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Gorgeous Tasting Rooms at Israeli Wineries

By Arnie Draiman

Israel is blessed with a world-class wine industry, one which has experienced a remarkable transformation, evolving from a modest beginning to a global powerhouse. Of course, ancient Israel also had a world-class wine industry, which included growing varieties of grapes and exporting wine to the known world at the time.

The country’s diverse terroir—that combination of factors including soil, climate and environment, that gives a wine its distinctive character—ranging from the cool Golan Heights to the arid Negev Desert—provides an ideal environment for cultivating a wide array of grape varieties. Innovative winemakers blend traditional techniques with modern technology to produce exceptional wines that consistently garner international acclaim. The adoption of sustainable practices has further enhanced the industry’s reputation. Israel is a serious player on the international wine stage, attracting connoisseurs with unique blends and distinct flavors.

As plans for Pesach and summer are made, a wonderful activity to include is visiting the wineries that make the bottles that grace your Shabbat tables in Chutz la’Aretz. Most if not all Israeli wineries have tasting rooms, though the war has prompted some of them to close due to wartime insecurity. For that reason, we are recommending a few wineries to visit that are currently open and offering their full range of wine and food pairing experiences. As with all wineries, please make reservations for tastings, tours and meals.

Shiloh Winery: The town of Shiloh dates back to biblical times and is located in the very center of Samaria. Amichai Luria, vintner, is insistent on making “the best wine we can. We start with the best grapes in the best location using the best professionals with the best techniques.” That strategy has served him well over the years, as Luria’s wines have earned world-class ratings, gold ribbons and more. His goal is to make upscale wines that are affordable. When the winery finally moved to a new facility this year, he decided to open a visitors center and wine tasting room, which should be ready by Passover 2024. He will be offering meals (menu not yet set) including the option to take a picnic basket out to the fields to enjoy your fare. And the new facility has been built with catwalks high above, so visitors can get close to all stages of the winemaking process without interfering with the work taking place on the floor of the plant—not to mention that there is a gorgeous sunset from up there—don’t miss it!

(Credit: Shirly Foox)

Luria and the staff of Shiloh Winery are very proud of their heritage; every label on every bottle has the name Shiloh in Hebrew, and clearly states “Made in Israel.” In addition to taking pride in their roots, Luria said, “we are also proud of where we are.” Their bestselling wine is their Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, which has won seven gold medals. Luria explains that the process of creating a medal-winning wine requires a lot of fine tuning the choices of barrels and blending the product from one barrel with another. It is a true art form and he is clearly very successful, with other vintners referring to him as a master blender.

Details: Located in the industrial area near the entrance to the city of Shiloh (not far from Ariel).

Jerusalem Wineries: Although the actual winery is in Atarot (north Jerusalem), their visitor center is located in Montefiore’s Windmill in Yemin Moshe. Tucked inside the famous windmill is a wonderful, charming and cozy wine tasting room, complete with their selection of wines for sale. Lior Lacser, the vintner and CEO, has trained in France and Australia and produces a wide variety of wines, from their flagship series of very sophisticated wines in the Windmill Project to their Premium, Vintage and King’s Cellars wines.

Jerusalem Winery's tasting room in Petach Tikvah.

The location at the windmill in Yemin Moshe brings the wines very near to their roots in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they began about 150 years ago. Lacser has many wines that are single-vineyard single-varietals, and though it seems that this would make production easier (one vineyard, one type of grape, no blending) he explained that “it really is an exact science since within each vineyard there are variances and then from barrel to barrel as well. There are years when we don’t produce certain wines because the grapes didn’t perform as we expected them to.” Or perhaps, they might only produce a few thousand bottles of one type, as with the 2018 Petit Sirah, grown by an old agriculturist and manually picked during the course of two days from some of the oldest vineyards in use.

Winemakers and staff of Jerusalem Winery. (Credit: Arnon Bossani)

One of the special varieties Lacser grows is the Marselan grape, which began production only in 2014. In Israel, because the rules are more relaxed than in France and elsewhere, “it is easier to experiment in growing different varieties and to try to make new, creative wines.”

The visitor center serves delicious cheese platters with your wine tasting, and can also be rented out for events; the outdoor area is magical and romantic, and can seat up to 50 people.

