From the Golan Heights to the Negev, Israel is home to some spectacular wineries. To date, there are approximately 300 dotted along the country. That is quite remarkable considering that two decades ago, there were fewer than ten wineries in total with some older than the nation itself.
A common element amongst them is the calibre of excellence of the products produced that is undoubtedly capturing the attention of connoisseurs worldwide. Keep in mind that viticulture is nothing new to the land of Israel. In fact, the roots of winemaking run profoundly dating back centuries, with of course the style and methods evolving over the years. And, because of it, a growing number of tour operators are specializing in this niche sector.
Kitron Gravity Winery
In the northern part of Israel, utilising the region of the Golan Heights and the upper Galilee lies Kitron Gravity Winery. It is family owned and operated by Meir Biton, his wife Esterka and their eight children whose ages range from and whose names are all related to the world of wine: Gefen, Tirosh, Carmel, Eshkol, Enav, Sorek, Cerem and Sarig.
No stranger to bringing the flavours of Israel to the forefront, the family is responsible for popular daily restaurant chain Yotvata BaYir which they sold some years ago. Since then, their full focus has been on Kitron.
A destination winery, the planning of Kitron took four years followed by an additional four years of construction. It showcases an extraordinary vista with a lush landscape that includes Jerusalem stone buildings, a beautiful barn housing beautiful Tennessee walking horses and an entrance lined with antique vehicles and a helicopter approved landing pad.
Passionate care and consideration went into the only ‘gravity’ winery in Israel. It is one of only a few in the world built on this unique system that includes four floors designed to match the timing and necessities of each stage of winemaking.
They chose to use ‘gravity’ winemaking because it is a method based on the forces of nature that were utilised over 1600 years ago in the time of the “Mishna” and “Talmud,” where the people of the ancient town of Tzipori produced wine with this method. Today, the family combines leading modern equipment with old techniques honouring the soil and heritage of the area.
To date, only family members work in the winery following the entire process; from the moment the vine is planted through to the arrival of the grape clusters through to bottling – a meticulous process that takes at least five years enabling the family to follow their belief and value ensuring the accuracy, aesthetics, softness, harmony, patience and strictness of their process.
They harvest the grapes manually in the middle of the night to maintain a cool temperature. The cluster immediately goes through strict and delicate ‘double’ sorting to ensure the perfect condition of the clusters and maximum preservation of the flavours and aromas during each stage. From the fermentation stage to the cellar that is carved into a rock to maintain natural and optimal temperature during the ageing process, the wines carefully go through a prolonged ageing process both in supreme French oak and then bottles before being made available for purchase.
Their doors are open to everyone where a member of the family would be happy to take you on a personal tour.
Zichron Ya’akov is a beautiful town for tourists, both local and foreign. This picturesque moshava semi-cooperative farming community built at the tip of the Carmel mountain range is the first moshava ever made in Israel and is a central tourism and vacation site in this region.
Anyone who visits Zichron Ya’akov goes straight to Ha-Nadiv Street, and Ha-Meyasdim Street in the town centre, which has become a trendy pedestrian mall, thanks to the unique atmosphere in this place. The streets are paved with stones and pass between the moshava’s original houses (some of which have been reconstructed), which are bustling with activity.
There are many quaint and charming restaurants and coffee shops, interspersed between beautifully designed stores that sell local artworks and lovely souvenirs. There are art galleries, unique artists’ studios and workshops. New, modern buildings stand alongside old ones, such as the synagogue and the administration building, an old courtyard with a display of antique agricultural implements.
From its early days, Zichron Ya’akov had two main characteristics: wine and tranquillity. The moshava’s founding farmers cultivated vineyards, and the large winery built here in 1889 became the area’s most important industry. During the British Mandate period (1917-1948), the moshava became a holiday resort and rural vacations site, and to this day has hotels, spas and guesthouses.
You can spend days in this region touring and sampling the local landmark wineries such as the Carmel, Tishbi and Binyamina Wineries that all have visitor centers to explore.
With regular flights to Tel Aviv departing from Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal on Air Transat, you can enjoy guided tours and tastings while taking in the stunning Mediterranean scenery and authentic Israeli wines and cuisine.
Cover photo credit : StateofIsrael