A journalist once asked Baron Rothschild, “What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted in your life?”. Rothschild had to ponder for a minute or two, and said: “I can’t remember the name of the winery, the grape or the vintage, but I remember that the woman was charming, the moon was full, and it was a wonderful evening.”.
It’s no secret that two millennia ago the geographic region of what today is Israel was known to be a great area for growing grapes and crafting wine. In Rome and Greece, they copiously drank wine that fermented in winepresses in the Judean Hills, the Galilee and the Negev. In recent years, the world of Israeli wine has been reinventing itself, and Israeli winemakers are producing impeccable wines.
We have selected first-class wineries from north to south that excel at hospitality and personal meetings with the winemakers, to provide a complete experience that will be another taste in the palette of flavors that your visit to Israel will offer.
Of course, we recommend visiting these wineries with someone you love on full moon nights.
Odem winery, Odem, North Golan Heights
Resting on the hillside of a dormant volcano, up high in the mountains at an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level, in Odem, the Alfassi family built their home and family winery. Adam and Yishai, the boys, continue the lifework of their parents Michael and Idit, producing terrific wine in Odem.
Don’t miss: Volcanic Shiraz – surprising and uplifting (maybe due to the high alcohol content - 14.5%).
Tulip, Kfar Tikva, Jezreel Valley
Where love for people and love for wine unite. Kfar Tikva is a pastoral village for people with special needs, and it is the place where the Yitzhaki-Weisman families have chosen to establish their winery. The exciting model of the winery is based on employing members of the community, integrating people with special needs into the workforce, without any compromise to the quality of the wine. The abundance of awards the winery has won in Israel and abroad serves as proof. Sitting in the courtyard with a glass of wine in hand will quickly immerse you in optimism.
Don’t miss: Tulip Merlot, especially for lovers of coffee flavors.
Somek Winery, Zikhron Ya’akov, the Carmel
If you wish to sip a glass of wine in God’s vineyard, the Carmel Mountain is your spot, seeing as the name Carmel (Kerem Ha’el) translates directly to “God’s Vineyard”. If it’s fit for a god, chances are we’ll like it, too. In 1882, the family of Barak Dahan (a fifth-generation winemaker) planted and worked vineyards on the slopes of the Carmel Mountain. Barak, along with his wife Hila, began producing superior quality wine in their house in the town of Zikhron Ya’akov. A visit to the winery is, in fact, a visit to their backyard, and Barak and Hila will be delighted to host you.
Don’t miss: Carignan! A lovely expression for this lesser known grape variety.
Bravdo Winery, next to Karmei Yosef, Gezer Regional Council
When two professors from the Hebrew University decide to create wine together, you can be sure that the wine will be no less than amazing. Prof. Bravdo and Prof. Shoseyov educated hundreds of winemakers in Israel and provided consulting for countless wineries in Israel and around the world. They decided to utilize their immense knowledge and experience to produce their own wine. The winery is located next to Karmei Yosef, at the foothills of the Jerusalem mountains. The grape vines are planted nearby in an area that has been renowned for agriculture for over 3000 years!
Don’t miss: Rosé 2017, especially suited for the hot Israeli summer.
Nevo Winery, Mata, Judean mountains
Only in Israel can you find a winery inside an underground bomb shelter. An alcoholic takeoff on the biblical passage: “…They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…”. On the property of the Hazan family in the settlement of Mata located within the Jerusalem mountains, there was an abandoned bomb shelter. When Nevo Hazan decided to start a winery, the shelter turned into his barrel room. Nevo built the winery from the ground up with his own two hands, from the benches out in the yard to the breathtaking bar. The story of the wine begins in the vineyard, where quality grapes are grown next to the settlement of Mata, an ideal area for growing wine grapes, combining warm sun, cool nights, mineral-rich land and blessed rain during the winter.
Don’t miss: 2013 Merlot, wine suited for people with patience… aged for 20 months in oak barrels..
Sphera Winery, Givat Yeshayahu
The winemaker Doron Rav Hon made an inspiring move. He left a successful and prosperous winery where he served as the chief winemaker, in order to start a private winery together with his wife Iris. Doron also chose a unique concept, a vineyard that produces only white wines, which work perfectly with the Israeli climate. Doron’s wines are precise, minimalistic, and powerful. Tasting the wines, nibbling on a cheese platter and enjoying the company of Sima and Doron is sometimes all you need in life.
Don’t miss: the Chardonnay is charming, puts up a fight to some of the world’s best.
Nana Estate Winery, not far from Mitzpe Ramon, the Negev
Kerry Damskey, the Nana Estate Winery’s consultant, is an expert on growing grapes in extreme conditions — and in a region where the temperatures climb over 40°C in the summer and the average annual rainfall is less than 200mm, his advice is necessary. Here, near Mitzpe Ramon, a lush green vineyard flourishes in the endless arid landscape of the Negev. The visitor center overlooks a breathtaking view that embodies David Ben-Gurion’s expression to “make the desert bloom”. Dana Beri, the vineyard’s winemaker, claims that actually, these tough conditions allow for unique wine production, different from anything you’ve ever tasted.
Don’t miss: Chenin Blanc, aromas of tropical fruit in the heart of the desert.
So to summarize, when life gives you lemons, sell them and buy some wine.
Elad Bar Ilan is the owner of Time Travel Israel and lives in Kibbutz Hulda. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.