Historic local wines in Judea: Mateh Yehuda

The wineries of Mateh Yehuda have a thousand-year storied history of wine production. Here are four for you to check out.

 Jaffa winery (photo credit: JONATHAN PIHOTKA)
Jaffa winery
(photo credit: JONATHAN PIHOTKA)

The wineries of Mateh Yehuda are without a doubt the most visited in the country and not for nothing, the wine industry in the area is one of its pillars, embodying a historic story of thousands of years of wine production.

Dozens of charming boutique wineries are scattered throughout the area, behind each of which stands a fascinating life story, a great love for wine, good people and a stunning view. Many of the wineries use local vineyards for the production of their vintages, located on the land of historic Judea from which grapes have been harvested for thousands of years, just as is customary in other famous regions around the world such as Bordeaux in France or Tuscany in Italy. If all this has not convinced you yet, another reason why you should plan a visit to the area soon is the fickle weather that makes it difficult to choose long field trips and its proximity to home. Mateh Yehuda is located almost exactly in the middle between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which will allow for an enjoyable day trip without exhausting travel.

Because there is no more perfect combination than wine, music and atmosphere, the Mateh Yehuda wineries will open their doors in the coming month and invite visitors to a variety of special events – wine tastings, live music performances, launches of new wines, proper tasting workshops, wine tours and much more.

1. Jaffa Winery

In this story, there is a daughter of a family of wine makers from the Alsace region in France, a young man from Israel who flew to study physiotherapy in Strasbourg and a winery called Jaffa that is located in the Jerusalem hills. Ann and Moshe are a couple and the founders of Jaffa Winery, a mesmerizing family winery, overlooking the adjacent vineyards and the green landscapes of the Ella Valley. They met while studying physiotherapy in Strasbourg, fell in love and moved to live in Israel, where they worked as physiotherapists. But apparently the wine “virus” that resides in the daughter of wine makers can not be removed, and the two established the Jaffa Winery. The winery did start in Jaffa, but with time and the expansion of the winery, they chose to move to a larger place in Moshav Neveh Michael, where their vineyards are also located. To Ann and Moshe, Stefan, their son, also joined, if anyone had any doubt that the wine making virus was spreading in the genes. The small winery tables, scattered in the green courtyard and covered with lovely checkered tablecloths, undoubtedly manage to convey the feeling that you have come to the right place to begin the weekend.

Price for wine tasting: NIS 85 per person (with a NIS 20 rebate if you buy bottles)

Location: Moshav Neve Michael 

Details: 054-452-3201

2. Roglit Winery

In the same moshav, several streets from the Jaffa Winery, you can find the Roglit Winery. Sharon and Vichy Cohen, founded Roglit in 2008 when they decided to leave the bustling city life and emigrate to the peaceful and quiet landscapes that the Ella Valley area manages to provide. The name Roglit is taken from the Book of Ezekiel and the meaning behind it is a method of cultivating a vine that grows on the ground. “It grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; it became a vine, produced branches and sent out boughs. [He had intended] that its twigs should turn to him, and that its roots should stay under him...” (Ezekiel 17:6). And the winery is like its name; they produce their wines according to tradition and out of great respect for the region, from grapes fortified by hand and meticulously. The wines are produced in the cellar of the house, which overlooks the beautiful view of the Ella Valley and manages to convey so well the feeling of tranquility, downshifting and the experience of visiting a small family-rural winery.

Price for wine tasting: A tasting of four wines and a plate of snacks – NIS 70 per person

Location: Moshav Neve Michael

To arrange a visit and for more details: 052-880-6469

 Roglit Winery (credit: JONATHAN PIHOTKA) Roglit Winery (credit: JONATHAN PIHOTKA)

3. Katlav Winery

 Katlav Winery (credit: JONATHAN PIHOTKA) Katlav Winery (credit: JONATHAN PIHOTKA)

In Moshav Ness Harim, Katlav Winery, a boutique winery, is one of the pioneers in the genre of kosher (mehadrin) boutique wineries. Yosef Yetah, the winemaker and member of Moshav Ness Harim, makes sure to produce the wine from grapes grown in the local terroir of the Judean Mountains and Ness Harim in particular, out of a real connection to the land. The hospitality at Katlav was taken to the next level and Yosef makes sure to say that the main part of wine production is the very encounter with the people who drink it. 

Katlav’s wines are characterized by a full body and bright colors, the perfect combination for cool days against the backdrop of the Jerusalem Hills. In addition to the tastings that take place regularly, and by prior arrangement on Fridays, during the coming month the winery will hold three winemaker evenings when special wines from the winery’s private collection will be poured into glasses. It is worth reserving a date.

Price for Friday wine tasting: A tasting of five wines – NIS 90 per person, NIS 45/90 for a plate of cheese for one person or a couple

Location: Ness Harim

To arrange a visit and for more details: (02) 570-3575

4. Geppetto Pizza Bar

 Geppetto Pizza Bar (credit: ELDAD MAESTRO) Geppetto Pizza Bar (credit: ELDAD MAESTRO)

Anyone who feels the need to eat a good carb after all this wine, will be able to find it in the Geppetto. Not far from Ness Harim, in Moshav Tzur Hadassah, Assaf Taoz established this unique restaurant. In the past, Assaf was a carpenter and remnants of his love for wood, can be seen all over the restaurant, which he completely built himself. Beyond the excellent pizzas, focaccia and calzones baked in the restaurant’s oven, you can also find excellent handmade breads and special cakes. At Geppetto, emphasis is placed on local Israeli products as well as on regional products, so that all materials are “blue and white.” Thanks to the warm design and even hotter doughs, this is the perfect place to warm up on a winter day and let the alcohol settle in combination with good carbs.

 Geppetto Pizza Bar (credit: ELDAD MAESTRO) Geppetto Pizza Bar (credit: ELDAD MAESTRO)

Location: Tzur Hadassah

Details: (02) 588-9499

From December 17 until the end of the month there will be a wide range of events at the wineries: wine tasting, live musical performances, new wine launch events and special wine tastings, workshops, a special winter market, winemakers’ meetings and more. In addition to all these events, on the three Fridays until the end of the month, wine tours are expected to take place that will provide visitors a journey between the wineries of Mateh Yehuda. Each of the tours will be concentrated in a different area throughout the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council and will include various wineries. All tours will be conducted by certified wine guides and will include explanations of local terroir, stories about the people behind the wineries and the Israeli wine industry in general – and all are definitely worth joining.

Additional details can be found at the Mateh Yehuda tourism site: tour-yehuda.org.il/

Translated by Tzvi Joffre.