For years, we Israelis have loved traveling overseas to Italy and other countries known for producing top-quality wine, both on organized group trips or on a romantic getaway for two. Who doesn’t love vacationing and hiking in mountainous areas near wineries? So, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of Israeli wineries and tourist attractions open to the public right here in our own backyard.
Boutique wineries have been popping up like mushrooms all over Israel in the last couple decades that offer a plethora of quality wines made from diverse grape varieties. So many that you can now visit regions in Israel known casually as Israel’s Wine Region or the Tuscany of Israel. Recently, the Jezreel Valley Regional Council created Israel’s very own “Wine Valley – the Jezreel Experience,” which comprises 12 wineries in the region. In short, you no longer need to travel to Niederösterreich in Austria, Napa Valley in California or Alsace in France to enjoy a thrilling wine tasting holiday.
Moreover, who wouldn’t be happy not having to deal with flights, endless security checks and other bureaucratic headaches when instead they could just hop in their car and drive to the Jezreel Valley, where one will find lots of tourist activities and beautiful surroundings? The Wine Valley – the Jezreel Experience offer a whole host of interesting guided tours of wineries.
Located in the Lower Galilee, not far from Nazareth, Moshav Zippori is a popular tourist location, especially since there’s a plethora of activities available nearby. In fact, there are even a number of boutique wineries inside the moshav itself. For example, Ofra and Amos Goyertzman, who live on a large plot with a breathtaking view of their vineyard, love inviting guests into their quaint winery to sample their wines and nibble some tasty treats.
Location: Zippori Winery, Moshav Zippori
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays
2. HAMETZUDA ZIPPORI WINERY & YONAH WINERY
Other wineries on Moshav Zippori include Hametzuda Zippori Winery and Yonah Winery, both of which are new boutique wineries that are just starting out. Although they are not yet producing their own wines, they do host wine and cheese tastings of local products and the people who run them happen to be great conversationalists. If you’re interested in learning about sustainability efforts in the Galilee and supporting local Zionist enterprises, I really recommend visiting these two wineries.
3. RANCHO MENIS HORSE FARM
And if you’re already in Moshav Zippori, then you definitely should not miss out on a visit to Rancho Menis Horse Farm. Visitors are welcome to join guided horseback-riding outings that will take you all around the gorgeous surroundings. The horses at Rancho Menis are able to graze anywhere within the 160-acre farm, which means that they are calmer and better suited for horseback and therapeutic riding. In addition to offering therapeutic riding, the farm also provides training for expert horseback riders.
Dates: Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Details: 054-469-4051, (04) 655-6550
4. ACHUZAT ZIPPORI
If horseback riding isn’t your thing, you might be interested in renting rangers at Achuzat Zippori and enjoying a 90-minute exciting ride through the forest area surrounding Moshav Zippori. On the ride, you will pass by the purification ponds and nature reserve of Kibbutz Solelim and enjoy stunning views. Appropriate for age 4 and up.
Tours available seven days a week.
5. NOAM HAGVINOT
After engaging in all of these activities, I’m sure by now your stomach will be grumbling and you’ll be ready to sit down and enjoy a good meal. One option is to order a takeaway basket lunch from Noam Hagvinot, which includes a variety of freshly baked sourdough breads, pastries and of course cheeses. The selection of cheeses includes camembert with truffles, Circassian cheese with zaatar, Tsfat cheese with chives, in addition to jams and olives.
Noam Hagvinot is run by a couple that recently moved to the region with their kids from Tel Aviv. They began inviting friends over to taste their concoctions when the COVID-19 epidemic hit, and following their friends’ overwhelmingly positive reactions, they decided to take their new hobby up a notch and turn it into a small business.
6. TULIP WINERY
Another winery in the region is Tulip Winery, which is located in Kfar Tikva in Kiryat Tivon. This boutique winery, which is run by the Itzhaki family, employs residents with special needs and is a beautiful model for helping these members of the community to integrate into the labor market. Visitors can taste Tulip Winery’s quality wines at their visitor center, order picnic baskets, attend lectures, enjoy gourmet meals and purchase artwork created by Village of Hope residents.
Dates: Sundays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m. to4 p.m. Lectures and meals must be reserved ahead of time.
Details: (04) 983-0573
7. SIMON WINERY
Another winery in Kiryat Tivon is Simon Winery, a small boutique winery in which the grapes are all hand-picked and the wine is aged in oak barrels that were imported from France. Simon Winery also offers gourmet meals, and will be launching its newest line of Indigo 2017 wines on November 13.
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Details: 050-456-7847, 054-456-7847
8. SADOT WINERY
Another winery that has joined forces with “Wine Valley – the Jezreel Experience” is Sadot Winery in Moshav Sdeh Ya’akov. Sadot welcomes the public to wine tastings at its visitor center and to enjoy a lovely a meal at its picturesque dairy restaurant. There are also wineries on Moshav Alon Hagalil; the Jezreel Valley Winery on Kibbutz Hanaton; Touch by Fusion in Timrat; Kitron Winery in Hoshaya; Sarig Winery in Moshav Merhavia; and Hayogev Winery in Moshav Hayogev.
Although a date for a special festival celebrating the fusion of all these wineries has not yet been set, a number of these wineries are offering special activities that warrant a visit to the area, so best to check winery websites before setting out on your trip. I personally think “Wine Valley – the Jezreel Experience” is a fantastic program and a great way to become familiar with new boutique wineries in Israel. Now that businesses are beginning to bounce back after the setbacks due to the pandemic, this union of forces among many the region’s wineries is a positive and welcome achievement that can help young businesses get off the ground.
We are lucky to be living in a country with such beautiful, natural surroundings and gorgeous landscape, with so many options for tasting and purchasing fine wines. It’s time to get out and demonstrate our patriotism and Zionistic zeal by patronizing our local wineries.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.