Move Over, Napa: Boutique Wines From Israel Are Making a U.S. Debut

By Garrett Peck

Published November 12, 2008, issue of November 21, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

As Israeli wine finds its way to the United States, to shopping carts and dinner tables, wine importer Richard Shaffer looks to change the way people go about purchasing wine. His company, Israeli Wine Direct, ships wines directly to consumers in 16 states and in Washington, D.C. The company’s Web site, www.israeliwinedirect.com, features a wine club and a section on news and events.

Based in Evanston, Ill., Israeli Wine Direct aims to introduce Americans to Israeli wine and to find an outlet for boutique Israeli wineries in the United States. There are many online wine clubs around the country, but Shaffer’s is the first to specialize in wines from Israel. Shaffer wants “to get behind the ‘CNN curtain’ of life in Israel” to help re-brand Israel in the minds of Americans. “Personally,” he said,“ I think wine can help people see the real Israel.”

Shaffer is a technology geek at heart. When he incorporated Israeli Wine Direct in April 2007, he spent more than a year blogging before making his first shipment. “It was a way for me personally to work out my ideas online,” he said. It also helped build a following, and he gets feedback from people around the world.

Shaffer has a blog, http://israeliwineblog.com, that has the look and feel of his Web site. He also posts videos from YouTube, as well as networking tweets from the free social messaging service Twitter. He recently launched MyWineTxt.com, a platform for people to order wine via text messaging. “We’re trying to push as much info about Israeli wine into the market as we can,” he explained.

Last summer, Shaffer shipped his first container of Israeli wine to the United States. He is importing about 1,000 cases of wine this year, and hopes to eventually expand to 5,000. The 10 boutique wineries he represents, including Clos de Gat, Flam, Margalit and Yaffo, are what he calls “the long tail of Israeli wines,” as they aren’t mass production wineries but rather family estates. “We’re really trying to be a one-stop shop for Israel wineries and help them get into the American market,” Shaffer said.

Most Israeli wine is kosher, and Shaffer acknowledged that this can be a problem in the broader market. He expressed frustration at how wine is singled out in supermarkets, where it is usually organized by country: United States France, Italy — and Kosher. “‘Kosher’ is not a country,” he pointed out, noting that nonkosher people walk right by, thinking these wines aren’t for them. “‘Kosher’ has kept people from getting to know Israel.”

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, so what is Shaffer drinking? “I recommend people start out with something sparkling, like the Yarden Blanc de Blancs ($27), then a crisp white,” such as Pelter Sauvignon Blanc ($21) or Pelter Unoaked Chardonnay ($24). “Then something not overly heavy — red — like the Meishar 730 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), and then enjoy a dessert wine on the finish. Rimon pomegranate Dessert Wine ($29) is interesting for this, so is Yarden’s Heights Wine ($23).” Shaffer imports Pelter and Meishar, so these wines can be ordered from his site. Most of the others can be found with a little shopping.

Israeli Wine Direct can ship to participating states within three business days. Shaffer offers free shipping on orders of six or more bottles. Customers in a rush can always choose the Next Day Air shipping option.

“I don’t see myself as a wine aficionado at all,” Shaffer said, though he clearly loves to talk about wine. “Wine has a way of bringing people together, across countries and cultures.”

Garrett Peck is the author of “The Prohibition Hangover,” coming soon from Rutgers University Press (www.prohibitionhangover.com).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.