Combine DIY eco-tourism with Israel’s new wine industry this Passover: Israel’s Ministry of Tourism offers a website chock full of great ideas. The latest is a biking tour between the vineyards and wineries between Jerusalem and Israel’s Northern Negev.
Although the ministry maps out an itinerary you could follow (which we’ve included here for your reference), the guide can be used as a rough outline for day trips on your bike. While most Israeli wines are not organic *yet*, we’d love to hear about ones that are.
Now for the tour:
Jerusalem to Ramat Raziel
Approx 35 Km.
The oldest documented wineries in Jerusalem existed in the Jewish Quarter of the old city in the time of the Ottoman Empire. Today several wineries produce wine mainly with locally grown grapes.
Leave Jerusalem through the Jerusalem Forest road heading down the hill to Beit Zait. Enter the moshav (agricultural community) and head towards the Zmora Winery, overlooking west to the Jerusalem hills.
From Beit Zait, head to the old road up the hill to Mevaseret Zion. Follow the road passing the Castel Crusader Fort to Kibbutz Tzuba. Inside the Kibbutz you will find the Tzuba Winery, producing wine exclusively from grapes of their own vineyard.
For the end of the day follow road #395 up the hill towards Ramat Raziel. There, high above the Judean Hills, you will find one of Israel’s most well known boutique winery and Vineyard. Castel Winery produces a small selection of red and white wines from their own vines, which are marketed worldwide.
Follow road #395 down towards Ein Kerem and follow road #386 south bound along the Shorek Stream. Climb up the hill to Bar Giora and head to the Sea Horse Winery and Vineyards, making wine from organically grown grapes.
Overnight in the Bar Giora area.
Bar Giora to the Beit Shemesh Area
Approx 30 Km.
The area surrounding the town of Beit Shemesh is home to about 15 wineries. We recommend devoting day two and three to exploring and tasting the wine of this area.
From Bar Giora, head down road #475 which will take you down into the Ella Valley and the Judean Plains. Turn into Kibbutz Nativ Ha’Lamed He and the Ella Valley Winery (and future home to Vertigo’s Eco-Village). Archeologists have found proof that in this very location, wine was made in the times of King David.
You could head to the nearby Agur Winery located in an ancient inn and then follow road #38 towards Beit Shemesh. Enter the Beit Gemal Monastery, where in addition to local honey and olive oil, you will find the Cremisan Winery, with wine made from grapes of the Bethlehem area.
Continue towards Beit Shemesh and turn into Kibbutz Tzora. End your day by visiting one or all of the three wineries of this valley. In Kibbutz Tzora you will find the Tzora Winery made from local grapes.
Also in the Kibbutz you can find the Teperberg 1870 Winery, which is one of the first wineries in the old city of Jerusalem.
At the end of the road you will find the Catholic monastery of Dir Rafaht. Here, between the vineyards and olive groves, the Mony Winery sits atop a small hill overlooking the area (Tel: 02-991-6629).
Overnight in the Tzora-Beit Shemesh area.
Beit Shemesh to Latrun
Approx 35 Km.
Just north of Beit Shemesh, in the junction of #38 and #395, you will find the Flam Winery. This second generation family owned winery is a good place to start the day.
From here, you can head toward Mesilat Zion and pay a visit to the Katz Family Winery (Tel: 02-585-6144) producing fine wines from organically grown grapes.
Head on road #44 toward Latrun, and stop at Kibbutz Harel. In the Kibbutz, on the foundation of an ancient oil press, you will find Clos de Gat Winery.
Keep following road #44 towards Karmey Yosef. The Bravdo Winery is located in the vineyards that supply the grapes for their wine. Also in the moshav, you will find the home of the Har Noy Family, producing wine with their name from grapes they grow on their land, in addition to olive oil (Tel: 08-928-7615).
Head back to road #3 north toward Kibbutz Nahshon, and the Nahshon Winery and visitors center.
From there, continue to Latrun and the magnificent monastery producing wine and olive oil, in a setting unique to the Middle East (Tel: 08-922-0065). Continue on road #3 past the Canada Park toward Modi’in.
Pass the town of Modi’in and end your day with a visit to Kfar Ruth and the winery there . Here, on the ruins of ancient olive presses and wineries, you will find a winery inside its vineyards.
Overnight in the Modi’in area.
Wines on the edge of Tel Aviv
Approx 30 Km.
Follow road #443 west to Moshav Ginaton. Stop into the Ginaton Winery, (Tel: 08-925-4841), and then head north on road #46 towards Kfar Truman and the Natuf Winery, producing wine from grapes grown nearby.
