Just a 20-minute drive from Caesarea sits likely the most luxurious getaway in Israel. The Farmhouse at Bat Shlomo, the brainchild of tech investor Elie Wurtman and winemaker Ari Erle, stands out as something out of a fairy tale – surely not what people may think when they plan a weekend getaway or vacation to Israel.
The property sits in the moshav of Bat Shlomo, founded in 1889 by Baron Edmond Rothschild, one of the early funders of the Zionist enterprise and one of the first moshavim built. Named after his mother Betty, the daughter of Shlomo, it was initially settled by pioneers from Romania.
The actual resort or villa is in an original farmhouse that housed some of those early settlers and after 10 years of construction was expanded to its current form: five rooms alongside an outdoor pool.
The rooms are modern but have a classic feel, all working to instill the feeling of oneness with the land. Wurtman spoke about his vision for the Farmhouse, saying ״for a long time I had dreamed of establishing a winery in Israel – goes back more than 20 years.” Wurtman found the property while horseback riding with his family in the area and called Ari to get him on board. The rest is history.
Even today, Bat Shlomo is a one-road street with just a few homes. Due to its roots and present being, its Zionist sentiment remains strong. For Wurtman, “the idea of establishing a winery in a place that was the beginning of modern Israel... it shows where we started to where we are today.” In short, Wurtman’s goal is to reconnect with the pioneers and the core values of love of the land.
Outside of the physical land the property finds itself on, this is displayed through the various art and furniture at the Farmhouse, all of which are Israeli by Israeli artists.
The vineyard itself is set on 50 dunams, with approximately 415 vines per dunam, double the density on average globally. It produces around 50,000 bottles per year. Erle toured us around the vines, giving us insights into his process for how he planted the grapes, which grapes he chose and the care.
Wine-making knowledge sourced globally
THIS YEAR will be his 18th harvest, starting originally in Napa Valley in California, where he grew up and studied at Napa Valley College’s wine program following his time in the IDF.
Erle begins by telling of Israel as the only new world-old world wine culture, given its roots in the region. According to him, most of the varieties in Israel today are French, due to Rothschild bringing in the grapes.
For Erle, as with all winemakers, the biggest challenge is to create as consistent a wine as possible.
I tried their 2021 Chardonnay, 2022 Rose, 2020 Alchemy, 2022 Collage, 2020 Regivim and the 2018 Betty’s Cuvée.
Their Chardonnay, NIS 140, is fermented in French oak caskets for eight months. It was smooth and had a very buttery taste. Adding to the flavor was the fact that we drank the glasses surrounded by its vines.
The Rose, priced at NIS 100, typically sweet in most bottles, was not too sweet. This made for an enjoyable drink. Erle mentions this due to it being a lightly pressed wine.
The Alchemy, retailing for NIS 145, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre grapes. The first red tasted, it had a nice fermented smell that became very fruity once opened more. The tannins were not too strong but grew a bit once opened. It had tight legs and a cherry-like flavor. Overall, it was a very enjoyable wine.
The Collage, retailing for NIS 165, is a common blend of 50% Malbec and 50% Merlot. It had very tight, long legs alongside the glass. Aged in oak for 18 months, it expressed a great flavor of vanilla, with hints of cinnamon.
The Regavim, NIS 135, is named after the many young volunteers of the Regavim Youth program that help at Bat Shlomo. The program places religious youth on farms alongside studies to instill a sense of discovery with the land. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It had a sweet smell with tight legs and deep tannins. It was one of the favorites of the day.
Finally, Betty’s Cuvée, priced at NIS 190, is a homage to the namesake of the vineyard (Bat Shlomo). Her silhouette dons the front of all their bottles. Their flagship bottle is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged for 20 months in oak. It had an incredible smell, boasting fruits. The taste was full, though the tannins were not too strong. It also had buttery undertones. Delicious after only five years, wines like these are meant to be stored for 10 or more years prior to drinking.
Delicious local food from farm to plate
AS GREAT as this was, especially alongside the fresh bread, local cheeses and homemade spreads, we were able to have a private chef’s dinner later that night. An auxiliary of the resort, their chef Daniel, who worked with Eyal Shani, prepared 10 dishes using all fresh produce from the farm outside, local cheeses and fisherman.
Starting off was sage-infused focaccia with a feta and tomato dip, topped by olive oil and za’atar. This was next to a burnt eggplant, labaneh and sumac dip. After that was a hummus masabacha, cooked for 12 hours and blended with sage.
Next up was Spanish mackerel sashimi, which was incredible. After that was a ceviche with the same fish. Then there was a beetroot carpaccio topped with a light blue cheese.
The star of the show was a slow-cooked cabbage cake in a fish broth with the winery’s Chardonnay. The smell of the broth filled the property all day with deep aromas.
After this was the main course, though we were already stuffed. It was a white fish atop buttered potatoes and lentils – delicious.
For dessert was a simple patisserie cream with a cinnamon crumble. All in all an exceptional meal. For breakfast the next morning, there was a traditional Israeli breakfast that featured one of the best shakshuka I have ever tasted.
The Farmhouse truly fulfills Wurtman’s mission of creating good wine and a tremendous hospitality experience, all working to connect the past and the present.
The rooms range from NIS 2,500 to NIS 3,500 per night and are well worth the splurge.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
The Farmhouse at Bat Shlomo
For more information, call: O54-860-1889, or visit: https://thefarmhouse.co.il.