This weekend in Israel, many will be celebrating Tu B’av (15th of Av), better known today as Israel’s Valentine’s day. But did you know that this modern celebration of love is rooted in an ancient Jewish tradition?
During the period of the Second Temple, on the 15th of Av, unmarried women would dress all in white and dance in the vineyards of Jerusalem in the hopes of finding a husband. Since then, this day has become known as an annual day for match-making.
Paying homage to this ancient tradition (no longer practiced today), here we focus on some of the best wineries in Israel today that have been started on a foundation of love between both people and land.
The vineyards of Sphera Winery lay in the Judean Hills of Jerusalem. Owned by Doron and Sima Rav Hon, an experience here will surprisingly delight your palate. The twist? Sphera only produces white wines.
White wines get a bad rap sometimes. But by working together, Doron as winemaker and Sima as head of operations and brand identity, change this perspective with their delicate and exquisite varieties. Uniquely, when Sphera started producing their Pinot Gris, they were the only ones in Israel using this ancient grape which originated in Burgundy, France. And, as a bonus, white wines are especially refreshing to drink on a hot summer day.
Next up is Ghito Winery, which, as it turns out, has quite the love story behind it. Dror, the son of the owners of the winery, explained that his father, Malkiel, was a senior in hi-tech who always dreamed of making his own wine. He started in his basement as a hobby. Malkiel’s wife, Dina, gifted him with winery courses for his birthday. But Malkiel surprised his wife by signing her up for the classes too!
Together they learned the world of wine-making. Today their winery, still operating from their basement in Hod Hasharon, produces over 15,000 bottles of wine per year. Dror and his brothers have joined their parents, while still maintaining their hi-tech jobs in Tel Aviv. Dror welcomes guests after harvest season to join wine-making classes and tours at this special family-run home winery.
Nana Winery is the product of two love stories – one between a couple, and the other between people and their land. Together with his wife Shahar, Eran, a wine-maker and experienced winery manager, decided to leave central Israel and open their own winery in the special southern region of Israel – the Negev.
In 2007, Eran and Shahar moved their family to Mitzpe Rimon and planted their vineyard along the upper part of the Negev’s Zin River, The vineyard today produces magnificent varieties, despite the harsh desert climate. A visit to Nana is well worth the trip down south.
This boutique family winery is situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Yossi Rosenberg, head winemaker, began in the early 2000s by making wines for his family and friends. A few years later, the winery expanded, and was named after Barak Shmuel Rosenberg, the eldest son of Yossi and Yael, who passed away of a severe illness at the age of 18. In speaking about his son, Yossi said that Barak was an artist who loved drawing comics. One of his drawings is the logo of Kerem Winery.
Kerem Barak produces a tapestry of varieties and blends, including their unique Orange wine! They are the only winery in Israel to make Orange wine from 100% French Colombard. Yossi and Yael invite guests for tours, wine tastings, and picnics at their family’s winery.
Vitkin Winery is owned by Doron, grandson of the founders of Kfar Vitkin, his wife Sharona, an architect, and her brother Asaf, a graduate of a prestigious wine-making school in France. This family combines their expertise to offer a lovely experience at their winery.
Their grapes are grown in the true Mediterranean climate right near the coastline. A trip to Vitkin’s Visitor Center will have you fall in love. Designed by Sharona, with furniture made by Doron from old recycled wine barrels, the winery offers tours and classical wine tasting visits.
The love stories shared here, together with the love story of Israel and its wines, are just a couple of examples of the role that wine plays in this special country. Despite challenging climate and terroir, wines produced here in Israel have won some of the most prestigious awards in the industry. So, even if you do not find yourself in Israel on Tu B’Av, we invite you to visit at any time, one (or more) of the over 300 wineries located in this small country. L’chaim!
At Via Sabra we offer a wide range of wine tasting day tours to some of the best wineries to visit in Israel.