Produced by Moment with the support of The Israel Ministry of Tourism
To many, the words “Israeli wine” conjure up the culinary memory of the tooth-achingly sweet wines poured at Passover seders of yore. But the idea that Israel produces nothing but sugary kosher wines is a myth—in fact, Israel is home to hundreds of vineyards producing high-quality wines, many of them on par with those produced in traditional wine-making countries like France and Italy.
Israel’s unusual geography gives the country five distinct wine-producing regions: the Galilee, Shomron, Shimshon (also known as Samson), Jerusalem Mountains (also known as Judean Hills) and the Negev. Each of these regions offers a unique climate for growing grapes—everything from chardonnay to merlot to cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and more.
Israel’s profile among oenophiles has risen steeply in recent decades: In 2015, Wine Enthusiast named the 2013 premium shiraz produced by Jerusalem Wineries to its list of the top 100 wines; since 2013 wines produced by Benhaim Winery in Ramat Hasharon and Golan Heights Winery have won medals in the international Terravino wine competition; and influential wine guru Robert Parker wrote in 2008 that Israel’s “wines are getting better all the time, and some are superb.” There are some 300 wineries operating in Israel now—until 1995, there had been seven. Now, there are boutique wineries and large-scale operations producing a wide variety of wines. Here, we explore the breadth and depth of Israel’s wine producers from across the country’s geographic regions.
Hadera is a beautiful coastal city 28 miles from Tel Aviv. Just south of Hadera is the Shomron’s Margalit Winery, Israel’s first boutique winery. Former chemist Yair Margalit has applied scientific know-how to winemaking since creating his beloved 1989 Margalit cabernet sauvignon.
Shomron is the largest wine-growing region in Israel, benefitting from warm summers and cool winters; the Carmel Mountain Range provides optimal elevation for growing and harvesting perfect grapes.
Blurring the line between art and science, agriculture professor Ben Ami Bravdo and biochemist Oded Shoseyov bring their knowledge to the Bravdo winery in Karmei Yosef. Bravdo produces high-quality kosher wines, including 2012’s Landmark 2B, a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon that is, chemically, perfect.
Karmei Yosef is located in the Samson region, where the Mediterranean climate and grapes interact in amazing ways. Samson unites coastal plains and rolling hills to allow for an incredibly diverse selection of wines.
Pelter Winery in the Golan Heights harvests wine from the Northern Golan vineyards, from the snow-painted and long-wintered peaks of Merom Golan to the Dishon Vineyard in the Kadesh Valley. Pelter unifies the best grapes to make the best wines; after just one sip, you’ll see why geography matters—in the case of the Golan Heights, it’s because the region offers the perfect combination of altitude, dryness and sunshine.
The city of Arad is snugly bundled between the Negev and Judean deserts. The artists’ district of Arad does two incredible things: It brings together natural and manmade art, and it is home to the Midbar winery. Vineyards at Ramat Negev produce wines with high acidity and a unique flavor profile, allowing the winery to make its famous white wines.
It may seem surprising that wine grows in the desert, but the Negev is one of the most popular wine-growing locations. Six hundred meters above sea level, it brings together hot sunny days with cool nights, and a dry climate that is ideal for growing wine.
Clos de Gat
The Clos de Gat winery is located near the Ayalon valley where the Book of Joshua says that Joshua defeated the five kings. If only the winery had been around then—they could have settled their differences over a bottle of Clos de Gat’s award-winning chardonnay. The winery offers great wine, inspiring sights and deep history. It is also famous for the technique of Eyal Rotem, who avoids additives and takes advantage of the natural yeasts of the grape. If you like quality, variety, natural beauty, biblical history and art, you can’t miss this vineyard.
The Judean Hills feature cool nighttime temperatures. Climate varies throughout the region, which has made wineries rarer than in other regions. Still, the Hills have become famous for high-quality wines.
If Tel Aviv is the first destination on your trip, stop by Dancing Camel brewery, home to some of the most unique and beloved beers on the Israeli craft beer scene. The unusual varieties offered by Dancing Camel include a cherry vanilla stout, a chili pepper-flavored wheat beer, a pomegranate ale for Rosh Hashanah, and more traditional beers such as an IPA, an imperial stout, and an American pale ale. Dancing Camel’s beers are tasty, unique and as fun as, well, a dancing camel.
Jem’s Beer Factory
Along with producing high-quality craft beers, Jem’s Beer Factory is a great social spot in Petach Tikvah. Want to play basketball in the court yard? They’ve got you covered. Want to see some live bands? They’ve got you covered. And if you want to book a private event, you should book it here. And of course, they have a restaurant with the tanks used to brew the beer front and center. Jem’s has it all, and is something any beer-loving visitor to Israel should enjoy.
Founded by two brothers with a longtime love of beer, Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh has become a standard-bearer of Jerusalem beer in recent years, due to its popularity in the holy city’s bars and restaurants. The beer itself is straightforward: Instead of flashy flavored brews, they offer straightforward ales and stouts. But what they might lack in variety they more than make up for in quality, creating a beer truly worthy of the holy city.
Golan Brew House
At the Golan Brew House you’ll find a lot. You’ll find a kosher restaurant, with a separate section for meat and dairy. You’ll find a coffee bar. And yes, you’ll find beer. You can see and taste their Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Amber Ale, and Double Bock in the making. The Golan Brew House is available for tasting tours, lunch and dinner, and each potential visit is worth it.