With grapes being one of the “seven species”, the Holy Land is well rooted in winemaking. In fact at Solomon’s temple wine was part of the sacrificial activity, and the appreciation of wine even by the loard himself is documented in the book of Judges, where the vine states: “my wine.. cheers both gods and men“ (Judges 9:13).
Renewal of wine making in the Holy Land began by the first Jewish colonies. Today Israel is said to have five wine regions, about 10 big wine companies, and another 100 or so boutique wineries (see complete lists here and here).
Like my list of “recommended restaurants”, the following list as a personal one, based on my (limited) wine experience.
Recommended Wineries in the Center.
|Domaine de Castel|
“Domaine de Castel” is one of the first family operated wineries in the Judean hills. From the very first 50-case release Castel’s wine was praised by wine critiques, and today half of his production is for export. And by the way – According to Robert Parker this is the best wine in Israel!.
|Clos de Gat|
After crashing a few motor cycles, in 1989 Eyal Rotem rapleced his motor passion for wine passion, and ent to Australia to learn how to make wine. Opening his own winery in 2001 near kibbutz Harel, today Clos de Gat produces 60,000 bottles.And the result? So far Robert Parker rated Clos de Gat wines SIX times a grade over “90″. I say no more.
Margalit Winery from the Caesarea region is a family-run operation specialising in red wines. Owning two vinyards, one in the upper Galilee and one near home, their blends of Bordeaux flavors deliver a smooth and classic taste.
Tepperberg winery is operating for siz generations, and is currently the 4thbiggest wine producer in Israel. Most of its wines are exported, to 22 countries. Its wine labels are Silver, Terra, and Reserve.
Nestled in the lower Judean mountains, Flam winery and the neighboring spices shop offers a genuine and unique experience to all the senses. Founded by the Flam family in 1998, The winery has been drawing the faithful attention of wine lovers, restaurateurs, and numerous wine critics from Israel and abroad ever since.
Recommended Wineries in the North.
Tulip Winery was formed in 2003 next to “village of hope”, a unique institution for challenged people. Its operation is there for a special bond between business and community support!.And proving its quality, Tulip winery produces today 100,000 bottles, and it wins every year in wine competitions.
Jonathen Tishbi has been a grower for the Carmel cooperative until 1985. His vineyard in the southern edge of the Carmel mountain is the source of a soft sauvingion blanc and wonderful oaky chardonnay. A cozy visitors center provides free tasting and welcome all win lovers.
Located in the southern area of the Golan heights, Chatau Golan began operating in 1999. Its wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and local labels Eliad, Geshem, and Rose. Its Visitors center is one of the most attractive ones in Israel.
Located just a few kilometers NE from Katsrin, in moshav “Kidmat Zvi”, “Bazelet Hagolan” is a boutique winery, producing only Cabernet Sauvignon, yet highly praised for its flavor and aroma. Now also available in a winery shop at Waset junction.
|Golan Heights winery|
Founded in 1983 the Golan Heights winery redefined wine making in Israel. The winery is a partnership of a 15 farms and “kibbutzim”, whose first advisors were Californian winegrowers. Its visitors center conducts a good one hour tour and offers wine tasting. The winery’s labels are “Yarden”; “Golan”; and “Gamla”, and the exquisite (and very expensive) “Yarden Katsrin”.
|Odem Mountain winery|
Odem winery is the highest altitutde winery in Israel. Created by the Alfasi family in 2003, Odem mountain winery won already several wine competition, in Israel, Panama, Argentina, Spain, and Paris.
Bahat winery, named after its founder, Ofer Bahat, is a young boutique winery (founded in 2007) located in Kibbutz Ein-Zivan, at one of the highest parts of the Golan Heights.
Recommended Wineries in the South.
Yatir boutique winery began operating only in 1997, with its first wines launched only in 2004. And yet since then this winery achieved unparalleled success for a winery so young. The winery produces two levels: Yatir and Yatir Forest, the latter being the winery’s flagship series.
“Carmei Avdat” is one of the vineyards located in the heart of the Negev, along the Nabatean “Spice route”. Although apparently too arid and dry , archaeological finds attested to wine production here in antiquity, and wineries like “Carmei Avdat” prove that this is indeed not only possible, but results to pleasing wine with a special desert aroma. http://www.carmey-avdat.co.il