Stretching from the mountains surrounding Beit Shemesh, just north of Jerusalem, to the Yatir Forest in the south, the Judean Hills is considered one of Israel’s top wine regions.
Conditions vary from vineyard to vineyard within a region, but every wine region is characterized by a unique “terroir,” which refers to the combination of the micro-climate, soil type, topography and other factors that influence the vines and the grapes and consequently affect the wine as well.
Due to the hilly topography and relatively high altitudes – 500 to 1,000 metres above sea level – many vineyards in the Judean Hills are planted on terraces and mountain slopes, enjoying warm temperatures during the day and cool breezes at night.
Over the past 20 years many new players have become part of the Judean Hills wine industry, and today the region is home to some of Israel’s top boutique and medium-sized wineries, which are recognized by wine critics across the globe.
A few years ago, owners, local municipalities and winemakers partnered to establish the Judean Hills Wine Club, which promotes Israeli wine culture and wine-related tourism.
During October, the wine club participates in a regional tourism campaign, which includes putting on the Judean Hills Wine Festival. The festival features culinary events, tasting sessions, organized nature hikes and vineyard tours. The festival will reach its climax at a wine-tasting festival held on Oct. 28 and 29 at Leilot Can’an in Kibbutz Tzora (adjacent to Beit Shemesh), a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem and approximately 25 to 30 minutes from Tel Aviv.
The event offers wine aficionados a chance to meet the people behind the wines and sample the wines of more than 20 local wineries. Participating wineries include Ben Hanna Winery, Bravdo, Hans Sternbach, Teperberg, Domaine du Castel, Mony (Canadian winemaker Sam Soroka recently joined this winery), Flam, Katlav, Suson Yam, Yehuda Winery, Agur, Tzora and others.
A couple of years ago, the wine club established and marked 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, visiting wineries and sampling their offerings. Since public transportation in the area is limited, it is advised to rent a car for the day and head out to the wineries.
Please note that many of the smaller wineries do not have regular visiting hours and making a reservation is advised. Of course, kosher wineries are closed on Saturdays and close early on Fridays.
This year, the organizers have decided to break the record for the largest toast (haramat kosit) in the country, which is scheduled for Oct. 29.
Visit http://touryoav-wine.org.il/ for more information.