Israel’s winemaking industry boasts an impressive 300-plus collection of wineries—large scale and boutique included—spanning the entirety of the country. Many have opened their doors to visitors. So if you wish to learn more about the winemaking process, from the planting and picking of grapes to the finished product, Israeli wineries are calling you.
Wineries in the North
Wine, dine and nuzzle up in nature at Assaf Winery’s wooden cabins, set amid Moshav Kidmay Tsvi in the Golan Heights. Its wine production started in 1997 and today the winery, run by master winemakers in the Keden family, churns out a finely-tuned repertoire of award-winning varietals. Combine the wine-tasting experience with a culinary extravaganza at AdiKa Cafe, a wine-to-table concept combining wine tasting, cheese and stunningly crafted dishes concocted from fresh local ingredients.
photo: Tali Raz
Located on a stretch of land at Kibbutz Ortal in the Golan Heights is the stunning Tel Shifon winery. Established in 2009, Ilan Zafrani poured his heart and soul into founding the (kosher) winery that today produces top wines using grapes plucked from its 10-acre vineyard—varieties including Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.
Resting at an altitude of 915 meters and set amid a breezy backdrop of breathtaking volcanic views, the winery creates magic for weddings, music and business events. Winery tours include a tasting of five wines and food (cheese, salads and freshly baked sourdough), available Sunday-Friday. You can also combine a tour of the winery with Abraham’s Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights adventure, incorporating nature, religion, history and a dip in the sea itself.
Rimon Winery, founded by the Nachmias family in Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in Upper Galilee, has perfected the art of pomegranate wine—the first winery to do so globally. Rimon )the Hebrew for pomegranate), was established in 2004 and continues to produce varietals of antioxidant-rich wines. Catering to a mix of clientele, the winery has classic and premium tours, in addition to a wine workshop where you can dive into the wine-making process. Rimon also has a range of cosmetic products, hair masks and body butter included.
Photo: Rimon Winery PR
Lotem Winery uniquely approaches production by playing music to the wine throughout its fermentation and aging processes. Located in the Upper Galilee at Kibbutz Lotem, set amid a stunning backdrop of Mount Meron, the winery prides itself on manufacturing high-quality organic wines. Connected to the land and nature, the winery is an idyllic spot to sip on wine and soak up a breath of fresh air—accompanied by delicious food.
Photo: Anatoly Michaello
Wineries in the Center
Founded in 1882 by Edmond James de Rothschild, Carmel Winery first planted its vineyard in the city of Rishon LeZion, later opening its Zikhron Ya’akov location. As one of Israel’s most historical wineries producing wine for over a century, its flavors allure the palettes of the most enthusiastic wine drinkers. Make a trip to the Carmel Winery visitor center and select from a handful of tours around its historical wine cellar—to learn about an innovative blend of old and new cutting-edge technologies and, of course, taste from its wine stock.
A boutique winery founded in 1996 in Tel Aviv, Alexander relocated to Beit Yitzhak three years later—a moshav (Israeli town) not far from Netanya. The winery produces a series of red, white and rose wines, vintage included. Named after Yoram Shalom’s (the founder’s) father Alexander Shalom, the kosher winery’s production is rooted in a 120-year-old wine-making tradition from Italy and Tunisia. And a tour of the vineyard is a lesson in history and winemaking—you’ll learn the secrets of wine crafting, visit the winery’s barrel cellar and sip on a selection of wines, with the option to pair alongside a feast of cheeses, village breads, fresh products and homemade jams.
A family owned winery dating back to 1989, Margalit, located in Binyamina, specializes in a selective range of red and white Bordeaux wines—Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon Cabernet-Franc and Chardonnay—using grapes from three planted vineyards in the Upper Galilee, Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov. A labor of love, the family tested its wines for six years before commercializing. Now, with an annual production of around 2,500 cases, the brand exhibits a hint of exclusivity. Alongside distributing at the winery, it’s only available at up-market restaurants and sold in swanky wine stores across Israel and further afield. Margalit’s wine tasting (by appointment) is really one for the wine lovers.
Check out Grape Man in Jaffa to further explore the wine industry in Israel—a one-stop-shop for wine-related workshops, classes, tasting events and open houses! As wine and alcohol experts, their knowledge is extensive. This is the place to pose all your questions about wine. The company offers winery tours around the country—both in groups or arranged privately.
Wineries in the South
The desert may not strike you as the typical wine-making landscape, but with a dash of innovation and a magnitude of hard work, the Desert Wine Route has blossomed into a reality. Carmey Avdat Farm, an-eco friendly site founded in 1998, is a fine example, built on the remains of a once flourishing agricultural site dating back 1,500 years. Two varieties, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, are the focus here, although Chardonnay, Viognier and rose are among the offerings. Liqueurs, crafted from fruits plucked from the orchard, join the menu. Tours, wine tasting, workshops and sessions on desert agriculture are offered, alongside quaint bed-and-breakfast chalets and cabins for a nature getaway.
Alongside an art center, learning center and restaurant at Kibbutz Neot Semadar is a boutique winery producing organic wine made from locally sourced grapes. Neot Semadar produces unique wines from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat Canelli grapes, all grown in the southernmost vineyards within Israel’s arid desert. Pair a glass of wine with delicious vegetarian cuisine at its restaurant Pundak Neot Semadar or organize a winery visit.
Photo: Neot Smadar PR
Ramat Negev Winery is a family winery pioneering a selection of desert-made wines since its first harvest in 2000. Built on a plot in moshav Kadesh Barnea in Ramat Hanegev, the ‘green’ kosher winery is dedicated to conserving nature, using impressive technologies to preserve water, land and air, whilst still producing 120,000 bottles annually. Various series (including a reserved and premium line) feature blends of red, white and rose. Book a tour to explore the barrel rooms, wine containers and, of course, sample the wine.
Moa Winery bounded onto the scene fairly recently in 2014, yet the family farm in Israel’s southern moshav Tzofar has been around since 1984. Following the renovations of its old packing house and refrigerators once used to cool flowers, the winery was established as Moa—named so after a Natatean Khan—producing wine (red, white and rose) from vineyard grapes picked in the high mountains of Mitzpe Ramon—symbolic to the desert region. Open daily, the visitors center has guided tours and a tasting of four wines—with Negev cheeses, dips and breads to accompany your selection.