A FAM­ILY, A PLACE, A WINE... AND ME

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - WINE TALK - • ADAM MONTEFIORE

Iwas thrilled to be in­vited re­cently to Mishkenot Sha’ananim to give a lec­ture and tast­ing to for­eign am­bas­sadors res­i­dent in Is­rael. This meant a great deal to me be­cause there is nowhere else where threads of fam­ily, wine, a par­tic­u­lar place and my per­sonal story, all con­verge in one place. So, for­give me for in­dulging my­self.

Mishkenot Sha’ananim was founded by the English­man Sir Moses Montefiore. He was a hu­man­i­tar­ian, cam­paigner for Jewish eman­ci­pa­tion, fore­run­ner of Zion­ism and the world’s un­of­fi­cial ambassador for the Jewish peo­ple. His coat of arms featured a lion hold­ing a pen­dant with Jerusalem writ­ten on it... an idea since adopted by the Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. He trav­eled to Is­rael seven times, rid­ing in his small car­riage, the last time at the ad­vanced age of 91!

Montefiore had pur­chased the land in 1855. The area was stony and bare, apart

from olive trees and wild vines, so he named it Kerem Moshe v’ Ye­hu­dit – Moses and Ju­dith’s Vine­yard. (Ju­dith was his wife.) This was to be­come the cor­ner­stone of mod­ern Jerusalem, be­ing the first neigh­bor­hood out­side the Old City Walls of Jerusalem. Kerem Moshe was re­named Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860, and the sec­ond, larger part was re­named Yemin Moshe in 1892.

Ap­pro­pri­ately for some­one born in Tus­cany (Livorno) and brought up in London (then the cen­ter of the world’s wine trade), Moses Montefiore was a wine lover, who drank a bot­tle of wine ev­ery sin­gle day and lived to his 101st year! His pre­ferred tip­ple was Port, the for­ti­fied wine from Por­tu­gal. The fam­ily folk­lore says that in the hours be­fore he passed away, he drank three glasses of port. Seems to me the right way to go.

We know from their diaries that Moses and Ju­dith were pas­sion­ate tourists and their love of wine is quite ap­par­ent through­out. Ev­ery­where they went in Is­rael, they were pre­sented with wine. “He­bron wine” is men­tioned a great deal. This was prob­a­bly from grapes grown in Arab-owned vine­yards near He­bron, us­ing lo­cal va­ri­eties like Ham­dani, Jan­dali, Dabouki, and made by winer­ies such as Ginio, Shor and Teper­berg, amongst oth­ers. The Mon­te­fiores also pur­chased wine in small casks as sou­venirs. This was be­fore the world of glass bot­tles, brands, la­bels and kashrut cer­tifi­cates.

Montefiore was cap­ti­vated by the scenery here, and men­tions vine­yards many times in his diaries. He wrote, “The moun­tains are cul­ti­vated in ter­races and planted to the sum­mit with vines and olives... it would be im­pos­si­ble to travel through a richer or more beau­ti­ful coun­try.” This was about the same time Mark Twain called the Holy Land “a des­o­la­tion!”

WAY BACK in 1839, Montefiore had said that the poor Jewish com­mu­nity should work in­stead of liv­ing off char­ity. He was the first to rec­om­mend a re­turn to agricultur­e. The pur­chas­ing of both the or­chard in Jaffa (now the Montefiore

Quar­ter of Tel Aviv) and Kerem Moshe in Jerusalem, fol­lowed by the build­ing of the wind­mill, were all part of this. David BenGu­rion, Is­rael’s first prime min­is­ter, who once worked at Ris­hon Le Zion Cel­lars, re­ferred to Montefiore as one of the fa­ther fig­ures of Jewish agricultur­e in the 19th cen­tury. In­ter­est­ingly, he also re­ferred to the Da­m­as­cus Af­fair of 1840, where Montefiore was one of the main play­ers, as the true be­gin­ning of Zion­ism.

Montefiore sug­gested peo­ple should plant vines and olive trees to get a taste for agricultur­e and yet, the plant­ing of Jewish vine­yards only be­gan in earnest from 1882. This was with the fi­nance and ex­per­tise of Baron Ed­mond de Roth­schild. Montefiore was the neigh­bor, busi­ness part­ner and brother-in-law of Nathan Mayer Roth­schild and un­cle of Nathaniel Roth­schild, who pur­chased Chateau Mou­ton Roth­schild, one of the world’s most fa­mous winer­ies, in 1853.

