If Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is considered the father of modern Hebrew, his counterpart, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, is widely considered the person who set into motion the reawakening of Israel’s wine industry, which had been dormant since the Bronze Age. Back in the 1880s, when Rothschild learned that it was possible to plant vineyards in Palestine, he set forward to carry out his vision of producing fine wines by establishing wineries there.
Rothschild knew that the wines produced in Israeli wineries would be of the highest quality, just like the French wines he so loved. The baron took his know-how and money and used them to establish wineries in Zichron Ya’acov and Rishon Lezion. Over the years, additional wineries were built in Zichron, and soon enough the town became known as the center of Israel’s wine industry. Nowadays, there’s a wide variety – from small boutique, all the way to mammoth wineries – all over the country.
Zichron is currently celebrating its 140th anniversary. In collaboration with the Gideonim Tourism Association and the Zamarin Cultural Association, the Zichron Local Council will be holding a series of cultural and tourism events that will take place throughout the year. The series will begin with a joyous wine festival on Thursday and Friday, September 15 and 16. The first event will be a celebratory wine tasting, where visitors can also buy a bite to eat at food stalls and listen to live street music on the city’s Wine Route, a century-old street that is closed to motorized traffic. There will be a plethora of guided wine tours, as well as exhibitions at art galleries. More than 50 local musicians and artists will participate in the gala evening.
The festival’s main event will be held at Tiyul Garden, the first ornamental garden in the modern Land of Israel, which is situated in the heart of the city. The event will feature 25 of Israel’s wineries, such as Carmel, Tishbi, Avivim, Tabernacle, Kishor, Five Stones, Jezreel Valley, Kamisa (formerly Delta), Dadah, Gva’ot, Scoria, Gat Shomron, Eviatar, Bar Maor, Simon, Seror, Bat El and Atlit. The NIS 95 entrance fee includes unlimited wine tasting and a complimentary wineglass from Riedel.
Date: Thursday, September 15, from 6 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance.
1. Carmel Winery
No visit to Zichron Ya’acov would be complete without a trip to its first winery, Carmel Winery. In operation since 1882, the Carmel Winery has undergone a number of reincarnations over the years. It offers fascinating tours for wine lovers that include a short film, a visit to the wine cellar, an explanation of the wine-production process, and a description of the changes the winery has undergone over the years. At the end of the tour, participants are invited to join a guided wine tasting, during which they can sample three types of wine that have been aged in Carmel’s wine cellars.
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Pre-registration required.Details: 050-400-0287 (WhatsApp only)
2. My Israel Wine Tours
Sommelier Amir Katz is carrying on a family tradition that spans four generations. Katz’s great-grandfather began smuggling alcohol into Boston during Prohibition. After the dubious law was repealed, he opened a legitimate wine importing business, which his children and grandchildren continued. “I grew up with a glass of wine in my hand,” Katz exclaims proudly. Upon making aliyah, Katz decided to combine his skills as a tour guide, sommelier, yoga teacher and stand-up comedian in his newest business: My Israel Wine Tours.
During the upcoming festival in Zichron, Katz will be leading three 90-minute guided tours that will take visitors through the alleyways of Israel’s historical wine colony. During the tour, Katz will regale participants with stories about Israel’s wine heritage from the early days and describe the influence it has had on modern-day Israeli culture. “Here in Israel, we are all like the blends produced in Zichron’s wineries.” The tour includes stops at four stations along the way, where there will be wine tastings, as well as fruit and cheese platters.
Dates: Tours in English will take place on Thursday, September 15 at 4 p.m.; and Friday, September 16 at 11 a.m. and at 2 p.m.Price: NIS 100Details: 052-727-5422
3. Tishbi Winery
An equally famous local winery is Tishbi Winery, whose visitor center can be found on a winding road connecting Zichron with Binyamina. Guests can enjoy wine and fine chocolates at the visitor center or join a jeep tour (pre-registration required) that ends with a wine tasting in the middle of the vineyard.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.Details and reservations: (04) 638-0434
4. Escape room family game
If you’ll be traveling with children, you’ll be happy to know that the organizers of Zichron’s 140th anniversary celebration have put together an exciting program for families with children. There will be outdoor escape room games, as well as a box game experience that families can play as a unit that includes tasks and fun activities connected to Zichron’s heritage. The game, which will take you to seven stations along a two-kilometer path, will take about 90 minutes to complete. And since this is part of the wine festival, participants will enjoy wine tastings and refreshments at some of the stations. Before setting out on the quest, families will be told a bit about Zichron’s fascinating heritage, and given instructions and clues that will help them find each station.
Price: NIS 80 per person. Pre-registration required at: https://forms.gle/hwEwtuCz8wKw5cnm6Details: 054-900-1774
5. Jeep tours
If you’d like to experience the Zichron region in a more active way, then I recommend joining a jeep tour that will take you over streams, past springs and out into forests and open fields. You will not be disappointed by the spectacular views.
Date: September 6 and 15, 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.; 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.; and 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.Details and registration: 054-818-7726
Details and tickets for the Zichron Wine Festival: https://zichron.sparki.co.il/
Translated by Hannah Hochner.