Wine festival: Mateh Yehuda

Festival with optional overnight stay in a beduin tent or camping is adventurous fun for the family.

Have an adventure riding ATVs with Azimut Tractor tours on Moshav Naham (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Have an adventure riding ATVs with Azimut Tractor tours on Moshav Naham
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The 17th annual Mateh Yehuda Wine Festival opened last week and will continue every weekend till the end of the month.
This is doubtless one of the most successful wine festivals in the country. Although Israel is a relatively small country, it is home to an incredibly large number of quality boutique wineries. No fewer than 30 wineries from the Mateh Yehuda region alone are participating in the festival.
As part of the festival, the vintners and staff at the wineries welcome the public, so one can get to know the people who make these incredible wines, and hear the stories of how they made their dreams become a reality by building a winery.
Every weekend in November there are wine tastings at the wineries, guided tours of the area, and on November 27, the annual wine race will take place.
Of course, all the regular attractions in the area will also be open to the public, such as guided tours of the breweries, mountain bike and ATV rentals and restaurants specializing in local delicacies.
A great way to begin your visit to the region – especially if you go on a Friday morning – is by visiting the Navot Winery and Pepo Brewery on Moshav Tzelafon. Owned by Moti Bohadana, Navot is located in the heart of the vineyard, and if you ask him how things are going, he’ll tell you it’s like a dream come true. Bohadana began operations in 2003, and the wines he produces are exactly to his liking. A few years ago, he realized he needed a colder drink to offer visitors on hot summer days, so he founded the Pepo Brewery, which he named after his father.
Bohadana brews a wide variety of beers – sometimes even 10 different types – using traditional methods and does all the work by hand. The winery and the brewery are located on the same plot, and munchies, wine and beer are always available there. And every Friday at 9:30 a.m., Bohadana offers brunch, which he serves with fresh bread he bakes himself, gourmet cheeses and pizzas, and a variety of salads.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, for groups by appointment. Fridays, from 9:30 until one hour before Shabbat.
Location: 49 Hate’ena Street, Moshav Tzelafon.
Details: (02) 999-2291.
Not far from there is Moshav Tal Shahar. At Meshek 42, another young couple has made their dream come true: to raise goats. Oded and Puah began working on their dream seven years ago, and today they are the proud owners of 70 goats, a few bee hives and an olive grove.
Oded and Puah’s goal is to enable city people to connect with nature, and they love to tell guests what it’s like to raise goats, to show them how to milk the goats and, of course, to offer them a taste of their incredible, locally made goat cheeses.
Their little store also offers honey gathered from the bees they raise on site and olive oil made from the olives they themselves harvest every fall. And Hanukka is coming up soon, so mark it on your itinerary already.
Oded will be more than happy to answer your children’s questions, such as: Where does milk come from? Why do goats have horns? How can goats and bees live together in the same cave? Can people completely subsist on what they themselves grow? Guests can pet the animals all they like and also take a turn milking the goats, too.
Prices: NIS 35 for children over three and NIS 20 for adults.
Tours take place in mornings and afternoons by appointment only.
Location: 42 Nahar Hayarden Street, Moshav Tal Shahar.
Details: 054-760-5196.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, or want to sleep outdoors, then Azimut Tractor tours at Moshav Naham near Beit Shemesh is a great match for you.
Azimut offers tours on ATVs, Tomcars or Rangers through the lush areas of the Judean Hills and Nahal Sorek. The challenging trails lead you through canals, streams, down steep declines and up hills, from which you’ll have incredible views of the entire region.
Azimut also offers sleeping accommodations in Beduin tents and camping grounds. There are five air-conditioned Beduin tents available for groups of up to 130 people and one smaller room for 13 people.
And if you bring your own tents, or you want to sleep out under the stars, there’s an expansive camping grounds, too.
Dairy meals are available for a fee on site throughout the day.
Prices: NIS 100 per person in Beduin tent, NIS 60 per person in camping area.
ATV rentals begin at NIS 250 per person.
Details: 052-238-8434.
If your idea of an exciting getaway includes spicing up your day with a visit to an art gallery, then I recommend stopping at the Katz Studio on Moshav Givat Yeshayahu.
Moshe Katz features his steel sculptures and artwork in his home and attached studio, where he also hosts workshops and visits in which he demonstrates how he creates his artwork. Afterward, Katz takes visitors on a tour of his impressive sculpture garden.
Free tours for up to five people by appointment only.
Details: (02) 991-2660.
For dessert, I recommend stopping at Li On Café in Moshav Srigim, which opened its doors just four months ago.
The restaurant, which has an awesome view over the hills of the Eila Valley, offers kosher mehadrin dairy delicacies with a touch of Italian flavor. Chef Uri Miness prepares pastries, sandwiches, Tuscany- style pizza, pastas, salads and fish. The decor is rural Italian and is divided into several parts.
Just outside the entrance, you’ll find a sun-swept gallery and bar. Inside, you’ll find another bar, where you can taste a variety of local boutique beers and wines. Next to the bar is a balcony with the incredible view of the hills.
Details: (02) 628-2288.