Montefiore did not have any chil­dren. His chose his fa­vorite nephew, Joseph, son of his sis­ter, as his heir, and the Se­bag Montefiore fam­ily was born. Sir Joseph Se­bag Montefiore was my great-great-grand­fa­ther. He ac­com­pa­nied Moses on his last two vis­its here. When Yemin Moshe was founded, he was a sig­na­tory in the agreements for the new tenants.

As far as fam­ily roots are con­cerned, the Mon­te­fiores came from the Marche and Ro­magna re­gions of Italy, moved to Livorno and then to Eng­land. The Se­bags hailed from Mo­gador, now known as Es­saouira, on the western coast of Morocco. The word Montefiore means “moun­tain flower” (a Sephardi equiv­a­lent to the Ashke­nazi “Blum­berg.”) The word Se­bag refers to the pro­fes­sion of dy­ers. When I made aliyah with my wife and three chil­dren, I was the first from my fam­ily to do so. I con­tin­ued my ca­reer in wine, striv­ing to ad­vance Is­raeli wine. Two of my chil­dren, David and Rachel Montefiore, the sixth gen­er­a­tion, also worked in the Is­raeli wine trade.

Which leads me back to wine. The Shor fam­ily is Is­rael’s old­est wine-pro­duc­ing fam­ily. They are still mak­ing wine after 170 years. They founded their fam­ily win­ery in 1848 in the Old City of Jerusalem to earn a liv­ing. In yet an­other of the re­peated co­in­ci­dences that connect the dots of this story, the very first ev­i­dence of their new pro­fes­sion may be found in the cen­sus com­mis­sioned by Montefiore in 1849.

In the mid-1940s, be­fore the found­ing of the state, their busi­ness was di­vided into two to ac­com­mo­date the grow­ing fam­ily. Avra­ham Meir Shor con­cen­trated on wine and the win­ery was re­named Zion Win­ery, and his brother, Moshe Shalom Shor, founded Shimshon Win­ery, which fo­cused on spir­its and grape juice. Both were sit­u­ated in the same build­ing in the Jerusalem’s Beit Is­rael neigh­bor­hood. A wall sep­a­rated the two winer­ies. Ap­par­ently, some­times the all-per­va­sive smell of arak would seep through to the wine pro­duc­tion area.

Moshe Shalom’s sons went on to found Arza and Ha­cormim winer­ies. His daugh­ter, Tzip­pora Shor, founded a win­ery in 1951 with her hus­band Yona Men­del­son, which they called Shimshon, us­ing the name al­ready in the fam­ily. In 1976, Shimshon Win­ery moved to Atarot in the north­ern pe­riph­ery of Jerusalem. It was a win­ery fo­cused on liq­uid re­li­gion, in other words, grape juice and kid­dush wine. In 2006, Ofer Guetta, busi­ness­man and en­tre­pre­neur, pur­chased the win­ery and re­named it Jerusalem Winer­ies. By then, it was the last re­main­ing win­ery in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Winer­ies grew to be­come one of the 10 largest winer­ies in Is­rael. How­ever, this was not enough for Guetta. He de­cided to create a new team to bring the win­ery into the 21st cen­tury. He ap­pointed the dy­namic Col. Erez Win­ner as CEO. Win­ner was pre­vi­ously the as­sis­tant to former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashke­nazi. He chose Cana­dian Sam Soroka as wine­maker. Soroka has made wine in no less than five dif­fer­ent coun­tries: Aus­tralia, the US (Cal­i­for­nia), Canada, France and Is­rael, and is con­sid­ered one of the best wine­mak­ers in Is­rael. He joined Jerusalem five years ago. Guetta also ap­pointed the ex­pe­ri­enced and tal­ented Car­mit Ehren­re­ich, for­merly of Golan Heights Win­ery and Galil Moun­tain, as mar­ket­ing and ex­port man­ager. This win­ning team has man­aged to put the win­ery on a new foot­ing.

