I recently had the pleasure of talking with Amichai Lourie of Shiloh Winery. We discussed everything from his vineyard’s recent success at Israel’s Golden Cluster Wine awards to what goes into a perfectly blended wine. Before we learn about Ami and Shiloh, however, I want to take some time to discuss the topography and history of the region.
Shiloh has been one of the world’s top wine making regions since the biblical era. The intense heat and high altitude are ideal for growing concentrated and flavorful grapes. The cool nights help preserve the grapes until they are ready to be picked and turned into wine. It is not uncommon to see modern vineyards side by side with 6,000 year old grape presses in Shiloh.
This is part of what makes the Shiloh Winery story so interesting. Although they are located in one of the world’s oldest and most traditional wine regions, they create wines that are entirely unique.
Although some vineyards use blending as a way to get rid of the odds and ends, Ami takes his blending very seriously. When asked why his Bordeaux blend (which is wildly popular) had only come out 3 of the past 6 years, he said the grapes just weren’t right in the years it didn’t come out. Ami is the kind of person who respects the grapes –if they tell him not to make a Bordeaux he won’t force it. It is also the reason that new blends are always coming out of Shiloh. Ami is always trying to surprise people with new varietals, unique blends and unorthodox aging methods. He is guided by his grapes. Ami works almost exclusively with French and American oak barrels. He doesn’t like using metal vats, because why miss a chance to impart more flavor?
Even traditionalists can find a home at Shiloh Vineyards. The Shiraz, the Merlot and the Cabernet are fairly in line with what most people would consider the typical flavor profile of their varietals, but with something extra. Ami describes it this way; “a good chef doesn’t necessarily invent new food. He takes a dish you know and makes it different enough, unique enough, while still holding true to the original. I like to think that our more traditional wines hold true to their varietals but they are bigger, more expansive. We have added to them while keeping them instantly recognizable.”
What do the critics think about all this, especially in such a traditional winemaking region? Another thing Ami said was “The wine speaks for itself.” Apparently he is not alone in thinking that because Shiloh is the only vineyard to sweep the Golden Cluster in all three major categories winning with the Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Secret Reserve Merlot, and Secret Reserve Shiraz. That all but silenced the critics.
Now that you are excited about Shiloh Wines let’s discuss some entry points into the brand. The Legend is the most cost effective series and for the price I don’t think you can find a better wine. The Shor collection is also affordable and offers rich, complex and unique wines. Adventurous oenophiles love the Shor series because it is full of surprises! When asked about the vineyard’s flagship, Ami directed me to the Mosaic. This is a bit pricier but each variety is so unique and exceptional. The depth of flavors is breathtaking making the Mosaic is well worth the price.