The wine lover in Israel, as everywhere else, loves to visit wineries. However, most wineries tend to be in outlying areas. Unlike in Europe, where wineries blend into villages and are positioned alongside vineyards, near hotels, restaurants and other gourmet destinations, here wineries are banished more often than not, to industrial estates. A visit has to be planned in advance and normally necessitates an outing.
However, wine lovers need not despair. If you do not have time to visit wineries, there is a new animal in Israel cities. It is called ‘The Tasting Room’. These are not exactly winery visitors’ centers, nor are they restaurants, or even typical wine bars. However, wine lovers can taste, buy, learn and talk about wine along with enjoying a little food, without leaving the city.
I suppose the first place of this type was Ish Anavim (The Grape Man) in Jaffa. There, Haim Gan founded a wine cultural center which has gone on to play an important part in the Israeli wine scene. They organize wine competitions, festivals and regular and large tastings. An innovative place to taste wine is Tasting Room within the Sarona complex. They have an automated pouring system using a smart card. Tasters can purchase different sized glasses according to whether they wish to sample, taste or drink. They were the first to use the name ‘Tasting Room.’
The latest of this genre is the Seren DPT Bar & Tasting room in Jaffa. This a play on the word Serendipity, which is an unplanned and fortunate discovery. Finding something good, by accident. An example would be wandering around Jaffa, and finding the unique tasting room, minutes from the old clock tower and seconds from where the legendary Yo’ezer Bar was once situated.
Seren DPT offers tutored tastings, wine explanations, lectures, workshops and wine education seminars. There are wines available by glass, flight or bottle. It is situated at 7, Yo’ezer Street to the east of Jaffa’s famous clock tower. It is in the area known as the Monastery or Greek Market, full of people and tourists. They may be found browsing in the street markets, drinking coffee in the coffee bars and eating in nearby restaurants. Street musicians perform on street corners. Now they can also enjoy a glass of wine, whilst soaking up the atmosphere.
Seren DPT offers ‘an Israel Wine Experience’. It is a joint initiative of three people: Oded Shoham, Asaf Margalit and Amos Jacobi. Oded is one of the great personalities of Israeli wine. He is founder and CEO of The Israel Wine Experience Ltd, a company which educates about Israeli wine, offers winery tours and tastings, and markets boutique wineries and cult wines. Amongst the wineries he represents are Margalit Winery, Clos de Gat, Bar-Maor Winery, Gros Winery, Jacques Capsouto Vignobles and Stern Winery. There are many people who can boast a lifetime in the wine trade, but few if any have experience as broad as Oded Shoham. He has done everything in the wine business. He has worked for the largest wineries in the country (Carmel & Barkan), been co-founder of a boutique winery (Tzora) and a marketer of small wineries (like Margalit). He has managed vineyards, and been involved with sales, export and import. He has worked for a supermarket chain (Tiv Taam) and managed a wine store (Naftali). He has even planted vineyards!
Asaf Margalit is owner-winemaker of Margalit Winery, which was Israel’s first quality boutique winery and Israel’s first cult wine. It was founded in 1989 by his father, the legendary Dr. Yair Margalit and remains one of the best wineries in Israel. Asaf Margalit became the winemaker in 2000 and is today considered one of Israel’s finest winemakers in his own right. Amos Jacobi is a veteran of the antiques world and is extremely well respected in this field.
One of the special benefits of Seren DPT is that you can taste wines of the caliber of Margalit by the glass by using Coravin. This is an advanced and expensive toy for wine connoisseurs, which allows pouring a glass without any deterioration in the quality of the bottle. Therefore, it offers the opportunity to taste some expensive wines by the glass, which you would not usually think of purchasing. Alternatively, you can buy a bottle of Margalit Enigma at the retail price and with an insignificant corkage fee, enjoy it with a platter of bread and cheese without any of the exaggerated restaurant mark ups.
Seren DPT is also the venue for wine lectures and tastings by rare boutique wineries. For example, winemaker–wine educator Roni Saslove holds her courses there, and Ya’acov Oryah Wines and Nana Winery are examples of some of the smaller, exotic wines and wineries that will be using it as a home for their wines in Tel Aviv.
SeRen DPT (+972 3 7722730 / +972 55 839 6149) will be managed by sommelier Jamie Sellouk, who was runner up the Israel’s main sommelier / wine waiter competition. It will be open Thursday evening and Friday morning, and otherwise will open according to courses, winery tastings, company events and tourist tastings.
Tulip Winery has always been one of Israel’s most dynamic and innovative wineries. Their CEO Roy Itzaki is one of the most impressive winery managers in the country. He is smart, creative, thinks long term and is usually ahead of the pack. Now, they have a foothold in Tel Aviv by opening a Show Room in Neve Zedek. This is a tasting room, which offers tastings, professional explanations and the opportunity to buy. Certain wine exclusivities, not on the general market, will also be available for the passionate wine lover.
