Our Family Story

It all began as if by chance. In the 1970’s, Eli Ben Zaken, born in Alexandria, immigrated with his family from Milan to Israel. With the little money he had, he purchased a piece of land in a community by Jerusalem, with a clear goal to fulfil his dream: to work the land of Israel. Eli built a chicken coop and planted an orchard of various fruit. The first vineyard was planted in 1988, by the family’s home and the winery, in a manner common to the French Bordeaux region – in high density and low vigour. Four years later, family and friends were invited to the first harvest. This harvest was then set to age for two years, in two oak barrels, which Eli imported from France himself. The first 600 bottles were unveiled in the spring of 1995 and Eli named the wine “Grand Vin”. His friends and supporters showed much enthusiasm, but Eli was still uncertain about the quality of the wine. With the help of journalist Dalia Penn-Lerner, a bottle was sent to the head of Sotheby’s auction house in London. The high praise that was sent in return, convinced Eli to continue planting and open the winery, which was named “Castel” after the nearby Crusaders’ fortress.

The Family

Eli’s children, Ariel, Eytan and Ilana, carry on the tradition. Ariel, who spent two years studying winegrowing and winemaking in Beaune, France, the wine capital of the Burgundy region, has been CEO of the winery for over 15 years. Eytan was entrusted with managing the family restaurant in Jerusalem, while continuing to study the art of winemaking with Eli, and holds the position of winemaker beside him to this day. Ilana, the eldest daughter, is the winery’s Director of Export & Procurement.

The winery moved to its new location in Yad HaShmona in 2015 – to a new, beautifully designed building, located across the way from the new vineyards in Ma’ale HaHamisha. After 23 harvests in the Ramat Raziel winery, the Ben Zaken family wanted to ensure the longevity and continuity of their family legacy and of Domaine du Castel.

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