Tour Is­rael

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • MEITAL SHARABI

De­cem­ber, as we all know, is chock-full of fun events and festivals. One of the most ex­cit­ing ones is the an­nual Mateh Ye­huda Wine Fes­ti­val, which com­bines three of my fa­vorite pas­times: wine, cul­ture and na­ture. The fes­ti­val, which opened on De­cem­ber 5 with a fes­tive wine-tasting at Mini Is­rael, will con­tinue ev­ery week­end through the end of De­cem­ber.

Ev­ery Fri­day dur­ing the fes­ti­val, the pub­lic is in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in guided tours at three winer­ies, which will be fol­lowed by tours of the nat­u­ral sur­round­ings at a cost of NIS 100 per per­son, when pur­chased in ad­vance.

The Is­raeli wine in­dus­try is thriv­ing, and bou­tique winer­ies are open­ing around the coun­try all the time. Win­ery tours have be­come a big busi­ness, and not just for wine afi­ciona­dos. The ground is burst­ing with ac­tiv­ity, es­pe­cially in Mateh Ye­huda, in the Jerusalem Hills, where there are 28 winer­ies cur­rently in op­er­a­tion. Most of these are small, bou­tique winer­ies, each with its own unique story and fla­vors, which are run by peo­ple who’d al­ways dreamed of mak­ing their own wine.

One of the most dis­tinc­tive as­pects of wines made in Mateh Ye­huda is that they are pro­duced from grapes that are grown in nearby vine­yards. Many winer­ies, for ex­am­ple in Bur­gundy or Tus­cany, are ex­tremely proud of the fact that they use only grapes that are grown locally, and have been do­ing so for thou­sands of years. In Is­rael, the an­cient wine presses that have been dis­cov­ered in­di­cate that a vast wine in­dus­try ex­isted here in an­cient times.

The Mateh Ye­huda Wine Fes­ti­val, now in its 21st year, in­vites the pub­lic to visit the par­tic­i­pat­ing winer­ies over the four week­ends in De­cem­ber, meet the vint­ners, hear their per­sonal stories and, of course, taste their fan­tas­tic wines. This year, an as­sort­ment of cul­tural, mu­si­cal and the­atri­cal events at winer­ies and pri­vate homes have been added to the sched­ule. Here is a sum­mary of what’s avail­able.


Bat Sheva and Peter Mark’s home sits on the edge of a gor­geous 1.5-acre (0.6 hectare) vine­yard. Peter used to play con­tra­bass in the phil­har­monic orches­tra, and Bat Sheva used to run a chil­dren’s the­ater she’d founded. The two of them first came to Moshav Agur with their cycling club. Peter be­gan toy­ing with the idea of pro­duc­ing his own wine, and at some point the two of them de­cided to leave their home in Hod Hasharon and move to the moshav. Nowa­days, they love host­ing wine tast­ings on their ex­pan­sive bal­cony and con­certs in their vine­yard.

There will be two mu­si­cal events dur­ing the month­long fes­ti­val: On Fri­day, De­cem­ber 6, there will be a Kab­balat Shab­bat pro­gram fea­tur­ing drum­mer Doron Rafaeli, and on Mon­day, De­cem­ber 23, there will be a Hanukkah can­dle-light­ing cer­e­mony, fol­lowed by a wine-tasting event to sam­ple wines from Met­tler Win­ery and Agur Win­ery, along­side good mu­sic and re­fresh­ments.

Lo­ca­tion: Hadar Win­ery, Moshav Agur De­tails: 050-232-5110


Nevo Hazan, a man with great pas­sion for his bou­tique win­ery, did not imag­ine that be­ing a ded­i­cated fam­ily man would have such a strong im­pact on his life. When his Aunt Leah, who was liv­ing in Karmiel, got can­cer and be­gan un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy treat­ment at Hadas­sah Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, Nevo and his wife, Iris, in­vited her to come live with them on Moshav Mata, where she’d grown up. Dur­ing her stay, the en­er­getic Leah did not stop cook­ing, pick­ing grapes and fruits from the trees in the Hazans’ gar­den, and treat­ing the fam­ily to won­der­ful home-cooked meals.

When it was time to har­vest the grapes grow­ing nat­u­rally, Leah sug­gested that they pre­pare wine with them. She showed Nevo and his kids how to stomp on the grapes bare­foot and then leave them in bar­rels for a few weeks un­til they turned into wine. Soon enough, both Nevo and Iris be­gan learn­ing more about the wine­mak­ing process, and a few years later they opened up their own bou­tique win­ery. Now, they wel­come guests at their win­ery and treat them to de­li­cious home­made meals, in­clud­ing gourmet breads.

Dur­ing the fes­ti­val, on Fri­day, De­cem­ber 27, at noon, they will host singer Dana Berger, who will per­form pop and soft rock songs.

Lo­ca­tion: Nevo Win­ery, Moshav Mata De­tails: 052-607-7180


Oren Sh­mueli, a psychother­apist by pro­fes­sion, uses his ther­a­peu­tic in­sights when pre­par­ing his spe­cialty breads and pas­tries in the small struc­ture be­hind his home in Moshav Li’on (Srigim) that he uses as his kitchen. Sh­mueli bakes bread us­ing flour that he im­ports from Ger­many, and tech­niques he learned in China. The in­cred­i­ble aroma that wafts from his ovens is tan­ta­liz­ing to ev­ery­one who comes near. He makes a va­ri­ety of breads: Ger­man and Rus­sian rye, rus­tic, Ital­ian, French, and sour­dough. Sh­mueli also pre­pares spe­cial thin-crust piz­zas with lay­ers of moz­zarella and Gouda cheeses.

Lo­ca­tion: Bradley Bak­ery, Moshav Li’on (Srigim) De­tails: 050-575-3548


A num­ber of trails in the for­est lead to fan­tas­tic panoramic views. About 300 me­ters af­ter turn­ing off of Road 44, you’ll find a spot with the most ab­so­lutely gor­geous view, as well as a sports field, which is a great place for kids to play and ex­pend all their en­ergy. There are also trees sur­round­ing you on all sides, with trails snaking through the for­est, pic­nic ta­bles, and even an or­ga­nized bar­be­cue area.

(Peter Mark)


(Eyal Gut­man)


(Rachel Harel)

(Rachel Harel)

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