18 Feb Meet the Covenant Crew: Ari Erle, Co-Winemaker, Covenant Israel
Ari Erle is Co-Winemaker at Covenant Israel. Originally from Northern California, Ari made aliyah at the age of 19 and enlisted in the IDF as a paratrooper. Ari returned to California when he decided to become a winemaker. He worked at Colgin and O’Shaughnessy wineries in Napa Valley prior to returning to Israel. Ari is a founding member of the Covenant Israel winemaking team. He lives in Givat Nili, a Moshav outside of Binyamina with his wife Keren and three sons, Liam, Raz and Rhone.
Covenant Israel is a bridge between Napa and Israel. It represents family, friendship, love of wine and Zionism.
Why did you pursue a career in wine? And why in Israel?
I grew up in California surrounded by agriculture. I had always wanted to be a farmer and grow something from the ground and make it into a final product that people can enjoy.
I love Israel and always knew I would return to the country after my training in Napa Valley. I was privileged enough to combine both my passions together as an Israeli winemaker.
How would you describe your wines?
For my red wines I would describe them as rich, concentrated, opulent, velvety, and elegant.
For my whites I would say aromatic, high acidity, crisp, refreshing, with good texture and minerality.
What was your first job in the wine industry?
My first job was a lab tech at Clos du Val while I was a student at Napa City College and UC Davis.
How did you end up in Israel?
When I was 15, I came to Israel on a six week program to Israel. When I was 19, I returned to Israel for a half a year at Hebrew University and half a year on kibbutz. I fell in love with Israel again and decided to leave university and join the army as a paratrooper.
Stylistically, what’s your goal for Covenant Israel wines?
I’m trying to make a wine that clearly express the terroir of Israel, that is why we use native yeast and that’s why we use very little new oak – we don’t want to mask the flavors from the vineyards here.
Is there a wine that changed your life?
Ten years ago, while I was working in Napa Valley, the other guy working in the cellar had a baby boy at the same time as me. We decided to make a rosé out of Cabernet and named it “Two Brothers.” This is the wine I brought when I showed up at the home of the “King of Rosé.”
I knew of Jeff (Covenant co-owner and winemaker) and his history with the Wine Spectator and his fame as the man who brought rosé to America. I wanted to get his thoughts on the wine so I showed up at his farmhouse in St. Helena. Jodie (Covenant co-owner) answered the door and let me in. We sat in their backyard drinking, not knowing this relationship would bring us to the other side of the world for one of the most exciting wine projects I have had the honor to take part in.
Look for the release of Covenant Israel‘s newest Blue C wines just in time for Pesach. Stay tuned…