20 wineries in 8 days
On a magical trip to Israel we had the great fortune take in the 4th International Israwnexpo2012 (held every two years) at the Merkaz HaYeridim in Tel Aviv. With over 30 kosher wineries in exhibiting from the small boutique to the major wineries it was a fine launch into our adventure.
In all we were able to visit 20 wineries in 8 days of touring from the Negev, Golan, Galil, Shomron, Shimshon and Judean Hills where the famous Rashi in parshas Vayechi “Wine will flow like a fountain in the land of Judea” seemed to echo with each sip and vineyard. Ancient wine presses abound in many areas with compelling archeological links to Tanach and Talmud.
One of the highlights was a visit to Kibbutz Hatzerim near Be’ersheva and the Netafim drip irrigation factory that I believe has had a profound influence on the globalization of fine wine in general, and certainly kosher wine. “Netafim Inside” could be labeled on almost every great bottle much like “Intel Inside” on computers. But in relative terms that is the small stuff. These folks have a mission and passion to do “more with less”, preserving global natural resources while making the desert bloom to feed a hungry world. They offer low, medium and high tech solutions to delivering water and nutrition with sustainable management systems that are sold in over 110 countries from 13 factories with 31 subsidiaries and 2,400 employees. It was pioneered in the 1960’s and continually refined right there in the Negev.
It is hard to imagine that only 50 years or so after the use of stainless steel tanks to control temperature and drip irrigation that kosher wine in Israel and elsewhere would be making such a market impact in terms of quality. Netafim points out in a prominently displayed poster: “Can You Afford to Lose a Vintage?” But imagine that during times of climate shifting and local drought a winemaker cannot just loose a vintage but rather an entire decades old vineyard. It has been recently so warm in Champagne, the only place permitted to call their sparkling wine by that name; they have had major challenges growing Champagne grapes there.
Days of cloyingly sweet Kiddush wine have given way to premium wines of world class quality. The transformation is stunning.
It is clear that each winery is quite unique in its approach, philosophy and future goals but each share a love of wine and compelling passion for excellence. There is much strategic planning for growth with new plantings of vineyards and noble grape varietals along with expansion and construction of wineries to increase capacity and quality with an already quite remarkable reputation drawing worldwide recognition and praise from the leading wine authorities.
Almost all wineries are eager to welcome visitors. Some have or are building extensive visitor’s centers with audio visual presentations, bottle shops, gift stores, libraries, restaurants and group or personal guided tours. Wine and cheese or wine and chocolate tastings are popular and many can arrange catered tasting events on premises or in their cellars. Many have no charge to take a tour, others do and still others refund the fee with a purchase. My new book “Fruit of the Vine the Complete Guide to Kosher Wine” provides information on wine touring in Israel listing the resources now available but they are changing and nothing will replace a call or reservation which is required by some especially the smaller ones.
The future is bright and one of the truly great values and blessings in today’s world should only get better and more affordable.
Wine can enhance happiness or melancholy. Our Rabbis teach that when the redemption arrives a great banquet will be held where specially preserved kosher wine will be served. May you drink your wine with good health, joy, family and with good friends. Remember our traditional toast is: “L’chaim. The grammar is clearly plural. Good wine should be shared.
Here’s a tip for your next visit; when you go out to a kosher restaurant in Israel be sure to consider the “domestic” kosher wine.