ESRA Magazine
ESRAmagazine

Israeli Wine Visitor Centers

Photo: Nor Shaanani

Part one of the David Rhodes Israeli Wine Visitor Centers 

To support my mission to get the word out about the quality of Israeli wines, I often host winery events and tours; so it's not that uncommon for me to be asked which wineries I like to visit the most.

Although I like a good view as much as the next guy, I'm more into how good the wine is and how engaging the winemaker is in explaining how their grapes and wines differ from those of the other hundreds of wineries in Israel. Yet I can step back and share, by each region, a good selection of wineries that I think both novices and connoisseurs would find rewarding based on how hospitable the winery can be, how good the wines are and how dynamic the experience is while mentioning wineries I have visited.

THE GOLAN HEIGHTS 

This is the highest altitude wine region in Israel with vineyards ranging from 400 to 1,100 meters. It's about 2 1/2 to 4 hours' drive from Tel Aviv depending on the traffic, but the wineries appreciate the effort and visitors are rewarded with wines from the most consistently good wines, often sourced from grapes from volcanic basalt soil. 

Katzrin

The Golan Heights Winery (K) 04 696 8435  

Now Israel's third largest winery, the GHW launched the Israeli wine renaissance with vineyards planted in 1976, and it first official vintage was in 1983. Under winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, its Yarden, Gamla, Golan and Mt. Hermon labels have set a benchmark for other commercial wineries on how a big winery in Israel can rival boutique wineries for making quality wine. They have been rewarded with international recognition as one of the best wineries in the world and not just in Israel. Their large center is one of the few on the Golan set up to handle large busloads - yet they also conduct amazing VIP tours and tastings. No one winery in Israel produces more quality wines to choose from. They also have a brew house nearby that features beers that winemakers have helped make.

Yitzpor Stream, Gilboa

Assaf Winery 054-477 4667

This family-run boutique winery recently opened a larger more dynamic visitor center that includes a café and casual overnight lodging. They make very good wines with a few rare-to- Israel varietals in their mix including Pinotage and Pinot Gris, often served by friendly family members.

 Moshav Odem

Odem Mountain (K) 04-687 1122

The Alfasi family plays host to Israel's most northern and highest altitude winery. They make some great value for money wines, including their Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz-but the stars are in their reserve series, including a special Cabernet Franc. Don't miss their Cherry Dessert wine made from both sweet and sour cherries (an ideal match for your next chocolate binge).

Moshav Elidad 

Chateau Golan  04-660 0026

This special winery is a bit off the beaten path, but worth the trip, featuring traditional single varietals - and winemaker, Uri Hetz, has been one of the champions of Rhone varietals. Uri is a former helicopter pilot, and occasionally his pilot friends literally drop in for a visit. The Chateau offers one of the most photogenic exteriors and cellars, and their wines are on some of the best wine lists in Tel Aviv if the long ride is an obstacle to your stopping by.

Honorable mentions: Bazelet Hagolan (K), and Ortal

THE GALILEE 

The Upper and Lower Galilee have grown into Israel's most prolific region for quality grapes, so much so that there are several wineries located closer to the center of the country that source their grapes from the Galilee instead of closer to their wineries.

Kibbutz Yiron  

Galil Mountain Winery (K)  04-686 8748

A sister winery of the Golan Heights Winery (which is a 2/3 owner along with Kibbutz Yiron), this is one of the best value wineries in Israel with 14 atypical single varietals and blends including good examples of Pinot Noir & Barbera. Considered one of the best value-for-money wineries and possibly the most striking architecture of any large winery.

Kfar Tavor 

Tabor Winery (K)  04-676 0444

 Not so long ago this large winery seemed to lack vision or interesting wines. They should get an award for more than doubling their production and dramatically improving their quality under journeyman winemaker, Arieh Nesher. Thanks to new vineyards they have a wide range of varietals and better grapes, resulting in better wines. The Keshet from their Adama II series is one of my favorites but their Roussanne and sparkling wines can be fun distractions as well.

Dalton Industrial Area near Kerem Ben Zimra  

Within walking distance of each other or a 1-minute drive are three very different wineries.

Dalton (K) 04 698 7683 

Dalton was the first commercial winery in the Galilee and they make a wide range of wines with typically good values at each price point. They have some rare varietals and blends for Israel, including oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Rhone-style red blends, Zinfandel and Moscato (and great examples of more standard varietals). 

Adir (K) 04 699 1039 

Adir is much smaller than Dalton featuring boutique red and dessert wines and their visitors' center also features a wide assortment of cheeses and yogurts, as the two families who own the winery also own a dairy, So this a good place to also catch a dairy lunch while on a day of wine-tasting.

Rimon (K) 04 682 2325 

Rimon (Hebrew for pomegranate) is one of several pomegranate fruit wineries that was launched as part of the boutique wine revolution. It's probably the most established of that lotwith dry fruit wines, but their sparkling and dessert wines are the best bets and are located in orchards just across the street from the industrial park that Adir and Dalton occupy.

Moshav Ramot Naftaly

Ramot Naftaly (K), Avidan (K) & Trio (K) 04-696 0371

Ramot Naftaly, Avidan & Trio aren't just located in the same village but they also share the same visitors' center for three different wine makers. All three wineries have a range of quality wines, unique varietals and blends. Being under one roof makes them a good stop if you are only going to stop at one location.

Na'aman 04-694 4463 

Na'aman is just down the road and has wines that exhibit as much character as winemaker Rami Na'aman, who likes to name some of his wines after different classic rock bands like Deep Purple. I'm a big fan of his Cabernet Franc and King Crimson red blend, but all of his wines are hits in my book.

Kishorit Village 

Kishor Vineyard (K)  04-908 5198

This is possibly the nicest landscaped visitors' center in a village with a social agenda to match the beauty of its scenery, since Kishorit in Kibbutz Kishor helps supports adults with special needs. Winemaker Richard Davis is from South Africa. His wines get better and better each year so it's fun to return each year and taste what's next. His recent semi-sweet Riesling was a pleasant surprise and one of the best examples of that noble white grape in Israel.

Kiryat Tivon, Kfar Tikva 

The Tulip (K) & Maia (K) wineries 04-983 0573

Kfar Tikva, "village of hope," is a village with several industries that support residents who are challenged adults who might not find work otherwise. Half the employees at Tulip and its sister brand, Maia, are residents of the village, and their cheerful dispositions add to the charm and soul of well-crafted wines that could easily sell for more than the winery is asking. Winemaker David Bar-Ilan oversees both brands, and his Tulip Syrah Reserve is one of the best Syrah's in Israel at a very competitive price. 

 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Saturday, 16 October 2021

Captcha Image

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://magazine.esra.org.il/