Over the past few years we have noticed an influx of wine festivals and events in the local industry. In my opinion one of the better annual events is the Judean Hills Wine Festival that is part of a larger regional tourism campaign. The festival includes various events, organized nature hikes, vineyard tours and other activities taking place every weekend from Oct. 24 to Nov. 14.
Judean Hills (or Harei Yehuda) is considered by many to be one of Israel’s top wine regions. Every wine region (of course conditions do vary from one vineyard to another within the same region) is characterized by a different and unique terroir. Due to the hilly topography and relatively high altitudes (500-1000 meters above sea level) many vineyards are planted on terraces and mountain slopes, enjoying warm temperatures during the day and cool breezes at night.
A few years back, owners, local municipalities and winemakers partnered to establish and mark a Judean Hills route du vin (wine trail), laying the foundations for wine and culinary tourism in the region. The wine trail allows visitors to easily plan a day tour (or more), visiting wineries and sampling their offerings. Today, there are many zimmers and even a few hotels that can serve as an excellent base for a 2-3 day wine excursion. The latest addition is the Cramim Spa & Hotel from Isrotel’s luxury brand which also offers various dining options and a beautiful spa. If you are planning a wine tour, keep in mind that many of the smaller wineries do not have regular visiting hours and making a reservation is advised. Of course kosher wineries will be closed on Saturdays and Friday nights.
Last week, I attended the main wine event which took place at Mini Israel Miniature Park and brought together hundreds of people, many locals as well as wine aficionados from across the country. The Judean Hills Wine Festival is unique in that it is the only truly regional event that provides visitors a true sense of the diversity of terroirs within the region, but also features leading boutique wineries that often do not exhibit at larger wine festivals.
I couldn’t taste all of the wines but some of my favorites included: Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh 2012; Katlav Winery, Cabernet Savignon, 201; Domaine du Castel, Petit Castel, 2012; Agur Winery, Shmira Meyuchedet, 2011; Sphera, First Page, 2013; Ella Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, 2012; Sea Horse, Hemingway, 2012.
Looking forward to next year and in the meantime, L’Chaim!