Alexander winery was founded by Mr. Yoram Shalom (Owner and wine maker) in Tel-Aviv (1996), and was relocated (1999) to Beit Yitzhak, a Moshav in Hefer Valley. The winery began as a small family venture but slowly grew into a very successful, highly acclaimed boutique winery. Since the 2006 vintage the winery products are Kosher and in 2007 the wines are also Kosher under the supervision of the "Beit Joseph" organization, and from 2010 also Rabbi Yechiel Babad.
At the beginning the winery produced ~ 12,000 bottles (1999), 2002 ~35,000 and since the 2005 vintage ~ 50,000 bottles.
Alexander Winery Operational Policy
The basic concept that drives Yoram Shalom in his commitment to excel in his wine making efforts is to combine traditional and modern wine production concepts with modern, up to date technologies. Thus, his efforts are directed firstly by the belief that the secret of high quality wine begins, first and foremost, with the true expression of the vineyard's "Terroir". Convinced that quality grapes are a prerequisite for quality wine production, he looked for special vineyards to serve as sources for his winery. Three vineyards were selected with special attention to their elevation, soil type and depth, slope and slope aspect relative to the sun, wind directions and force, planting density and row direction (Vineyards' terroir). Furthermore, he concluded that a successful winemaker must work in full cooperation with the vineyards managers and at the appropriate time take the lead, decide the right decisions in order to obtain the best quality grapes. Secondly, the winery is to be operated in a way to enable the winemaker to "groom and husband", the high quality grape harvest throughout the wine production processes in a way that ensures a maximal retention of the grape attributes and qualities of the wine.
Alexander Winery Vineyards
The need for high quality grapes and grape quality diversity (having in the back of his mind future blends of great complexity), combined with the basic concept of a vineyard site terroir were the driving motives for the winemaker vineyards selection. The winery draws grapes for its production line from three specific vineyards. All three vineyards, known for their terroir, are located in the Upper Galilee wine region.
Cfar Shamai vineyard: The vineyard, planted in 2000, is located on an eastern, north eastern slope of Har Mitzpe Hayamim. Elevation varies between 640 to 700 m above m.s.l. The soil, overlaying a hard chalk and dolomite rocks, is stony, clay, red brown, Mediterranean soil, of varying depth and stoniness.
The vine rows follow the terraced slope. Most of the rows are planted in east - west and some rows in north-south direction. The rootstock used for most of the area is Ru - 140 and a small section is on Polsen 1103. The planted varieties are: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The vines are trellised in a Vertical Screen Position (V.S.P), planting density of 3.0 x 1.0 m (3333 vines/ha). Average annual rainfall is about 820 mm, and summer irrigation varies according to soil depth and transpiration around 300 mm rainfall equivalent. Due to the site's topographic position layout, the vines are cooled by the sea breeze during most of the day, while at night the vines are at low temperature since the vineyard serves during the night as a cold air drain for the Har Miron region.
Yield varies between 8 to 10 T/ha.
Kerem Ben Zimara (South): The vineyard, planted in 1988 and new sections in 2007 and 2008, is located on a plateau south of Har Yohanan. Site elevation varies between 810 to 840 m above m.s.l. The soil is a brown black Mediterranean clay soil of basaltic origin. The soil is rather deep with basalt stone, the amounts of which increase with depth. The vines are planted on Richter 110 rootstock, row direction varies. Sections of the vineyards are planted in north - south direction and other sections in east- west direction. Varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdure, Mourvedre, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Planting density is uniform, 3.0 x 1.5 m (2223 vines/ha), trellised in a V.S.P. mode. Annual average rainfall is 700 mm, and summer irrigation varies according to transpiration and soil water storage around 180 mm of equivalent rainfall.
Yields vary between 6 to 10 T/ha depending on the variety and year.
