A winemaker with a mission

After much thought, the partners gave their business a name, Amos Wineries.

Michel Metzger, 54, From Paris to Jerusalem (photo credit: YONA KAPLAN)
Michel Metzger, 54, From Paris to Jerusalem
(photo credit: YONA KAPLAN)
Michel Metzger grew up in central Paris, the son of a seventh- generation jewelry maker with deep roots in Alsace, Germany, and a Moroccan-born mother. His father, Daniel, born at the outbreak of World War II, spent his first years hiding from the Nazis with his parents and five brothers and sisters.
“The amazing thing was that they managed to keep kosher and remain religious throughout the entire war,” says Metzger.
After the war, which destroyed the family’s jewelry factory, Metzger’s grandfather rebuilt the business in Paris. He hired recent Jewish immigrants from Morocco, including his mother’s brother. When his mother went to meet her brother after work, she met Daniel and they married soon after.
“This was very unusual at the time,” says Metzger. “Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews rarely married, so when Messaouda Bouaziz married Daniel Metzger they were referred to as a ‘mixed marriage.’ I feel like I got the best of both worlds.”
Metzger and his younger sister both went to a Jewish school and grew up in the Bnei Akiva and Betar youth movements. Metzger says that there was always the feeling of antisemitism there, but it was not violent, and much less extreme than it is in France today. His parents were ardent Zionists and visited Israel often.
At the age of 14, Metzger left school to study at the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Shaul David Bochco. When he was 16, he decided to travel to Brooklyn to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
“The Rebbe gave me a blessing that I would succeed in my matriculation exams and make aliya,” recalls Metzger. “This is exactly what I did.”
Metzger arrived in Israel in 1982, at the age of 18. He spent a year at the Hebrew University’s mechina (pre-academic preparatory program), where he began to learn Hebrew. It was also where he met and fell in love with his future wife, Ayelet Zohar, a newcomer from Canada. Despite the option to defer army service, both Zohar and Metzger enlisted immediately after the mechina.
“I knew that if I really wanted to be Israeli, I needed to serve in the army like everyone else. To this day, I volunteer to do reserve duty. For me, it is a privilege, not a burden.”
Metzger served in the combat engineering corps as a lone soldier and moved on to command a military clinic in Hebron. The hardest part of his service was the lack of family at the different milestone ceremonies in the army.
“Sometimes I volunteered to stay on the base for Shabbat after the ceremonies, as I didn’t really have anyone to go home to,” he says.
During the last year of his service, Metzger and Zohar were married by the Israel Defense Forces’ chief rabbi. Metzger went on to study international commerce and got his real-estate appraiser’s license. Witnessing the pain of the Gush Katif families after their evacuation left Metzger disenchanted, and he left this profession. He did a short stint importing wood products from France and then went into construction contracting.
It was on a trip to Napa Valley in 2010 with his cousin Moshe Elul, that Metzger began his love affair with wine. He met an 83-year-old Italian vineyard owner who exported grapes from California to New York and told them about the beauty of grape growing and winemaking. Metzger was hooked. What began as a hobby turned into a boutique winery in Tekoa, a vibrant community bordering the Judean Desert.
Metzger and his partner, Avraham Moreau, decided that a storage shed they had purchased in Tekoa in 2000 would be the foundation for their winery. Elul, who owns vineyards in Karmei Yosef, near Latrun, was a key partner in the winery. The partners took a course in winemaking, traveled to southern Italy to learn about the equipment, the systems, the processes and accessories. One two-week trip was solely for investigating the best bottles and corks.
After much thought, the partners gave their business a name, Amos Wineries.
“This is from the Book of Amos, the prophet who lived in Tekoa,” says Metzger. The passage is written, “… and they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine… And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them….”
Starting a business is not easy. Metzger credits his wife, who was then deputy director of the Second Television and Radio Authority and is now Ombudswoman for the Claims Conference; his three children – Shira, 28, now in medical school in Safed; Avner, 25, majoring in physical therapy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Gilad, 20, a soldier – and his parents for their constant support and encouragement.
“My father told me, ‘When you work with your hands, you don’t ever stop learning. Everything you do is to learn and to keep on getting better,’” says Metzger.
His faith has been a guiding force in both his business and his life.
“I feel a deep sense of purpose to my winemaking. Our wine is made with soul from beginning to end and this gives a special added flavor,” he explains . “I believe that when you do what you believe in with honesty and fairness, God is with you and helps you.”
Metzger’s future plans for the winery, with his cousin’s Elul wine company, include making natural organic wine that uses only the grape, with no additional ingredients or chemicals. He also believes that the time is right for Israeli winemakers to brand their wines as Israeli wines, not just kosher, and open up to wider international markets.
In addition to selling their wine in Israel and the United States, Amos Wineries features an appointment-only visitors’ center where people can take a tour and taste the wines. It is a venue for weddings, bar/bat mitzvas and britot. Saturday nights the winery hosts “Motzash Live,” featuring different performers, arranged by Yehuda Katz. People from all walks of life come to enjoy the good food and wine.
“We are bringing people together through music and wine. This is completely apolitical and shows that we can be one unified people,” says Metzger.