Roy Itzaki says: “Our objective is to bring the uniqueness and quality of Tulip Winery to Tel Aviv.” Tulip Winery is one of best wineries. Founded in 2003 in Kfar Tikvah, Kiryat Tivon, it is an extraordinary project which provides hope and work for adults with disabilities. No wonder they are situated in ‘the Village of Hope.’
Tulip wines win all sorts of awards and high scores, due to the quality of their vineyards, mainly in the Upper Galilee, and skills of winemaker, David Bar Ilan. The wines, some of which are innovative blends, come under three labels Tulip, Espero and Reserves. Their prestige wine is the velvety, rich Black Tulip.
The Tulip Show Room (+972 54 4960889) is situated at 61 Shabazi Street in Neve Zedek. The Tulip Winery Visitors Center is an hour away by car from Tel Aviv. It is so smart of the winery management to bring the winery to Tel Aviv. If the mountain will not come to the Muhammed, then Muhammed must go to the mountain. This decision has made Tulip Winery available and accessible to Tel Aviv, where the consumption of wine and concentration of wine lovers, is higher than anywhere else in Israel.
Haifa has also got in the act. There is the Wine List Tasting Room in downtown Haifa which owner David Gronich calls ‘a wine playground.’ The tasting room organizes private and corporate wine evenings booked in advance. It also hosts launches and tastings organized by wineries and importers. It provides professional staff training for restaurants and waiters. Most significantly, it is the venue in the north of Israel for the official WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). This is the most famous wine school in the world, which has been brought to Israel and is based in Tel Aviv.
At the Wine List Tasting Room you can learn about the world of wine from wine experts who in the words of the Wine list brochure ‘will explain the stories, tips, excitement and magic surrounding every bottle of wine.’ All the venues are proud to focus on Israeli wines. However, the expertise of Wine List is in finding imported wines that offer value, style and attributes not necessarily found in Israeli wines. Great for the wine lover to discover what wines taste like outside the Israel bubble.
David Gronich is a hospitality professional, who was Food & Beverage Manager of the Tel Aviv Hilton, the Scottish Hotel in Tiberias and hotels in Boston, America. He then worked for Carmel, then the largest winery and Yatir Winery, one of our best small wineries. Over 12 years he held positions like Wine Education Manager, Hotel & Restaurants Sales Manager, and Trade Marketing Manager. He is now International Marketing Manager with 1848 Winery and Zion Winery. His hospitality and wine experience mean guests to Wine List will be looked after particularly well. The Wine List Tasting Room is situated at 57 Jaffa Road in Haifa (tel. +972 54 478 8854).
Jerusalem also has a unique wine venue in a historic setting. Jerusalem Vineyard Winery has a winery in Atarot, scarcely the best place to attract visitors. So, they have wisely opened a tasting room within the Montefiore Windmill in Mishkenot Sha’ananim – Yemin Moshe, in the heart of Jerusalem. The windmill was built in 1857 by Sir Moses Montefiore and has since become an iconic part of the Jerusalem skyline. It was refurbished and reopened by the Prime Minister in 2012. Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first neighborhood outside the Old City, became the cornerstone of modern Jerusalem. Here you can taste and buy, whilst overlooking the Old City Walls. They have a wagon where they also serve coffee and food, which is designed in the style of the legendary carriage with which Moses Montefiore travelled to Israel on seven occasions. A copy of the original carriage may also be seen on site.
The Jerusalem Vineyard Winery is one of Israel’s older wineries. In 1951 the winery was founded by the Shor family and Yona Mendelson, both of whom had previously made wine in the Old City of Jerusalem pre-state. In 2006, it was purchased Ofer Guetta. It is the only winery situated in Jerusalem. Canadian Sam Soroka is the talented and experienced winemaker. At the Jerusalem Vineyard Winery Tasting Room (+972 2 583 6875) wines worth buying are the flagship Special Reserve, the Montefiore Windmill, the boutique wines of the winery made especially for sale in the tasting room and the special edition Jubilee and Gerstein labels.
In the interest of full disclosure, I worked with both Oded Shoham and David Gronich during different periods at Carmel, and am a minor partner of Oded in the Israel Wine Experience. They are good friends of mine. Far from putting me off from writing about them, it only encouraged me all the more to share what they are doing.
Therefore, wine connoisseurs, wine lovers and tourists have new venues to taste, learn and buy wines. These are close to their hotels and they don’t have to leave the city. They can visit Jaffa and Neve Zedek in Tel Aviv, downtown Haifa and Mishkenot Sha’anim in Jerusalem. These tasting rooms are something between winery visitors centers, wine bars, wine education schools and wine themed events venues. Or maybe they are a mixture of all these things together. Companies, wine lovers, families, students and tourists have the new option of organizing wine entertainment evenings. Just be sure to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Seren DPT, Tulip Show Room, Wine List and the Montefiore Windmill are four of the most innovative wine venues in Israel.
Wine trade veteran, Adam Montefiore has advanced Israeli wine for over thirty years and is the wine writer for the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com
PHOTOGRAPHS Seren DPT: David Silverman, DPS Images