The Judean Hills (or Harei Yehuda) is considered by many to be one of Israel’s top wine regions
After living in a residential neighborhood in downtown Jerusalem for five years, my wife and I decided that it was time for a change and moved out to the suburbs. Looking for a quiet and serene area, we ended up in Tzur Haddasa, nestled in the Judean Hills about a 15 minute drive from Ein Karem. One of the perks of living the area, aside from the many nature trails and picnic areas, is the abundance of wineries and more recently a handful of microbreweries as well.
The 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. 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 usually be closed on Saturdays.
Some of my favorite local wines and wineries include: Chardonnay “C” from the Castel Winery in Ramat Raziel; Chenin Blanc from the Sea Horse Winery in Bar Giora; Wadi Katlav blend from the Katlav Winery in Nes Harim; Shoresh (red) from the Tzora Winery; Sauvignon Blanc “Vineyrads” and the Merlot from the Ella Valley Winery; Merlot Reserve from the Flam Winery; Kessem from the Agur Winery, Chardonnay Reserve from the Mony Winery and Sycra from the Clos de Gat Winery, to name a few.
Personally, I find that Merlot from the Judean Hills is quite different from the Merlot vinos produced from grapes grown in the Golan Heights or Galilee and over the years have consistently shown great results. If you have the opportunity, it is interesting to taste and compare the different vinos.