Kerem Ben Zimara (West of Kerem Ben Zimra - Padida): The vineyard, planted in 1997-8, is located, west of moshav Kerem Ben Zimra. The vineyard is planted on the edge of a ridge and then slopes rather steeply toward the north - north east. Elevation varies between 780 to 740 m above m.s.l. The soil, overlaying hard chalk and dolomite rocks is a stony, well drained, red brown Mediterranean clay soil, of varying depth and stoniness. The vine rows in the vineyard are planted on a terraced slope; following the east - west direction. The vines are grafted on Richter 110 rootstock. The planted varieties are: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The vines are trellised in a Vertical Screen Position (V.S.P), planting density of 3.0 x 1.5 m (2223 vines/ha). Average annual rainfall is 720 mm, and summer irrigation varies according to soil depth and transpiration around 200 to 250 mm rain fall equivalent. Due to the sites topographic layout, the vines are cooled by the sea breeze during most of the day and enjoy cold air, draining down the slope during the night.
Yields vary between 7 to 10 T/ha depending on the variety and year.
All three vineyards are operated under shared management (the vineyard owner and the winemaker) during most of the year. As the grapes reach the veraison stage and start ripening, the winemaker takes over and directs all the operations and examinations required to ensure that the ripening grapes will reach their best possible quality at harvest time.
Wine production is preceded by a crucial decision: setting the right time for the grape harvest. Grapes are sampled sporadically, the concentrations of their major constituents (sugar, total acidity, pH, skin and kernels color and taste) are determined before full ripening has been reached. The basic drive is to attain a harmonious ripeness, namely good sugar concentration (~ 25-26 Br0), low pH (~ 3.5), and a good to complete phenolic ripeness. The winery staff, under the direct guidance of the winemaker is responsible for these sampling and analyses.
Once the grapes have reached the desired degree of ripening the harvest commences immediately. Wine production then begins by harvesting the grapes and their transfer to the winery. The grapes are hand picked during the late night early dawn hours. The harvested clusters are checked for flaws and fungal, insects or mechanical spoilage, before packing for shipment. The chosen clusters are then placed in small boxes, loaded into a refrigerated truck, and shipped to the winery.
Upon arrival at the winery gate, the grapes in the boxes are unloaded onto a conveyer and are rechecked for spoilage or damage caused by foul handling and transportation. The grape loads from each vineyard section undergo berry separation and crushing and the must is processed separately from other vineyard lots. Must samples are taken for sugar, total acidity and pH determinations. To each volume of must, bi-sulfite is added during the crushing process, the must is transferred into separate stainless steel tanks for cold maceration at 5 to 8 degrees C, for two days, after which, Tartaric acid (if needed since acidity corrections are seldom needed), yeasts and vitamins are added, mixed well, must temperature is raised to 160 and must fermentation starts.
During fermentation, the fermenting must is mixed and rotated to wet the "cap" every four hours. Once in two days the fermenting liquid is siphoned to a separate tank, the "cap" is broken and the liquid is re-siphoned into its original tank. During fermentation temperature is allowed to creep up until it reaches, 260 to 280C and is stabilized until the alcoholic fermentation ends.
After the alcoholic fermentation ceases, each tank is drained (free run) and the remaining mixture is pressed to separate the remaining wine from the marc (grape remains). Free run and pressed wines, in separate tanks, are then cooled to 200 C to allow the initiation of the malo-lactic fermentation. Laboratory tests and chromatographic methods are used to follow and to determine the end of the mal- lactic fermentation. At the end of the Malo-lactic fermentation, each wine volume is racked and stored in new French and American Oak barrels for maturation. The barrels are placed in a cool cellar (~ 160 C), where low humidity is maintained in order to allow high evaporation losses leading to enhanced aromatic, more concentrated, and tastier wines. The ratio between French and American barrels depends on the variety and the specific wine.
During the first year, the wine in the barrels is racked four times whereas during the second year only twice. As the wines mature in the barrels, sporadic sampling and tasting is carried out in order to track and control changes in the maturing wine.
Blending sessions are initiated when Yoram Shalom (the wine maker), feels confident that the wines of a given vintage are ready to be blended into the best wine blends possible for that year. The final unfiltered blends are stabilized for 48 hours at 50 C and then bottled and placed in storage for a period of 6 to 12 months at 150 - 180 C before being exposed to the market.