Wine Talk: The wine pioneers

130 years ago, the settlers in Zichron Ya’acov took their first steps toward what became a growing romance with wine.

Wine cellar at Carmel Winery 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine cellar at Carmel Winery 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Zichron Ya’acov has entered its 130th year. In 1882, settlers from Romania first arrived in Zamarin to put up their first tents and then houses. It was then that they took their first tentative steps toward viticulture, the start of a romance with wine that has continued until today.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild adopted the farming village, changed its name to Zichron Ya’acov, planted extensive vineyards and founded Carmel, Israel’s largest winery. In 1892 he built the Zichron Ya’acov Winery and the famous deep underground cellars.
Zichron Ya’acov is a lovely, unpretentious town on the southern slopes of Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is often regarded as the Tuscany of Israel. The small town still has the village appearance of prestate Israel. It is also the heart of the Israeli wine scene. These are some recommended stops to nourish both the stomach and the palate.
Tishbi Coffee House
This is housed in one of the original buildings on Hameyasdim Street, owned by the Tishbi family, a veteran family of wine growers. Here, you can have a glass of wine with a selection of local cheeses. There is also a full range of Tishbi wines and Tishbi foods available. It is a place to meet and be seen.
33 Hameyasdim Street, (04) 629-0280.
Somek Winery
This is a garagiste winery owned by vine grower Barak Dahan, whose family were planting vineyards for Rothschild in the 1880s. His wife, Hila, studied winemaking in Australia. Their vineyards are in the Hanadiv Valley in the foothills of Zichron.
16 Herzl Street, (04) 639-7982,
Smadar Winery
This small winery is owned by local vineyard owner Motti Shapira, whose forebears planted Rothschild’s first vineyards. The winery is situated in old stables, which are part of one of the original houses in Zichron.
Tel. (04) 639-0777.
Poizner Winery
This is a small domestic winery set up by the Poizners, who were also one of the founding families of Zichron Ya’acov. The father, Yossi, is the wine grower, tending to the vineyards; the son, Yoav, is the winemaker.
71 Hameyasdim Street. 052- 322-4220 or 052-320-2323.
Carmel Winery
Carmel’s Center for Wine Culture offers professional winery tours, tutored tastings and wine workshops. A visit offers a unique wine experience. This is the country’s largest winery and the most historic winery building in Israel. It represents the story of Israel, the history of Israeli wine and the recent revolution of high-quality wine.
The Wine and Culture Shop stocks older vintages and rare bin ends.
Derech Hayekev, (04) 639-1788,;
Bistro de Carmel
Bistro de Carmel is situated in the Winemakers House. It offers a kosher dairy, a Mediterranean menu and excellent breakfasts. The restaurant has some small, intimate rooms, with a large outer deck for parties.
Derech Hayayin, (04) 629-0977,
Adama Restaurant
This is a quality family restaurant housed in one of the original Zamarin buildings, which used to be stables. It is run with great style by owners Deganit and Rafi Azulay. The food is of good quality, and there is an extensive wine list.
8 Ma’aleh Harishonim, (04) 629-3184.
Pavo Brewery
The dream of businessman Nachi Bargida, this is one of the best micro breweries in Israel. It has a beer garden and a balcony with a wonderful view. It is always good to wind down with a few beers after a day of wine tastings.
14 Ma’aleh Rishonim, (04) 639-8988.
Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens and Nature Park
Ramat Hanadiv is a perfect place for a walk through the beautiful gardens. There are archeological and historical remains, including an ancient wine press. The short film, which shows some early footage of the Zichron Cellars, is well worth seeing.
(04) 629-8111,,
Ehud Park
This small park is the ideal place for a picnic. It is named after Ehud Efrati, who was killed while on reserve duty in October 2007. He was a man of the soil and a man of Zichron. He was also a wine grower and vintner. The park is surrounded by the Hanadiv Valley vineyards.
Tishbi Winery
Tishbi Winery lies between Zichron Ya’acov and Binyamina. Founded in 1985 by Yonatan Tishbi, it remains a family affair. The winery has a bakery and good food. Worth seeing is the alembic still for distilling brandy, purchased from the Cognac region of France. The Valrona chocolatetasting room is also a highlight. A tasting of fine chocolates with various wines wines is an original idea and popular with chocoholics.
(04) 6288195,,
Zimnavoda Winery This is a very small domestic winery, belonging to the Zimnavodas, a family of prominent wine growers. For many years, Yehuda Zimnavoda was chairman of the Wines and Grapes Board.
7 Ya’acov Kadesh Street, (04) 639-9303.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for Israeli and international publications.