Israel's world-class Golan Heights Winery has hired one of California's most celebrated women winemakers as a special consultant.

Zelma Long (pictured), a flying winemaker in the style of Michel Rolland of France, will focus mainly on red grape varieties. She will also help with an organic vineyard project involving Merlot and Chardonnay.

‘We wanted someone with international experience and expertise with wineries of different sizes,’ says Golan’s head enologist Victor Schoenfeld. ‘While ours is not a small winery, in many ways we operate like one.’

Formerly president of Simi in Sonoma, Long went on to form Zelphi Wines with her viticulturist husband Phillip Freese. The most prominent of their current vineyard ventures under the Zelphi label are Simunye in the Paarl appellation of South Africa and Sibyl in Germany’s Nahe region.

Long is not the only Californian to play a part in shaping Golan Heights wines, especially its Yarden label.

Golan’s first consultant Peter Stern, based in San Jose, helped develop the winery’s image and reputation right from its founding in 1983. He remained in the post until earlier this year, and has now been hired by Golan’s main competitor, the Israeli wine and spirits giant Carmel, to help ‘upgrade the winery and its wines’.

Schoenfeld, meanwhile, is California-born and was trained at the University of California, Davis.

Though kosher, Yarden wines are sold on the general market and found in top American and European shops and restaurants.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York18 October 2002