Love wine? Go north!

The seventh Wine Trail Festival continues until June 19.

Relaxing – and quaffing – at the Rosh Pina wine fair (photo credit: MIRIAM KRESH)
Relaxing – and quaffing – at the Rosh Pina wine fair
(photo credit: MIRIAM KRESH)
Early summer, and it’s already plenty hot in Israel. The cool, leafy North beckons, and the trail leads to wine. Lots of wine.
The annual Wine Trail Festival, which launched on May 31, is still in full swing. It offers package visits to the wineries of the Galilee, the Golan and the northern valleys.
Prices are moderate, and you travel on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus, with a guide to explain historical sites viewed from the windows.
The Wine Trail is a chance for wine lovers to acquaint themselves with new vintages from well-known wineries and to discover intriguing new labels. If you’d simply like to learn more about wine, the tastings will give you a solid start on a whole new adventure in life.
The Wine Trail festivities lead you through the North, taking in vistas of the brimming Lake Kinneret rippling in the sunlight, golden hillsides where cows browse among basalt rocks, and the fertile northern valleys. Some tours take you through Acre, Tiberias and even Mount Hermon, the one place that’s not hot in summer. After the cable ride to the mountain, you’ll be served a glass of wine – Har Hermon, naturally. Snacks and a light meal are served along the way.
Metro joined a tour that included two new Galilee wineries and a walking tour through culinary Tiberias. We wound up at the wine fair held on the terraced Ganei Habaron in Rosh Pina.
The Jezreel Valley Winery (kosher) is an up-and-coming winery located on the grounds of Kibbutz Hanaton. The owners are Yehuda Nahar and Jacob Ner-David, members of Hanaton, although the winery isn’t part of the kibbutz. The bus rolled up a sun-baked road lined with pine and olive trees, past a chicken coop, sheds and bales of hay, and stopped at the tasting room. We immediately began quaffing the Levanim 2014, a pleasantly floral blend of Chardonnay, Gerwurztraminer and Colombard.
Platters of crackers, cheese and sliced vegetables were laid out on tables, a good idea with the wine, which has a generous 12.7 percent alcohol by volume (abv). A little later, Nahar led us into the fermentation room, where barrels lined up against the walls exuded the exciting aroma of wines working their way toward maturity.
“Jacob and I weren’t satisfied with the way wine was developing in Israel,” explained Nahar. “After hundreds of tastings, we concluded that everyone was using similar varieties and copying each other.
We’re focusing on Argaman – a variety that is not well known in Israel – and Syrah and Carignan.” These are big reds, each with 14.5% abv. “Our wines, especially our blend of the three, have an unmistakably Israeli character and have already attracted attention abroad,” Nahar said.
Indeed, the Jezreel Valley Carignan 2013 won a silver medal at the Terravino International 2015 wine exposition. Other wines have won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Israel Wine Awards.
Jezreel Valley wines may be ordered online, with free delivery in Israel and abroad (
Continuing to Tiberias, we stopped at the Baraniki Winery (not kosher). Gidi and Esti Bat installed the winery in a heritage house built in 1927. The lovely old house had belonged to Esti’s grandparents.
When the couple bought it from the family, they did little to change the original structure, keeping the tiled floors and, near a modern stove and fridge, an ancient coal stove “where my grandmother cooked the hamin,” said Esti.
Baraniki produces Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, rosé and Sauvignon Blanc wines.
It also functions as a venue for musical events once a month.
“For tourists who come to Tiberias for the weekend, it’s a fun place to go, drink wine and listen to good music,” Esti said.
“We’ve also had food events with wellknown chefs, and many parties here.”
Find Baroniki on Facebook: Berenice Winery. Or call Esti at 050-760-5129 for details and bookings.
During the culinary tour of Tiberias, guided by chef Avigail Aharon, we learned about the city’s unique cuisine and how to distinguish local musht – tilapia – from farmed musht. The tails of local musht are uniformly silver colored, while the tails of the farmed fish have colorful stripes. Who knew? Chef Aharon led us to a small spice shop, where the owners mix herbal remedies according to recipes handed down from the great Maimonides. Eager fellow participants on the tour bought teas to lower cholesterol, increase energy and balance digestion.
An estimated 6,000 people attended the seventh annual Rosh Pina wine fair this year. For NIS 50, each participant bought a wine glass, then meandered from stand to stand, tasting whites, rosés and reds. There were stands showcasing handcrafted fruit liqueurs, araks and the hard-tofind Boukha fig brandy. There were also stands that sold cheeses and savory baked goods from local dairies.
Thirty stands staffed by young people eager to talk about the wines were spread out over the terraced gardens of Ganei Habaron. Mellow music lured us gently on. For the tired or the tiddly, there were plenty of comfortable chairs and low tables, as well as a large area spread with mats and cushions for families or those who preferred to loll around.
As evening fell and the lights came on and a singer soulfully rendered “Guantanamera,” it was pleasant to watch people rambling around, accepting tastings at the stands and clinking glasses with each other.
The only caveat is to those with disabilities.
The graveled paths make for unsteady walking, and the restrooms are located up steep flights of stone stairs with no handrails.
Perilous for those who have difficulty going up and down stairs, and impossible for people in wheelchairs. Perhaps next year, the organizers will lay something smoother down on the paths and install a couple of porta-potties on the grounds. 
The Wine Trail Festival is sponsored by the Negev and the Galilee Development Ministry, together with the Tourism Ministry.
The trip was only one of many options along the Wine Trail. To find out more about the Wine Trail Festival and to reserve places for upcoming events, go to (in Hebrew).