Keep north on #46 to Tirat Yehuda. In the Moshav you will find “Sod Ha Yain” a winery and education center on wine.
Not far from there in Moshav Bnei Atarot, an old Templar colony, Villa Wilhelma produces wine from grapes of the Galilee. They are located in a villa built in the 19th century, where they hold tastings and seminars.
Continue west towards the town of Yahud, where between the houses of this suburb of Tel Aviv, Chillag Winery presses Galilean grapes into fine wine.
Also nearby, in the village of Kfar Azar is the Ben Haim Winery, a family trade started in Romania in the 1880’s.
From there, take road #412 southbound towards Rishon Le-Zion.
Edmond Rothschild founded the Carmel Winery here in 1882. Here, where three different Israeli Prime Ministers were employed (Ben Gurion, Eshkol and Olmert), you will find the largest kosher wine producer in the world, and a cornerstone of Israeli wine. The winery has a visitors center and museum telling the story of the Jewish people in Israel, through the story of its wine.
Overnight in the Rishon Le-Zion area.
Rehovot, Hulda, Gedera and Gan Yavne
Approx 45 Km.
Take road #412 south through the town of Nes Ziona to Rehovot, home to some of the largest research centers in the country. Pass the town and follow road #40 to Gani Yohanan, the home of Ra’anan Margaliot (Tel:08-866-0539). Here in his back yard Ra’anan has converted a few old sheds into a boutique winery.
Head back to road #40 and turn south, and then east on road # 411 to Kibbutz Hulda. In this collective community you will find two of Israel’s best known wineries. Barkan Winery, bringing grapes from about forty different vineyards, has a visitors center demonstrating the process.
On the same property, yet independent, is the Segal Winery (Hebrew), founded by the Segal family in Russia in 1787, and reestablished in Israel in 1957.
Follow #411 to road #3 and head southwest. Turn right into Hafetz Haim and follow the road to Gedera. Here, where pioneers of BILU founded a Jewish colony in the turn of the last century, you will find the Winery of Itzik Zauberman. Itzik, who has retired from the world of business, devotes his time to making high quality wine in his home.
Cross the main road of Gedera (road #40) and head into the Gderot area. The road will take you to Meisher, and the Meisher Winery. This family-run winery and vineyard was one of the first boutique wineries that started the wine boom in the 1990’s.
To end the day, head to Gan Yavne; south on road #40 to the Gedera junction, then west following the signs to Gan Yavne. Here the Kfir family turned a hobby into a family activity. Kfir Wines (Hebrew)) produce different types of wine every year, depending on the years harvest.
Lodging is available in the port town of Ashdod, in Gedera and in several of the communities in between.
Day Six and Seven
The Northern Negev- Vines in the desert
Approx 60 Km.
There are a few vineyards and wineries in the Northern Negev, yet the distance is somewhat longer. Therefore, we recommend two days for the following, while lodging in one of the Kibbutzim along the way.
Follow the back roads leading from Gan Yavne to Shtulim and Be’er Tuvia. From there, follow road #3 west to road #230 south. Pass Kibbutz Negba, and the museum of Jewish settlement in the Negev, while continuing south to the Yoav Hot Springs. From there, turn east on road #35 to road #352 south to Moshav Shahar. Here you will find the Ramim Winery (Tel:08-660-2093), founded by two cousins who left the world of high-tech and now devote their time to wine. The grapes are brought from vineyards on the Lebanon border.
Also in Shahar, you will find La Tierra Promessa Winery (Tel:08-684-9093), built and run by an Italian chef who decided to follow his heart to the Negev. In addition to wine, you can find different liquors and fine Italian food.
Leave the Moshav and follow road #352 south crossing the rolling hills of the Northern Negev. Enter Kibbutz Bror Hail and head to the Ben Shushan Winery (Tel:08-680-3321). Using grapes grown on ancient Nabataean ground in the Negev and from the upper Galilee.
After Bror Hail, Keep heading south on road #232 towards Sderot. Pass the town and continue on #34 to Yachini. Turn left and follow the roads leading you to Nir Moshe and Nir Akiva. Here, in Nir Akiva, the Galai family founded the winery with their name (08-993-3713). Fulfilling a dream of leaving the big city, Sigalit and Asaf press wine from grapes they grow themselves, producing estate wine from a single vineyard. Lodging is available in several Kibbutzim in the area, in addition to the nearby city of Be’er Sheba.
Get thee a bike, and a few wine-loving friends and you’ll be good to roll. Just be careful not to load up on sampling until the last stop!
(image credit: meandmybadself)