• Photo by Barry A. Kaplan

What wine was served to President Obama at the State Dinner with Shimon Peres? Castel Grand Vin 2009.

Forty minutes out of Jerusalem, 12 miles to the west, is Moshav Ramat Raziel. In 1971, Eli Ben Zaken and his wife came to Israel and bought a house and land on this moshav.

While owner of an Italian restaurant in Jerusalem, he decided to plant a small plot of land with vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The first harvest was in 1992 and Domaine du Castel was born.

Today, there are 30 wineries in this part of the Judaean hills. Domaine du Castel now produces over 100,000 bottles of wine of its four wine types a year–Grand Vin, Petit Castel, Rose and Chardonnay. The red wines are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The Chardonnay is white with a fruity aroma and a hint of roasted almonds.

Ben Zaken chose the name Castel from the Crusader fortress which was nearby and had been built on the ruins of a Roman fortress.

Castel wines are kosher and 30-40% are exported–to the U.S., France, England, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Japan and Mexico. Castel is a family business with 15 employees including the son, Eytan, who handles operations; another brother; and a sister who is in charge of exports. Eli

Ben Zaken, now 69 years old, is less involved in the day to day operations. The winery is the official supplier to the Presidential residence. These classic elegant wines are available by the case and are well worth the money.

To visit Domaine du Castel for a tour or to purchase wine, contact Sarah Simchovitch, Private Customer relations, 02 534-2249 or  email castel@castel.co.il or check out the website, www.castel.co.il.