Furthermore, there is the possibility of using an additional outdoor space where you can have up to 150 guests enjoying a kosher catered affair overlooking the Old City walls and in the shadow of the windmill itself. The Jerusalem Wineries have also recently opened a visitor center in Petach Tikvah. Visit

Jerusalem Winery's tasting room at Montefiore Windmill. (Credit: Arnon Bossani)

Jezreel Valley Wines: According to co-founder and chair Jacob Ner-David, the mission of Jezreel wines is “the pursuit to bring to market authentic Israeli wine—not French or Spanish wines!” Ner-David explained that although the varietals from biblical and Talmudic days have not yet been reproduced, there are grapes that are grown locally and are distinct to Israel, the most popular being argaman. (Many of you will know the word from the Friday night recitation of Eishet Chayil.) The grapes produce a wine that is deep royal reddish-purple in color and gives a full flavor, truly filling your mouth with the wine experience. Jezreel’s Argaman is a first-rate, outstanding wine. Jezreel Valley Winery is one of the leading revolutionaries in the resurgence of argaman and has successfully bottled a single varietal argaman which, according to the experts, is rich, spicy and complex.

Jerusalem Winery's tasting space in Petach Tikvah.

This year’s rosé is perfectly refreshing; very easy to enjoy. Yehuda Nahar, Jezreel’s vintner, insists on using the right equipment to produce the finest wines. One example is the use of gravity to bring wine from one place to another, so that there is no need to use a pump, which reduces the quality and taste of the wines. The carignan grapes they grow are the “grandchildren” of the vines planted by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the 1880s. The wines easily pair with all Middle Eastern cuisine, and are served throughout Israel in many fine dining establishments. Ner-David noted that the best compliments he gets are from people who buy the wine and say, “It tastes good,” whether the person is a sophisticated wine aficionado and can appreciate the complexity of the wine, or even if they simply know that they like it.

Jerusalem Winery (Credit: Shirly Foox)

Jezreel offers a nice country-style indoor tasting room and a pastoral outdoor dining experience (with appealing and very tasty dairy and vegetarian options), open weekdays, as well as Thursday evenings and Friday mornings.

Details: Jezreel is located in Kibbutz Hanaton (close to Tzippori).

Bat Shlomo Winery: Ari Erle, vintner, has taken a more traditional approach to winemaking, based on his years of experience in Napa Valley, California. Bat Shlomo uses classic French grapes, grown in the valley below the winery. This ties directly in to Baron Rothschild’s original vision in the 1880s when Bat Shlomo (named for Rothschild’s mother, Betty, or Batya in Hebrew) was created as an agricultural village. Erle uses concrete tanks for fermentation of the Sauvignon Blanc , a unique idea, instead of the more common stainless steel tanks. The concrete “keeps the temperature steady and better preserves the aroma,” Erle explains. The valley is surrounded on two sides with small streams which, over the years, have created superb topsoil for growing rich and balanced Chardonnay grapes.

Bat Shlomo Winery (Credit: Amit Geron)

They bottle an awe-inspiring blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, called Betty’s Cuveé, in honor of Betty Rothschild. It is their flagship wine and has been referred to as “the Israeli version of the Château Lafite.” Erle experiments with as many as 50 different blends at a time, trying to create the best wine for the market, and one example is Collage, a 50-50 blend of Merlot and Malbec. Interestingly, he explains that this is a “single vineyard blend” where 6 rows of Merlot and 6 rows of Malbec are grown next to each other in the same vineyard and crafted into the perfect wine. They also craft Regavim, a wine named for a program that works with youth at risk who help plant and harvest the fields. One of the Regavim members has come back to work at Bat Shlomo as the vineyard manager and works with the next generation of youth.

Bat Shlomo Winery (Credit: Amit Geron)

Elie Wurtman, founder and co-vintner of Bat Shlomo, has designed a gorgeous facility, all in the authentic style of the 1880s village. They have an upscale tasting room, and the refurbished 1880s house is open for guests staying overnight. Their own chef receives fresh organic vegetables in the same valley as the grapes, and is a true culinary artist in the meals served. There is no set menu – the chef will work with you to create a fantastic gourmet meal.

Details: Bat Shlomo Winery is located in the little town of Bat Shlomo (near Zichron Yaakov)


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