The taste of the desert

Fall in love with some of Israel’s finest vino at the Ramat Hanegev boutique winery.

Wine barrels (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Wine barrels
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
When I hear someone say the words “Israeli boutique winery,” I immediately picture the green hills and cool breezes of the Golan Heights. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
However, in recent years, Israel has expanded its horizons and more wineries and vintners have been making wine far from the blossoming hills of the North.
For example, Route 40 South is quickly gaining recognition as a great place to go for wine tasting. The Negev in general is slowly becoming known for its many surprises, one of which is the Ramat Hanegev Winery, which was established by the Tzadok family of Moshav Kadesh Barnea.
The winery was previously called Kadesh Barnea, but following a revamping and professional face-lift, changed its name and now produces 100,000 bottles a year.
Ramat Hanegev was started by Nira and Alon Tzadok, who grew up on a moshav in the Sharon region and found their way south in the 1970s.
Nira was the first one to move, with Alon following soon afterwards. They fell in love with the desert and decided to build their future with a core group of friends who met in Sinai.
After the peace treaty with Egypt, the families found themselves homeless, and the group decided to found a new community – which turned out to be Moshav Kadesh Barnea, where Nira and Alon work together with their two sons.
In similarity to the way other Israeli boutique wineries got their start, Ramat Hanegev began when Alon turned 40 and decided to take a winemaking course. He immediately fell in love with the storied beverage and decided to take more courses to learn about the process in depth. When he felt he had learned enough to begin turning the theoretical lessons into practice, Alon planted his first vineyard.
His first harvest was in 2000, and today his vineyard is spread over more than 6.9 hectares (17 acres).
It turns out that Alon ended up passing on his love of wine to his son Yogev, who followed in his father’s footsteps and went to Italy to learn oenology.
Today Yogev is the official vintner of Ramat Hanegev, while Alon deals mainly with the moshav and Negev settlements. His second son, Gilad, is responsible for marketing, and Nira, a tour guide, has also been drawn into the business. So don’t be surprised if Nira gets carried away talking about the Negev while she’s giving you a tour of the winery.
The Tzadok family runs a small visitors center in the heart of the winery, where they welcome wine lovers to The taste of the desert Fall in love with some of Israel’s finest vino at the Ramat Hanegev boutique winery TOUR ISRAEL their vineyard. Unlike in big wineries, the Ramat Hanegev visitors’ center is located right where the grapes are processed – so that from the start, visitors feel adrenaline running through their veins just from the strong smell.
Visits to the vineyard include a tour, wine tasting and explanations about the different types of wines and the production process given by one of the family members. Visitors can watch a short film about the winery and, of course, purchase bottles. In addition, guests can book packages that include desert jeep tours. (Details: Yogev, 054- 477-4917.) The wine is kosher, which means the winery is closed on Shabbat. Because only a small number of tourists visit the area, the visitors center is not open all day and tours should be booked ahead.
If you’re already in the Negev, it would be a shame not to visit a few other interesting sites in the area. One is Moshav Be’er Milka. In Arabic, milga means meeting place, and in this case refers to the spot where Nahal Lavan joins Nahal Nitzana. There are enchanting dunes of soft sand here, which children can run up and slide down. You will find the stone-marked Jura path just a few meters ahead of the moshav entrance.
If you love spices, do not skip a visit to Shirat Hamidbar Farm. Continue along the same road a few more meters until you reach the farm, which was founded by Noa and Golan, who moved to the moshav eight years ago.
The pair wanted to blend into the environment and not alter it too much upon their arrival. After an extensive search, they reached the conclusion that growing desert plants fit them and their surroundings perfectly.
The duo mostly focuses on medicinal herbs and spices used in cooking; their special, beautifully cared-for garden is where they greet their visitors. During the year, tours are available for groups and individuals; families are also welcome to visit on Succot and Passover.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Details: 052-702-1650.
Location: Moshav Kadesh Barnea.
Type of outing: Easy, appropriate for the whole family.
Length: Half-day; overnight stay optional.
Season: All year long.
Directions: Drive south on Route 40. Pass Ramat Hanegev and continue, following signs for the moshav.