Wine Talk: Wine country

Take the back roads and learn about the country through its world-class wineries.

Golan Heights Winery (photo credit: Courtesy)
Golan Heights Winery
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The quality and variety of Israel’s wines remain one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Many Israeli wines more than match the best international standards, and the finest are undoubtedly world class. I advise you not to sit on the sidelines but to become an active participant in the exciting blossoming of the Israeli wine scene. I recommend that you tour Israel and see the country through the prism of its wine industry. Whether your interest is history, people, religion, astronomy or wine, you can really get to know Israel through its wine regions, wineries and wines.
There are hundreds of wineries here of various sizes, all offering something for the wine tourist. These cover the Land of Israel from the Golan Heights to the Negev. Any one of them is worth a visit. However, I have selected five winery visitors’ centers that I believe are among the best in Israel.
To avoid disappointment, I always recommend calling ahead to book a tour. All the following wineries are kosher and are closed on Shabbat and holidays. Happy wine wanderings!
The Golan Heights Winery
The Golan Heights Winery is the Napa Valley of Israel. It has a modern, chic visitors’ center, which was recently renovated.
It answers most of the questions of the dedicated wine tourist. Regular organized tours are available in six languages.
The winery has the facilities and room to accommodate large bus tours.
Good-quality wines are usually generously opened for tastings. Note particularly the attractive garden at the entrance and the small vineyard.
The shop offers a wide range of Yarden, Gamla and Golan wines, as well as some older vintages. There are also a number of other products from the Golan Heights available, such as beer, olive oil and honey.
Founded in 1983, the Golan Heights Winery is responsible for the quality wine revolution in Israel. It is situated on the Katzrin Industrial Estate. Ancient Katzrin, the Golan Brewery and Golan Olive Oil are all nearby.
Industrial Estate, Katzrin, Golan Heights; Tel (04) 696-8435; e-mail [email protected];
Adir Winery
One of the most innovative and stylish visitors’ centers in Israel, the Adir Winery is situated on the Ramat Dalton Industrial Estate in Upper Galilee. Impeccably designed, Adir combines not only a winery but also a dairy, based on goats’ milk.
Cheeses, labaneh, milk and mature cheeses vie with the wine to attract attention. It is therefore possible to do a separate wine tasting, a cheese tasting or a combined wine and cheese tasting. The winery shows an excellent film outlining the roots of its enterprise. The Adir Winery was founded in 2003 by a family of wine growers. Well worth a visit. Butterfly, one of the new boutique breweries, is close by.
Industrial Area, Ramat Dalton, Upper Galilee; Tel (04) 699-1039; e-mail [email protected];
Carmel Winery – Zichron Ya’acov Cellars
This historic Carmel Winery has developed a new concept, a fusion between wine education and wine tourism. The Center for Wine Culture (called Carmel Wine and Culture) offers small individually designed tours for groups. Wine workshops and tutored tastings are conducted by wine professionals. This is Israel’s largest and oldest existing winery, built in 1892. During the tour, one can understand the history of Israeli wine and the recent quality revolution, all in one setting. The authentic cellars built by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, where cultural events are held, should not be missed.
The shop, which stocks the wines of both Carmel and its subsidiary, the Yatir Winery, offers interesting bin ends. Bistro de Carmel is a Mediterranean-style kosher dairy restaurant set in the old “winemakers’ house.” And the outstanding new Pavo Brewery is around the corner in Givat Zamarin. It is worth visiting its beer garden.
Rehov Hayekev, Zichron Ya’acov; Tel (04) 639-1788; e-mail [email protected];
Tishbi Winery
The Tishbi Winery’s visitors’ center has the best informal, family atmosphere.
Home cooking, local cheeses and freshly baked bread make it a tasty place to visit.
The shop offers pottery and other attractive accessories. Tishbi Fine Foods – jams, jellies and olive oils – are also available.
This winery was founded by Jonathan Tishbi in 1985. Today his son Golan is the winemaker, his daughter markets her food line, and his wife manages the visitors’ center. The latest addition is the Valrona tasting room, which offers gourmet chocolates from one of France’s top gourmet producers.
Tishbi Winery is situated at the entrance to Binyamina from Zichron Ya’acov. The Ramat Hanadiv Gardens, where Baron Edmond de Rothschild is buried, are nearby.
Industrial Area, Binyamina; Tel (04) 638-0435; e-mail [email protected];
Psagot Winery
The Nahalat Binyamin visitors’ center and the Psagot Winery together form the country’s finest visitors’ center for those who want to understand the biblical roots of Israeli winemaking. There is an auditorium, a tasting room overlooking the barrel room and winery, and a beautiful balcony area. This is the most technically advanced of Israeli winery visitors’ centers, with movable screens, changeable lighting and audio-visual presentations available at the push of a button. There are options of different films illustrating the connection of today’s winemaking industry with winemaking in ancient times.
The Psagot Winery was founded in 2003 by the Berg family. The splendid visitors’ center, in an authentic stone building that blends into the surrounding hills, is designed to advance tourism in the Binyamin area.
Nahalat Binyamin, Psagot; Tel (02) 997-9333; e-mail [email protected];

Wine of the Week - Yatir Petit Verdot 2008
Yatir Winery has launched a new Petit Verdot. This is a little-known variety from Bordeaux, but it grows very well in Israel, where it is generally used in blends. The wine is very deep colored, almost black, tannic, with a compote of dark fruit. It is a rare opportunity to taste this variety as a varietal wine. Founded in 2000,Yatir is a small winery in Tel Arad in the northern Negev. Its vineyards are in the Yatir Forest, Israel’s largest forest, 900 meters above sea level. Price: NIS 140.

Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for international and Israeli publications. [email protected]