebbles. One of my kids said the aftertaste reminded them of Brut champagne. Simply delicious. I looked for the bottle to pour some more but the bottle was empty! My family had finished it off within a few minutes. Someone asked if we could open a second bottle. I reluctantly refused the request. I have two bottles left. I wanted to savior them.

Conclusion. This is something special indeed. It is certainly not your typical Chardonnay. I don’t know if it was the fact that we were relaxed while on holiday or the wonderful BBQ fresh salmon that influenced my perception but I must say that this is one of the finest white wines I have ever tasted. The winery is small and defines itself still as a “boutique winery”. I saw their wines for sale in various tourist places around the Golan. I don’t know how available it is in the rest of the country. If you see it though, buy it!

Even if (or especially if) you have never been too keen on Chardonnay, (whether it’s because of the creamy taste or maybe the woody oak taste you object to), this Chardonnay is very different. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Beli neder, I’ll open the Har Odem Volcanic Merlot 2009 soon and we’ll see if the winery is as good with red grapes as they are with white.

Har Odem Winery. Moshav Odem 12473 Israel. Tel. +972-4-687-1122. info@harodem.co.il
Internet site (Ivrit only) http://www.harodem.co.il/

*** UPDATE ***

I found the Volcanic Merlot in a wine store in Yerushalayim for NIS 80. I spoke to the owner about ordering the Organic Volcanic Chardonnay. He said that he'd think about it.


  1. Great post. The wines are something special indeed. I met the Alfasis in New York last winter - wonderful people. Your write up makes me want to visit the winery ASAP. Thanks for all the detail.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the post. I'd say that you need at least a week or two in the Golan or upper Galil to visit all the "must see" wineries like Ramat HaGolan, Har Odem, Dalton etc and of course do the standard touristy stuff as well.

    BTW, I'd be interested in your comments on my post about two version of the Har Odem Merlot 2007. I still have received no reply from the winery about this.


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