One of the popular approaches to food and wine pairing is serving local
wines with traditional local cuisine. Ask anyone from Italy or France,
and I’m sure she or he will agree that the vino produced in the adjacent
village pairs very well with their favourite dish.
A mountain vineyard in the Galillee
In an attempt to observe this theory first-hand and indulge in excellent food and wine from the Galilee, I made my way up north to visit several wineries. My initial plan included the Adir and Dalton wineries, both conveniently situated in the Dalton industrial area; the Rimon Winery from Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra; the Lueria Winery from Moshav Safsufa and the Galilee Mountain winery situated on Kibbutz Yiron.
Since every wine and culinary expedition starts by reserving a place to rest your head, I booked a room at the Mitzpe Hayamin resort and got into the car. Driving up the picturesque winding road from the small town of Rosh Pina to the city of Safed, we made a right turn into the luxurious 37-acre Mitzpe Hayamim hotel and spa. For those who haven’t heard of or visited the place, Mitzpe Hayamim is the only Relais & Chateau establishment in Israel, and as one would expect from this exclusive association, is setting high standards all around.
From the classic European chairs and sofas through the impressive wooden armoires, amazing views of the Sea of Galilee and the Hula Valley, impressive artwork and top-of-the-line facilities (sauna, jacuzzis, gym, pool, etc.), it seems that nothing at Mitzpe Hayamim is left to chance.
While sipping herbal tea, we also enjoyed the lovely gardens and comfortable sitting areas, which are scattered throughout the hotel. If you are looking for some pampering, the spa offers a wide variety of treatments that include the use of olive oil and an assortment of local herbs.
Mitzpe Hayamim’s culinary offerings are quite impressive and include the hotel’s dairy and vegetarian restaurant, as well as renowned Israeli chef Haim Tibi’s Muscat restaurant (non-kosher), which is adjacent to the hotel. Both restaurants draw fresh organic produce from Mitzpe Hayamim’s own agricultural grounds, including various kinds of vegetables, herbs, homemade cheese, fruits, chickens, geese, ducks, goats and more. This self-sufficiency is certainly the dream of every chef.
Back to the wine tour, the Galilee wine region stretches southward from the Lebanese border to the Tabor Mountain and is considered one of Israel’s prime wine regions. Characterized by high altitudes, cool breezes and volcanic basalt soil, the Galilee is divided into four sub-regions: Tabor, Lower Galilee, Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights, which in some cases is considered a wine region of its own.
Since I don’t have room for all of my tasting notes, I decided to only include a couple: weighing in at 12.6 per cent alcohol content, the Lueria Rouge 2007 is an interesting medium-bodied blend of Sangiovese, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon showing various red fruits, plums, flowers and a refreshing acidity. The wine should go well with tomato and meat-based pasta dishes.
Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, Adir’s Shiraz 2008 is dark, almost garnet in colour, medium/full-bodied, and opening with generous black fruits and oak followed by eucalyptus, dark chocolate and warm spices.
Another one of my favourites comes from the Galilee Mountain Winery, and over the past few years, it has proven to be a pretty safe bet. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, full bodied, the wine suggests generous aromas of dark berry fruits, fresh herbs and a touch of vanilla. The Yiron blend is very approachable and pairs well with a wide variety of dishes.
Mitzpe Hayamim hosts a culinary and wine festival dedicated to Israel’s female chefs from Aug. 12 to Sept. 16. The impressive participants include Ayelet Latovich, Michal Anski and Mika Sharon and Avivit Priel, who will all be preparing special dishes and hosting culinary workshops.