IN 2019, Jerusalem Winer­ies opened an in­no­va­tive tast­ing room and vis­i­tors cen­ter at the Montefiore Wind­mill in Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The wind­mill was built in 1857 in the­ory to pro­vide work on the premise: “there is no To­rah with­out flour, and no flour with­out To­rah.” It has be­come part of the sky­line of mod­ern Jerusalem. In 2012, it was re­newed and re­fur­bished. It was re­opened by the Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, and my brother, his­to­rian Si­mon Se­bag Montefiore (au­thor of Jerusalem: The Bi­og­ra­phy) rep­re­sented the fam­ily from Eng­land, and David, Rachel and I, rep­re­sented the Is­raeli part of the fam­ily.

In the wind­mill, there had pre­vi­ously been a small but in­ter­est­ing mu­seum about the life of Moses Montefiore, put to­gether by my cousin. Now Jerusalem Winer­ies has opened this new wine at­trac­tion in the wind­mill it­self. This has brought wine back to Mishkenot Sha’ananim. When I came to Is­rael, the Mishkenot Sha’ananim Restau­rant owned by Moise Peer, was the first to have an in­ter­na­tional wine list and an ex­ten­sive cel­lar.

To com­mem­o­rate the open­ing of the tast­ing room, which must be one of the most unique wine venues in Is­rael, Jerusalem Winer­ies launched a series of rare, bou­tique wines called Montefiore Wind­mill, pri­mar­ily for sale to wine lovers and con­nois­seurs vis­it­ing the wind­mill it­self. There are two en­try-level wines, a Sauvi­gnon Blanc and Mal­bec; four Re­serve wines: Chardonnay, Shi­raz, Mer­lot and Caber­net Sauvi­gnon; and fi­nally, a pres­tige Bordeaux style blend, called Yemin Moshe. The grapes were grown in the high el­e­va­tion Judean Hills vine­yards, at up to 900 me­ters above sea level. Soils are thin, shal­low and stony, on a deep bedrock of lime­stone. The Montefiore Wind­mill wines were made in tiny quan­ti­ties. Each bot­tle is num­bered and signed by the wine­maker.

Since I was a child, I have watched how Mishkenot Sha’ananim has been de­vel­oped in stages by the Jerusalem Foundation to be­come the cul­tural cen­ter of Jerusalem. It is the place I was starstruck to meet heroes of mine like Teddy Kollek, Ye­huda Amichai and Amos Oz. The cen­ter is now man­aged so ca­pa­bly, with style and panache, by Motti Shwartz. There have been many high­lights: the lit­er­ary fes­ti­vals, the sym­po­sium on Moses Montefiore and the re­open­ing of the Wind­mill.

Now at the Montefiore Wind­mill you can learn about wine, and taste and buy, while over­look­ing the Old City Walls. The story of my fam­ily, this par­tic­u­lar place and wine are in­ter­wo­ven like the most in­tri­cate Hav­dalah can­dle. Six gen­er­a­tions of the Montefiore fam­ily from Moses Montefiore on­wards, the place ‘Kerem Moshe – Mishkenot Sha’ananim- Yemin Moshe’ and the winer­ies ‘Shor-Shimshon-Jerusalem’ span the his­tory of both mod­ern Jerusalem, Is­rael and Is­raeli wine. You can per­haps ap­pre­ci­ate how ex­cited I was to tell the story which spans the last 180 years – from Moses Montefiore’s agri­cul­tural vision in 1839, to a glass of ice cold Montefiore Wind­mill Sauvi­gnon Blanc served at the new Jerusalem Winer­ies Tast­ing Room in 2019. For me, it was like clos­ing a cir­cle.

(Sara Davi­dovitch)

THE JERUSALEM Winer­ies dream team: (from left) wine­maker Sam Soroka, mar­ket­ing man­ager Car­mit Ehren­re­ich and CEO Erez Win­ner.

(Yakis Kidron)

WINE LOVER Sir Moses Montefiore would be amused that his wind­mill has be­come a win­ery tast­ing room.

(Courtesy) (Courtesy)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu re­opens the wind­mill in 2012, with (fourth from left) mayor Nir Barkat, the writer and brother Si­mon Se­bag Montefiore look­ing on. JERUSALEM WINER­IES Montefiore Wind­mill Yemin Moshe, a pres­ti­gious Bordeaux style blend.

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