Now is the time for a hike in the part of Israel I like to call the Middle Eastern Tuscany: the Yehuda Region, stretching from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There are so many great trails, hidden caves, archaeological finds, streams and springs.
The area is also home to dozens of successful wineries.
Over the years, more and more vintners have realized that the land in this region is perfect for growing grapes, and thus an extensive boutique winery industry has blossomed.
The traditional Jerusalem Hills Regional Wine Festival will once again take place at the end of November.
On its 20th year, 33 local wineries will come together to celebrate their unique vintages and the region, which is a popular winery destination. In fact, the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council
is waiting to be officially recognized as a trademark winemaking region.
The festival’s opening event will take place on Thursday, November 29, at the Yad Hashmona Country Hotel, and all 33 wineries will be offering wine tastings.
In addition to an exciting opening evening, events will be taking place during the weekends of the festival.
For example, Hadar Winery will be hosting two neighboring wineries (Agur and Mettler), and as part of the cooperation, there will be tastings from all three wineries, as well as musical performances.
Weekends from November 30 to December 22.
Price: NIS 60.Kadma Winery
One of the participating wineries is Kadma Winery, located in Kfar Uriya.
In operation since 2010, the winery was founded by Lina Slutzkin after she left a long career in hi-tech.
During a trip to Georgia, to which she had traveled in search of her family’s roots, Slutzkin discovered her love of Georgian wine and its culture, and set out to learn more about the industry. Upon returning to Israel, she quit her job at Intel and, together with her husband, planted their first vineyard in the Judean Hills.
Since then, she has been producing wine in a structure that used to function as a chicken coop. Currently, Kadma produces 14,000 bottles a year.
What’s unique about Kadma is how it make its wine, which is fermented in large clay jugs that Slutzkin imported from Georgia. No other winery in Israel employs this ancient method. In fact, this method is not used much anywhere outside of Georgia.
The reason she chose to continue this ancient method is that the fermentation process is carried out extremely slowly and evenly, and it’s easy to maintain a consistent temperature in clay casks. The wine also turns a clearer color faster than wine that is fermented in stainless steel barrels.
On the opening night of the festival, Kadma will also launch its 2016 wines and announce upcoming events, such as a Georgian Shabbat (December 15), on which guests will learn firsthand how to prepare khachapuri, a traditional Georgian dish. During the weekend, participants will be invited to join a wine-tasting tour (NIS 45) and order a platter of Georgian delicacies, including khachapuri and Georgian salads (NIS 95). On December 20, Kadma will hold a French evening (NIS 100), which will include a glass of wine and tapas.
Every Friday and Saturday during the festival, tours and tastings will take place on the hour.
Preregistration required: 054-919-5156.
Seahorse Winery at Bar Giora is a great place to pop into for a wine tasting and a chat about philosophy.
Ze’ev Dunia, who founded the winery in 2000, describes himself as a filmmaker turned winemaker. The only thing Dunia apparently loves more than wine is philosophy. And although the boutique winery is not kosher, Dunia is a great believer in Divine providence, and it’s not difficult to drag him into a spiritual conversation.
This is why he began producing wine in the first place, he claims.
It all began in the 1990s, when he decided to film a documentary about the wine industry. Dunia doesn’t remember why he chose to work on this subject matter, but he does remember what it felt like while he was discovering the world of wine, and that’s why he set out on a new career.
Dunia makes only wines that he himself enjoys drinking, and uses only organic grapes that he himself planted over his three hectares. He’s named all of his wines after people who’ve had a serious influence on him.
NIS 50 (by appointment only).
Details: 054-484-3495, (02) 570-9834.
Situated in Mata, in the Judean Hills, you’ll find Nevo Winery, a family-owned boutique winery that produces 12,000 bottle a year.
There’s a great story connected with the establishment of Nevo in the early 2000s. Upon hearing that his beloved Aunt Leah had contracted cancer, and that she would need to live near the hospital so she could access treatments, Nevo Chazan invited her to come live on the family estate. One day, in order to take her mind off her illness, he took her for a tour of a vineyard.
While they were walking around together, they picked a few clusters of grapes and decided to make homemade wine with it.
Nevo built the winery with his own two hands, using structures that already existed. Nevo Winery produces red, dessert and rosé wines, and in 2019 plans to begin using chardonnay grapes.
Tours, which require preregistration, last 90 minutes and cost NIS 65.
Details: 052-607-1780.Homemade meals
You’ll be happy to know that Nevo’s Aunt Leah is healthy and happy and is living in Tzur Hadassah, not far from her nephew. She loves cooking and has successfully turned her hobby into a thriving business, in which she invites travelers into her home for authentic home-cooked meals every Friday night.
After her husband died three years ago, she began preparing these large, Moroccan-style meals, which she serves in her dining room or in the Moroccan tent in her garden. Among the delights she prepares you’ll find couscous, stuffed vegetables, meat and chicken, olive dishes and lots of salads.
NIS 120 for adults, NIS 60 for children.
Preregistration required: 052-570-5283.
In Mata, you’ll find a talented painter and sculptor named Vered Terry, who specializes in landscapes.
Terry loves painting scenes she recalls from her childhood, as well as landscapes of the Jerusalem Hills.
She loves welcoming guests in her studio, which is located above her home, and is always ready to tell stories about her history, the region and painting techniques.
And, of course, her artwork is for sale on site.
Appointments: 052-654-4662.Translated by Hannah Hochner.
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