Castel Winery Tour

June 20th 2014

Castel Winery, also called Domaine du Castel, is an exclusive winery. The Ben Zaken family is careful to complete every step along the way according to the very highest standards. Castel only hosts visitors in groups up to six at a time and all arrangements must be made in advance.

Castel Winery produces only three wines. C Blanc du Castel is their white Chardonnay, Castel Grand Vin is their flagship red, and Petit Castel is the younger version of the Castel Grand Vin. Should you chose to buy a bottle of one of these handcrafted wines, you are advised to allow it to age in the bottle for a few years after the release date.

Castel got started when Eli Ben Zaken planted a small vineyard on a hilltop near his Judean Hills home on Moshav Ramat Raziel in 1988. After crushing his grapes in an empty stable next to the chicken shed and then aging his wine for 24 months, Ben Zaken shared his first winemaking efforts with his friends. Ben Zaken’s social circles so enjoyed the wine he produced that they urged him to get a professional opinion.

Through connections, a bottle of his first-ever batch of wine made it to the table of Serena Sutcliffe, Master of Wine and Head of Sotheby’s Wine Department in London. After tasting the wine from his very first harvest, she wrote a glowing review, noting that Ben Zaken’s wine “is quite unlike other Israeli wine… This wine is a real tour de force, brilliantly made and very ‘classic’. Please give him our congratulations.”

Originally, Ben Zaken has no intention of starting a winery. He was so encouraged by the feedback from London, however, that he founded Castel Winery, named for a nearby fortress from the Crusader era. Today, the winery is a small family business, producing around 100,000 bottles a year using Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grapes grown in vineyards in the Judean Hills.

The logo on the label, an etching of the Ben Zaken vineyard and homestead, was produced by Arie Azene, a family friend and artist from Jerusalem. The wine is aged in new French oak barrels.