The best wineries of the Golan

The region is home to more than 20 wineries, from the smallest family boutique wineries to the largest commercial ones.

The visitor center of the Golan Heights winery (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The visitor center of the Golan Heights winery
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
When you hear the phrase “wine tourism,” do you immediately imagine yourself nibbling on little cubes of cheese in a secluded winery in southern Italy or sipping a cool glass of Gewürztraminer in Alsace, France? I must admit that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about all the incredible wineries I’ve visited in the Golan Heights.
The best part about the Golan Heights wineries is that all you have to do is jump in your car, and a couple of hours later you could be enjoying yourself in wine country, where there are endless wide open spaces and green fields that are covered with vines full of juicy grapes. In recent years, boutique wineries have been popping up like mushrooms after rain, and there are now areas that refer to themselves as the Israeli Wine Route or the Israeli Tuscany.
The region is home to more than 20 wineries, from the smallest family boutique wineries to the largest commercial ones. The Golan Heights Winery is one of the most veteran wineries in the region. Located adjacent to the city of Katzrin, the winery was established in the early 1980s by a number of kibbutzim (Ein Zivan, Or Tal, Geshur and Elrom) and moshavim (Ramot Naftali, Yonatan, Ramat Magshimim, and Alonei Habashan) that decided to consolidate resources and together create quality Israeli wines. The ambitious and pioneering idea led to the creation of the winery’s first wine: Sauvignon Blanc that was made from grapes harvested in 1983.
Since then, many glasses of wine have been poured, and the Golan Heights Winery currently offers dozens of wines under four brand names: Yarden, Gamla, Hermon and Golan. They grow 22 varieties of grapes in vineyards located 1,200 meters above sea level. The wine is aged in French oak barrels. The winery produces more than 5.5 million bottles a year, 75 percent of which are red wines.
The Golan Heights Winery visitors’ center is situated in a beautiful stone building with wooden rafters and is surrounded by a gorgeous natural setting.
Guests are welcome to join one of the hour-long guided tours of the winery, during which they will learn about how the wine is produced. There is also a special tour for couples (NIS 125 per couple), in which guests are offered a scrumptious plate of cheeses and time to linger in the lovely garden next to the visitors’ center.
In addition, each couple will be offered a special surprise to take home.
Guests who are interested in a little hike are welcome to partake in a guided tour by the winery into the vineyard, during which they’ll learn about the different types of grapes and soil. Of course, the tour includes wine tasting and snacks at the end, in the midst of the romantic vineyard.
Another option is the winery’s jeep tour, during which guests will learn a little about the changes that have taken place in the Golan Heights over the past 100 years. Participants will travel down the Petroleum Road that runs adjacent to the pipeline that once carried oil from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon. The jeep tour takes participants up to the wind turbines in Tel Asania, from which you can overlook Syria and the vineyards of Ein Zivan. On the way down the mountain, you’ll notice the beautiful peach trees that are blooming.
At the end of the three-hour tour, guests will be treated to a wine tasting in the VIP room. Cost for the jeep tour is NIS 850 per couple or NIS 1,400 for a group of up to seven people.
If you have time for more exploring, I recommend walking and even picnicking at Einot Eden. If this name sounds familiar to you, it’s because this is the spring where the Mei Eden water comes from. All the water that is not pumped out flows down through channels into wading pools, where you can take off your shoes and relax. The site is free and the walk down to the pools takes only a few minutes.
The easiest way to get there is to take Highway 87.
About 500 meters after you pass the intersection, you’ll see a parking area on your right.
Another great water hike is Ein Orha, which has clean water all year round. The pool is built from local basalt stone and is surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees, so on hot summer days it’s a great place to seek shelter from the broiling sun. There are picnic tables there, too, so don’t forget to bring a nice meal or snacks with you. To get there, drive south on Highway 98 and then turn right onto the dirt road near the monument.
There’s a parking area next to the pool.
The day would not be complete without a lovely meal, so I recommend stopping at Zigel, a restaurant located in the Aniam artists’ village. The establishment is named after the late Leo Zigel, an artist and amateur chef, and some of his paintings are hanging in the restaurant. The American cuisine includes hamburgers, sandwiches, and steaks. On the lighter side, Zigel also offers salads and a number of vegetarian dishes.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.