Binyamina Winery Reopens Visitor Center

01/01/2012
Binyamina Winery Reopens Visitor Center After 10 Million NIS Renovation? David Rhodes After almost two years of work totaling 10 million NIS (about $2.5 million) the Binyamina Winery (Israel?s 5th largest Winery) reopened their winery?s visitor center. Occupying the historic … more »

Binyamina Winery Reopens Visitor Center After 10 Million NIS Renovation?

David Rhodes

After almost two years of work totaling 10 million NIS (about $2.5 million) the Binyamina Winery (Israel?s 5th largest Winery) reopened their winery?s visitor center. Occupying the historic building that once housed a perfume factory, the building once housed the fledgling winery before it expanded across the street to its current production level of about 3 million bottles of year.

??????????? The winemaking team of Sasson Ben Aharon & Asaf Paz were on hand to greet the press for a lunch showcasing the two kosher kitchens at the visitor center (meat on the ground floor and dairy upstairs). Although the visitor center will primarily focus on providing tastings, tours and kosher meals for visitors from around Israel and overseas, it?s well set up to host events for up to 200 people including some picturesque private rooms, manicured lawns for outdoor seating and a nice respite going north for any tourist leaving the center of Israel whether from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

??????????? With the Carmel and Tishbi wineries nearby (Israel?s largest and 6th largest wineries respectfully) each with their own amiable visitor centers and restaurants (both kosher dairy/fish), as well as several interesting boutique wineries, Binyamina?s newly reopened visitor center helps solidify the Zichron Ya?acov/Binyamina foothills of Mt. Carmel as being one of the most hospitable tracks for culinary tourists in Israel.

??????????? Recently harvested Merlot grapes from their Ben Zmira vineyards in the Galilee were on hand for us to taste (in late summer and early fall almost every large Israeli winery seemingly has grapes coming in every day or every other day). They were especially sweet and expressive and I?ve been hearing from many wineries that 2012 seems to be a great year for Israeli Merlot.
??????????? As a preview of what visitors can expect, we sampled four Binyamina wines. Upon our arrival from our one hour ride north from Tel Aviv, we were greeted with their refreshing chilled 2011 Binyamina Malbec/ Carignan Yogev Ros?.? It?s made dry (instead of semi-dry) which is a little unusual for a larger commercial Israeli winery and the grapes are 100% committed to the ros? gaining their color through extraction with the skins in contrast to other ros?s that might get all or some of their color from grapes who have juice bled off from base red wines.? Binyamina only makes 15,000 bottles a year of their only ros? which is quite modest as that represents only 1/2 of one percent of their production. Its sells for a modest 45 NIS (about $12).

??????????? As we sat for lunch, with starting salads we sampled the 2011 Binyamina Oaked Chardonnay Reserve (they also make an Unoaked Chardonnay Reserve, fairly unique in Israel for a winery to have two Chardonnay?s at the same price point) at 60 NIS (or about $15). This Chardonnay is called? ?Oaked? but in reality only 75% of the wine is oak aged for 7-9 months with its sur lees which contributes to its fuller body. 25% of the wine is aged in stainless steel waiting for its oak aging partner wine and only 30% of the wine goes through ?malo? secondary fermentation. The partial oak aging and the partial ?malo? fermentation are to insure more fruitiness in the finished wine that a fully oak aged or malo fermented wine would likely deliver.? 85% of the grapes are from higher altitude vines in the Galilee and 15% are from higher altitude vines in the Judean Hills contributing to the complexity of the wine.
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??????????? With the entree of grilled chicken and beef brisket served, we were poured the tasting?s only red wine for the afternoon, 2008 Binyamina Merlot Reserve. At 75 NIS, this Merlot is at a similar price point of many reserve red wines at other large commercial wineries and certain steps are taken to differentiate this wine from their other reds in Binyamina?s reserve series. For instance, the Merlot is aged in larger 300 liter barrels (in contrast to more customary 225 liter barrels). The larger barrels impart less oakiness on the wine and help preserve the lighter frutier Merlot the winemakers intended. For bigger bolder reds in this series, they also have a Cabernet Sauvigon, an ?Old Vine? Carignan, Shiraz and Zinfandel. All would pair better with just beef or lamb on the table but this Merlot is a nice compromise from this series if serving just one wine with both lighter and heavier fare. The reserve reds start at 75 NIS (about $19).

??????????? Last but not least, with dessert we were treated to one of their most coveted wines, the 2010 Binyamina Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. Availble only in a 375 ml bottle, fairly common for dessert wines which are more often sipped in small measures than quaffed throughout a meal, at 60 NIS? ($15) it might seem expensive for 1/2 bottle but dessert wines are expensive to make but because of their sweetness (140 grams/liter of residual sugar in this wine) they do last longer than dry wines after opening so you can enjoy them with several meals. Gewurztraminer is becoming a popular source for Israeli dessert wines and this one is a fine example why.

??????????? The Israeli Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov, was on hand to cut the ribbon after lunch to formerly open the visitor center to the public. With dozens of wines to choose from, a state of the art vistor center to relax in and both a kosher meat and dairy restaurant on premise, the Binyamina?s winery?s visitor center is sure to be popular with tourists for years to come.
??????????? The center is open 9AM to 6PM Sunday thru Thursday and 830AM to 3PM on Fridays (closed on Israeli holidays). The restaurants will be open 11am to 6pm without reservations and as late as 11PM with reservations.
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call 04-6388643 or e-mail [email protected] with questions or to make reservations
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David Rhodes is a wine educator living in Israel and can be contacted at 052-702-(WINE) 9463 or at [email protected]

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