By Yael E. Geller, MPH
If there was ever a winery making wines that pair perfectly with Shabbos or yom tov-worthy dishes, it’s Shiloh winery. If you have not heard of Shiloh winery and its winemaker Amichai Lourie I am not sure if you are one of the tribe at all! This winery is a unique expression of the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people in ancient Israel and a testament to the destiny of this parcel of land to produce fine wines both in modern and ancient times.
Shiloh winery was founded in the Shomron part of Israel in the village of Shiloh in 2005. The logo of an ox embellishes the labels on the wine representing the land that was designated and distributed by G-d to the tribe of Joseph, whose symbol was an ox. The Torah is quoted as saying about the tribe of Joseph “In majesty, he is like a firstborn bull, his horns are the horns of a wild ox.” Dr. Mayer Chomer of Mexico City is the owner and founder of this winery. He is as much a lover of Israel as he is a lover of fine wines. He has traveled the world and, by chance, met Amichai Lourie on one of his trips to Israel. Amichai has always been passionate about his winemaking, and it was obvious to Dr. Chomer that Amichai was a very talented winemaking hobbyist. Dr. Chomer saw an opportunity and grabbed the ox by the horns and offered Amichai the position of winemaker at his winery.
Amichai Lourie and his wife Yael live in Ma’aleh Levona near the Ariel region of Israel. When Amichai was only four years old, his family made aliyah and settled in Jerusalem. Amichai is the face and powerhouse behind this winery. His passion for fine dining, wine, and cooking is firmly embedded in his family traditions. His father was a chef as well as a chazzan (cantor). Amichai draws his inspiration from both his father’s professional career and his mother’s enthusiasm for cooking and creating as a homemaker and excellent hostess and culinary adventurer in her own right. This upbringing was the perfect fusion of passions for Amichai and explains how he became an internationally recognized and successful winemaker in Israel. He is very modest, but his home cooking and preparation of succulent meats and stews are not too shabby! Amichai did not start out as a winemaker but instead worked in the construction business as a contractor. This line of work requires excellent organizational skills and attention to detail. Amichai’s meticulous focused nature serves him well as a winemaker and face of what is one of the best-selling wineries in Israel today.
Amichai is not a one-man show in all his endeavors, his wife and partner in everything, Yael also has a hand in his culinary exploration and winemaking. When the two were exploring winemaking as a hobby together back in 2000, they decided if they were going to make wine, they would learn to do it correctly. They enrolled in the Soreq Winemaking School in the early 2000s and haven’t looked back ever since. He has a pretty simple yet meaningful philosophy in making wine. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Amichai and Yael’s home is one of delicious food and hospitality. Yael is in charge of choosing the seeds and planting the vegetable garden. Amichai is the chef baking the bread, making the matzah for Pesach, and preparing delicious meals. Amichai often includes freshly slaughtered beef and lamb in most of his dishes, which he acquires from his neighbor. All his guests greatly enjoy his cooking with a few bottles of Shiloh wines at his table.
This story is really one of mazel if we examine it closer. The stars aligned for Amichai to take the helm of Dr. Chomer’s Dreamchild winery in Shiloh. Amichai’s passion certainly oozes through his enthusiasm when he talks about the logistics of making excellent wines and improving his skills with every harvest that passes. He has an infectious personality that no one can avoid nor pass up an enlightening conversation with him on a variety of topics. It is no wonder that the chance meeting with Dr. Chomer changed Amichai’s path forever. Luckily, Amichai was taking a break from his usual work schedule due to an injured wrist. This eventuality led to a life-altering change in career for the Lourie family, and many people are thrilled that it happened.
Whenever I interview winemakers about their passion, perfectionism, and their goals for their wineries, their response about their dream is almost always the same. To grow and procure the best grapes and make the most exceptional kosher wines. From Shiloh’s inception, the winery’s goal has been just that, sparing no expense or resource available in the world.
Shiloh is extremely popular, especially in the United States, among the most orthodox communities. The wines are made with the highest kashrut standards and boast the best kosher certifications recognized in Israel, the United States, and beyond. Producing over 250,000 bottles of wine yearly and exporting more than half of the production is a major accomplishment for both Amichai and the rest of the Shiloh team. The flagship wines are the Mosaic and Mosaic Exclusive Edition. The labels continue through the Secret Reserve series down to the budget-friendly Privilege series. No label disappoints in the Shiloh line, and there is a wine that can pair with every dish, every simcha, and special occasion at any price point.
The terroir and region where the grapes for Shiloh wines are grown is a unique microclimate. They are planted high above sea level at about 850 meters. This climate allows Amichai to have a later harvest than is natural for Israeli vineyards since the microclimate allows for cooler nights. The grapes have a longer time to develop to their peak ripeness, giving them the flavor and texture that Shiloh wines are renowned for. The Shomron region has been classified as the Judean Hills appellation. Many of the most prestigious and most awarded wines coming from Israel today are made from grapes grown in this region. This area also has a very holy history since it is where the Mishkan was located. The service in the Mishkan always required wines, so naturally, this region is a perfect area to produce some of the best and most delicious wines.
Shiloh wines continue to win many awards and medals from wine competitions not only in Israel but around the world! Amichai’s wines constantly receive awards and high scores in the 90s and beyond by Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, etc. It is clear that Shiloh wines have and will remain one of the most prestigious and tastiest wines coming out of Israel, and I will certainly drink to that! L’chaim!