Israel has been producing wine since Biblical times, but only recently has Israeli wine been put on the map in its own right, and not just with kosher consumers. Some people believe that kosher wine is inferior in quality, however, it is my belief that a well-made kosher wine is good, and a poorly made kosher wine is bad. It is not good or bad because it is kosher.
I am not a wine specialist, but I do appreciate good wine and I love visiting wineries. I have been fortunate to visit a number of wineries, in different regions around Israel, but the majority have been on day-trips close to Jerusalem.
Many of the Israeli wineries have visitors centers which allow visitors to learn more about how and where the wine is made, as well as a chance to taste a selection of wines. Some wineries will allow you to come anytime during opening hours, whereas others will only allow visitors based on appointment, so it is always recommended to call in advance.
My criteria for a good winery visit is not just about the wine served. I consider the overall experience, the setting of the winery, the knowledge and friendliness of staff/hosts and the food served. Here are some of my recommendations of wineries to visit around Jerusalem.
Known as the Tuscany of Israel, the Mateh Yehuda region houses a treasure trove of hidden gems and similar to Tuscany, the terrain produces some wonderful wine. The Mateh Yehuda Wine Festival launches every year at the end of November with a wine tasting event at Yad Hashmona and continues with events in wineries throughout the region during the following weeks. It is the perfect time to explore the wonderful wineries in the area.
- Srigim Winery (Not Supervised), Srigim-Li-on
Probably my favorite winery to visit for a number of reasons. The boutique winery is in the garden of the owners, which overlooks the forests of the Judean Mountains and backs onto the Israel National Trail.
The winemaker Uriel Harari hosts visitors as if they are his friends and it is not unusual for some passing hikers to stop-by and join in. The view at sunset is spectacular as the sun melts behind the surrounds mountains. He also has a taboon oven in his garden for making fresh foccacia and pizza.
Srigim produces about 3000 bottles of red wine each year including two blends and a Cabernet Sauvignon, which has won a Terravino prize for a number of years. I like all the wines they produce but the Barrique and Cabernet Sauvignon are my favorites.
- Flam Winery (Kosher), Moshav Eshtaol
The setting of Flam reminds me of the French countryside and it is probably one of the most beautiful wineries to visit. It is however also the most expensive (NIS 130 per person, including a cheese plate and fresh bread). If you are already familiar with the wines and don’t need a full wine tasting, there is also the option to buy a bottle of wine and a cheese platter and sit in the beautiful courtyard outside the winery, which is more cost effective.
- Kadma Winery (Not Supervised), Moshav Kfar Uriya
Like many of the wineries in this area, the entrance is hidden down a small dirt path and is housed in a converted warehouse. At the weekend, Kadma offers a limited menu which includes a cheese platter and a selection of salads. The winery produces four red wine blends, a Chenin Blanc and a red dessert wine. The gardens around the winery overlook the surrounding countryside and there are also several tables inside which cater to large groups.
The winemakers use the Italian method of huge clay pots as part of the wine production process and all the pots can be seen as part of the tour.
- Ella Valley Winery (Kosher), Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Heh
Surrounded by orchards, the picturesque winery has a spacious tasting room and a lovely outside space that is often used for private events and regular gatherings for the Ella Wine Club. Ella Valley has changed winemakers a few times over the last few years, which has effected the consistency of the wine quality. The EverRed range is good-value table wine and Ella Valley series and Vineyard’s Choice series offer some great wines.
If you visit the winery in the early spring, you will have the benefit of seeing the fields of Almond trees, which surround the winery, in full bloom which is a beautiful sight.
- Mettler Winery (Not Supervised), Moshav Agur
I would recommend Mettler for the overall experience, more than the wine itself. The Swiss owners host visitors in the garden of the winery, overlooking the surrounding vineyards and fields. The winery serves a brunch which includes shakshuka, salads and boutique cheeses. The winery also produces homemade olives, pickled vegetables, jam, beer and liquors, which are all available to buy in the winery shop.
- Peer Winery (Kosher), Moshav Tal Shahar
The boutique family-run winery is in Meshek Einy, a traditional Moshav farm which has been converted into a winery. The visitors center is filled with vintage and antique memorabilia and there is also a tranquil balcony surrounded by olive trees. We ordered a snack platter which was very tasty, but we felt that it didn’t go well with wine. There were only a few wines to taste so if you are in a group, it might be better to order a bottle of wine and snacks separately.
- Navot Winery (Kosher), Moshav Tslafon
The small boutique winery opens its doors as a restaurant on a Friday, together with Pepo Brewery. The menu includes various brunch options and although most people seem to focus on drinking the beer and cider, there are also some who come for the wine. The inside of the restaurant is similar to an old country kitchen, while the outside area overlooks the vineyards.
- Gush Etzion Winery (Mehadrin), Gush Etzion
The spacious winery houses a dairy restaurant which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there is an option to have a wine tasting as part of the meal. Wine tours can be arranged separately but the winery itself is fairly small so you can see most of it without a tour.
- Psagot Winery (Kosher), Mizrach Binyamin
Possibly one of the most beautiful purpose-built wine tasting centers, Psagot is also the home to a museum about the Binyamin region, which includes an interactive map and a video about the history of the region. Cheese platters and other food can be arranged with prior notice.
- Seahorse Winery (Not Supervised), Moshav Bar Giora
Guests are hosted in the wine storeroom among the barrels, and even though some consider Seahorse to be very special, many of the wines were not to my personal taste, although some were very good.
I love the wines from the following wineries but have not yet visited them, which is why they are not included in the list above:
- Tzora Winery, Kibbutz Tzora
- Katlav Winery, Nes Harim
- Domaine du Castel, Mevaseret Zion
- Bravdo, Karmei Yosef
Other Wineries in The Area
- Hans Sternbach Vineyard (Not Supervised) – we were hosted inside a very simple warehouse and we didn’t particularly enjoy any of the wine. There is a café at the winery but it was not open when we there, as they were getting ready for a private event.
- Agur Winery (Kosher) – wine tasting is NIS 35 per person which is refundable if you make a purchase but we didn’t like any of the wine enough to buy it. The winery is kosher but the visitors center is open on Shabbat.
- Tzuba Winery (Kosher) – I like some of the wine but I found the winemaker to be incredibly unfriendly and it was as if he was doing us a favor hosting us which ruined the experience for me. There is an option to combine a wine tasting with brunch at the nearby hotel (click here for more about brunch at Hotel Tzuba).
Stay tuned for a similar post about wineries in the Carmel region, Galil and Golan and subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates by email.