Israel is a country that be seen, tasted and understood through its wine industry. This product made from the humble grape, represents the depth of history of both the Land of Israel and the Jewish people from the very beginnings. It also represents the dynamism, energy, creativity, technology and agricultural prowess of modern Israel. Whether your interest is history, archaeology, gastronomy, people, religion or tourism, you can follow the wine and vine and you will receive all you are looking for.
Succot is the festival that celebrates the wine harvest. So if you are not visiting wineries and partaking of the fruit of the vine, you should be! It is a wonderful way to get to know Israel by visiting its wineries and vineyards and tasting its wines. I offer you ten wineries that you should visit as some time and ten wines to taste.
As far as wineries are concerned, many will be open during Chol Hamoed, but to avoid disappointment, it is worthwhile to check in advance. For me these winery visitors’ centers stand out, each offering something unique:
GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY, Katzrin, Golan Heights. This is the winery that created the Israel wine revolution. It is technologically advanced and state of the art. Visit the winery, and you could be in the Napa Valley. Well worth a visit.
ASSAF WINERY, KEDEM WINE VILLAGE, Kidmat Zvi, Golan Heights. For those that want to wine, dine and sleep, the Assaf family winery is worth a visit. There are cabins for overnight stays, a café restaurant, winery and vineyard as part of a very innovative complex.
ADIR WINERY, Dalton Industrial Estate, Upper Galilee. A small, very stylish winery with a great film and warm welcome. Its speciality is that they have a dairy and winery at the same location. Broadens the options, and makes for a rewarding family visit.
TABOR WINERY, Kfar Tabor, Lower Galilee. A winery for conservationalists. Tabor Winery has a program to make its vineyards self-sustainable. It is a pioneering project at Israel’s 5th largest winery. The visitors center is newly refurbished and the wines are great value.
TISHBI WINERY, Industrial Estate, Binyamina. This is the winery for foodies. There is a kosher restaurant, opportunities to taste wine and chocolate from one of France’s top chocolatiers, a pizza oven, bakery and Tishbi food products including jams, honey and olive oil.
CARMEL WINERY, Zichron Ya’acov. The historic winery of Israel. This winery explains and illustrates the history of Israeli wine since 1882. You will see Rothschild’s underground cellars and hear stories of prime ministers who worked at the winery.
KEREM MONTEFIORE TASTING ROOM, Jaffa. An original tasting room easily accessible from Tel Aviv, allowing visitors to taste informally and buy, or it is possible hire the room for a more formal tasting and explanation.
DOMAINE DU CASTEL, Yad Shomona, Judean Hills. This is the most beautiful winery in Israel. It is stunning in design and represents the finest of Israeli wine. Wine lovers and connoisseurs must visit.
PSAGOT WINERY, Binyamin, Psagot. This winery has an extravagant visitors’ center which makes the connection between wine in Biblical Israel and today. Don’t miss the excellent films they show. Each is worth seeing. Close to Jerusalem.
YATIR WINERY, Tel Arad, Negev. This is the winery to visit for hikers. Take a hike and picnic in Yatir Forest and end with a tour and tasting at Yatir Winery, in the desert. But mind the camels.
As for wines to enjoy in your Succa, these are my recommendations:
YARDEN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016. One of Israel’s finest Sauvignon Blancs. Classic Sauvignon aromas, with tropical notes, and a great, refreshing acidity.
TEPERBERG PINOT GRIS 2016. A steely wine with restrained fruit, but great minerality on the palate and a refreshing finish. One of the few Pinot Gris wines in Israel, and a good one.
DALTON CHENIN BLANC 2016. This is a quality white wine from a variety that is coming back. Crisp and flavorful with great acidty.
5 STONES D vs G 2016. A dry white blend of Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc grown in the Judean Hills. The pronounced aromas of the Gewurztraminer combine with the acidity acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc.
2 VATS WHITE 2016. An good value semi dry wine bursting with aroma and flavor. The two most aromatic grapes, Muscat and Gewurztraminer, are part of the blend.
JEZREEL VALLEY ARGAMAN 2015. Argaman is an Israeli variety, today at its best from Jezreel Valley Winery. Produced from an old vine vineyard. The wine has depth, deep aromas and a plate cleaning finish.
SEGAL PETIT UF 2015. The new younger brother of Segal Unfiltered, in its time an iconic Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Petit Verdot. It shows black fruit, with an envelope of vanilla from oak aging. Smooth and drinkable.
YATIR MT. AMASA 2013. A blend which shows of the terroir of Yatir Forest. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz & Petit Verdot make a complex wine with earthy notes and a well defined, almost refreshing finish.
TABOR SUFA 2013. A quality complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Rich, plush black fruit nose, great depth of flavor and a long finish.
CHATEAU GOLAN CABERNET SAUVIFGNON 2014. Classic Cabernet fruit of blackcurrant, with a sweet fruit flavor and a herbaceous tint on the finish. A good quality wine. (NK)
Adam Montefiore has been advancing Israeli wines for over 30 years. He is known as the ‘the ambassador of Israeli wine’. He writes his regular Wine Talk column for the Jerusalem Post.