What's New March 29, 2017

Interview With Shiloh Winemaker Amichai Lourie

By David Perelman

Interview With Shiloh Winemaker Amichai Lourie

 

Amichai Lourie, vintner of Shiloh Winery, doesn't leave his home in Eretz Yisroel very often.

“I only travel for a couple weeks each year. It’s hard to be away from my family, land, and the sheep and goats.”

“The sheep and goats?” I asked.

“They are not mine. They belong to a neighboring friend,” he explained.

Shiloh Winery is adjacent to a picturesque livestock farm. And so along with being a self-made wine producer, Amichai is a also a farm-to-table chef with a particular interest in the art of smoking, braising and roasting meats. His face lights up when he sees a large brisket being carved up on the kitchen island.

 On a cold January evening, Kosher Wine enthusiasts gather in a Washington, D.C. area home to connect over and toast to Shiloh Winery’s newest release of Cabernet Sauvignon Secret Reserve. If it wasn’t already clear how special and unique it is to spend an evening with one of Israel’s most celebrated wine producers, I hope now it is.

With his round spectacles, buttoned up dapper style, and eloquent manner of speech - Amichai’s countenance seems more like a college professor than a rugged pioneer. But he’s a little bit of both. With his vast knowledge of Torah, Jewish history, and wine-making he educates everyone who encounters him on everything from the intricate laws of Maaser (tithing) to the science behind the soil’s impact on grape production.

Here’s what we learned in conversation with Amichai Lourie:

You started making wine as a hobby. How did that come about?

I like to do whatever I can by myself. I’ll make my own wine, bake my own matzo, grow my own vegetables, whatever I can. And of course, I like to do things that are connected to the land.

Why wine?

Wine is so special when you think about it. Most things that you do nowadays, it’s all about the instant gratification. With wine, you have to be patient. You have to work the land, and then you wait, grow the grapes and then you wait, process the grapes and then wait some more, more waiting while it ages, and then more waiting while the bottled product matures - It takes a lot of patience. When you do something that that take a lot of time to enjoy the end product, you enjoy it even more.

The land, the soil of the land, is important to many wine producers. But I feel that it’s even more important to you. Can you speak to that?

After thousands of years that we weren't in Israel, we finally returned to the land. And that’s a miracle. It’s truly amazing. How do you know when the redemption is happening? There’s a prophecy in the book of Yechezkel that describes the land coming to life - that's when you’ll know redemption is near. And that is happening now. When Mark Twain visited Israel in in the late 19th century, he described a desolate landscape. There was nothing. You look at pictures from that time period and you see empty mountains, dry fields, nothing. You know that the geulah is coming when the land starts to flourish. And you look around and it’s happening now. When you taste Israeli wines, not just Shiloh Winery, but Israeli wines in general, there is something special. I think that ‘something special’ is our connection to the land.

In the day-to-day grind, is it challenging to instill that meaning in every moment?

It’s a lifestyle. It surrounds you every moment of every day, especially when I visit my greenhouse and tend to the vegetables. When I walk through my vineyards. I feel it always.

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