When people think of Israel, the first thought that comes into their heads is not usually that it is a land flowing with... wine. However, Israel is overflowing with surprises as there is always something new to discover in this fascinating country. Did you know that there are 200 wineries in Israel? Many produce wines on par with other regions of the world, and frequently Israeli wines win awards at international exhibitions.
On your next tour to Israel, don’t miss the chance to experience the best Israeli wines available!
Israel's Wine Industry
There is a long history of wine flowing throughout Israel. The story begins with Moses who sent twelve spies across the Jordan river to explore the Promised Land. As the story is told, two of the spies returned with a cluster of grapes and those grapes yielded enough wine to last the people for their forty years wandering in the desert.
Israel used to offer primarily sweet, syrupy wine, utilized mainly for ceremonial purposes. Though modern Israeli wine production began in 1882 with the Carmel Winery, wine culture dramatically changed after the 1970s when experts discovered that the soil and climate of the newly-captured Golan Heights was ideal for cultivating grapes. Vines were planted, and in 1983 the first wines produced in the Golan Heights were released to the public. Some of the famous wineries that can be found throughout Israel are located in Rishon Lezion, Zichron Ya'acov, Castel and Tzora.
Israel’s Top Wineries
This is not an attempt to list the best wines in Israel, or the best places to acquire a case of wine to take home from your Israel tour. This is a list of wineries, big and small, where the visiting and tasting experience inspires in the heart of the visitor, the wine lover or vacationing family, a moment of genuine curiosity about the unique process of producing the wine at any winery, an exhilarating experience in itself. All the Israeli wineries we reviewed produce select wine.
Northern Israel wineries
Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin
The large visitors center at the Golan Heights Winery, the most advanced and exciting in Israel, offers an intriguing experience for the whole family. At the Golan Heights Winery they not only produce complex and interesting wines, but also engage, possibly more than other wineries, in inculcating wine culture into Israeli culture. Even if you’ve already been to the winery, you have plenty more to gain from going back there again and again. At the Golan Heights Winery, effort is invested in continual study of the wine area of the Golan Heights, and it is highly worthwhile to join one of the tours that are periodically conducted by the professional and warm staff at the vineyards.
Katzrin Industrial Zone, 04-6968420
Galil Mountain Winery
Very few of the dozens of new wineries that have sprung up in Israel in recent years have paid much attention to the architectural importance of the winery structure, and blending it with the environment. Some don’t do so because of budgetary constraints, and some because of a lack of awareness of the subject. The Galil Mountain Winery is one of the most beautiful ever built in Israel. It is a modern structure made of metal, wood and glass nestling in the heart of the vineyards which provide it with wine grapes. The visitor experience there includes walking across an impressive network of bridges that were built to allow the visitor a glimpse of the production process.
Kibbutz Yaron, 04-6868740
The Amphorae winery looks like the realization of the pictorial fantasy of the ideal image of a winery: a rustic-looking stone building in the heart of a valley surrounded by vineyards, cultivated fields and wild Mediterranean groves. At Mekora Farm, a privately owned organic farm, Gil Schatzberg produces wonderful wines from viognier, chardonnay, cabernet, merlot and red blends, and the pleasant young staff welcome visitors for guided, patient and interesting tasting sessions.
Mekora Farm, Maharal Vineyard, 04-9704301
The visit to Baron’s Winery, under the auspices of the state education system – focusing on "wine is not a wild gastronomic experience but another link in the tale of subjugating the land" – succeeded in turning the encounter with one the first and most fascinating wineries in Israel into a moving experience, almost like a class in the Talmud. If you manage to overcome the obstacle of the collective memory you will find that, in terms of understanding the development of the wine industry in Israel, including the revolution of recent years, that there is no replacement for returning to the rock hewn cellars, the old giant fomenting tanks and the barrel room which also contains the ledgers from the day the Carmel Winery was established and rare historic documents that are worthy of being put on display in a museum.
2 HaYayin, Zikhron Yaakov, 04-6390105
The Vitkin Winery, operated by a family from a building that was once a cowshed, produces good wines which they talk about simply and without trying to impress. The vintner Asaf Paz and his family welcome visitors warmly.
38 Derekh HaKfar, Kfar Vitkin, 09-8663505
At the Bravdo Winery of Professors Bravdo and Shosiov, a life of academic research, on vines and the scent of the fruit, and the family tradition of over a century of vineyard cultivation are combined. On the first Friday of every month, a tasting event is held under the pergola surrounded by vines and roses, and the winery is occasionally opened for special events that combine a love of wine with music and lectures on different subjects.
Karmei Yosef, 08-9286098
One of the pioneers in local discourse on the terroir, Tzora Vineyards is not only a winery that produces intriguing wine produced from vineyards planted in biblical landscapes of the ancient wine country, but also one of the wineries clever enough to build a visitors center from the start, which offers a fascinating experience for all the family. The delicatessen-restaurant adjacent to the winery that offers wines, locally produced olive oil, cheeses from boutique dairies, etc., is almost the only reasonable place to eat or stock up at in this beautiful, but culinarily desolate, expanse near Jerusalem.
Susson Yam (Seahorse) Winery
If Eyal Shani is the local food poet, Ze’ev Dunia is the wine poet. His boutique winery, which once produced movies and now produces wine, looks like the amazingly messy workshop of a fiery artist. There are bottles and barrels everywhere, discarded wine glasses emptied with friends while reading the poetic boutique newsletter issued from time to time. The wine here is talked about in living terms, which has a soul, taste and colors. It is hard not to be charmed by the charisma of the heavily bearded vintner and his works of art.
Moshav Bar Giora, 02-5709834
Kalo Da Gat
The truth is that the visitor to Kalo Da Gat does not have an easy time. The focus here is on wine making and not necessarily offering explanations to the passing tourist. Visits must be prearranged, tasting must be paid for, and the price of the wines make the visit to the winery one that is reserved for those who love wine and who have the financial means to enjoy it. If you do manage to make it to the wonderfully renovated balcony of the forsaken Arab house, which overlooks a beautiful landscape, or walk to the ancient winepress in the courtyard of the winery, you are likely to enjoy an encounter with the people there, the unique wine philosophy and the impressive wines.
Next to Harel, Carmei Harel in the Ayalon Valley, 02-9993505
Southern Israel Wineries
The isolated farms that have sprung up in recent years along the ancient route of the Spice Road restore to the Negev the landscape of thousands of years ago – agricultural terraces of olive groves and vineyards. The visit to the Yatir Winery, a joint project of Carmel Wines and local residents is, at this stage, the best place to learn about the wonder of growing vines and producing wine in the heart of the desert.
Tel Arad, 08-9959090