If you can think of a more delightful way to while away a morning than tasting wine against the backdrop of a gorgeous vineyard, please do write in. But in the meanwhile, let us clue you in on what has become many Israelis’ favorite weekend activity.
Recent years have seen Israel’s ever-evolving wine industry become much larger, much better known and much more approachable. Many wineries now offer year-round tours, tastings, picnic baskets and even overnight accommodations.
Here are our top recommendations for great wines and a fun experience, conveniently listed in geographical order for planning your next trip. Just make sure to book ahead!
Located in the very northern Kibbutz Ein Zivan in the Golan Heights, Pelter Winery has gained popularity for its great offering of reds, whites and a truly perfect rosé, as well as spirits such as arak, gin, apple brandy and date brandy.
The Pelter visitor center is open daily, and you can taste whatever is on offer and buy a glass or bottle alongside some cheese and snacks. Tours of the winery are generally available on weekdays. On weekends, there’s a food stall with a changing menu onsite.
The Golan Heights Winery is singlehandedly responsible for the wine revolution in Israel over the past 40 years. Established by eight small northern communities back in 1983, it veered Israeli winemaking away from sweet kiddush wine and brought a wine-drinking culture to the country.
The winery offers four different experiences – tastings at its visitor center, a tour of the vineyards (complete with an alfresco picnic), a tour (and tasting) in the winery itself and a VIP guided tour for serious aficionados.
Binyamina Winery is one of Israel’s oldest, established in 1952. Its current location in the Haifa district is an impressive building that used to house a perfume factory. Visitors can learn all about its history, early Zionism and the winemaking process.
The tour takes visitors through the barrel room, fermentation tanks and the cool cellar, and ends with a tasting of three wines and a liqueur. The winery is super popular, so book well in advance.
A relatively new winery established in 2015 by third-generation farmers on Moshav Neve Yarak in the Sharon region, using grapes grown onsite, Neve Yarak quickly became a favorite among wine lovers and restaurants with high-end wine menus.
The winery offers weekend tastings that include five wines, cheeses, breads and vegetables. Our
Seahorse Winery in the Judean Hills is one of the country’s best boutique wineries, offering a wide range of fabulous wines that can be found in top restaurants and bars.
Tastings here are only about wine, with no cheese platters or comfortable outdoor seating in sight. Visitors get detailed explanations of the winemaking process and the vineyards, as well as generous tastings of excellent wines and the opportunity to stock up.
Sphera Winey in the Ella Valley makes only white wine, and exquisite white wine at that. It’s run by a husband-and-wife team and is famous for its delicate and minimalist wines. Sphera offers an onsite “White Tasting” accompanied by a food platter loaded with goodies from the area. A very chic morning awaits you here.
Sphera and the next three listings comprise the “Judean Hills Quartet” of wineries integral to any mention of premium wines in Israel. The Judean Hills, Israel’s version of Tuscany, boast a rich winemaking history.
Tzora Vineyards in Kibbutz Tzora in the Judean Hills is one of Israel’s most veteran and celebrated wineries, known for its emphasis on terroir and grape varieties. Its guided wine tastings offer a sneak peek at its famous top-range offerings, all in a lovely setting conveniently located midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
8. Flam Winery
The much-celebrated Flam Winery in the picturesque Judean Hills, is owned and operated by the Flam family, and makes wine out of locally grown grapes. On weekdays you can enjoy guided tastings, while on Fridays, which are always packed, you just drink up. In either case, you can also purchase more wine, crackers and cheeses, sit back on the gorgeous balcony and enjoy life.
The Castel winery just outside Jerusalem is famous for its great wines, great wine tastings and, in recent years, lovely picnic baskets. The family-owned winery has a wide range of wonderful wines at different price points to enjoy. On weekdays you can get a guided tour and tasting or just a wine tasting, while on Fridays the winery welcomes you to the patio for a bottle or two alongside other revellers.
10. Clos de Gat
Located near Tzora in Kibbutz Harel, Clos de Gat is one of Israel’s most upmarket wineries. You will hear about the history of the winery in the visitor center before continuing to the winery itself for a guided tour and explanation of the winemaking process. Then it’s back to the visitor center for a generous tasting of five wines and the opportunity to buy some more. All of this is carried out against the backdrop of the vineyards, making for a beautiful experience.
11. Nana Winery
The desert isn’t the most obvious choice of places to grow grapes and make wine, but as the wines of Nana Winery demonstrate, it works just great. Located at the heart of the Negev Desert in Mitzpeh Ramon, Nana uses grapes grown in the mineral-rich loess soil.
Visitors can enjoy all this at the visitor center that offers tastings as well as the opportunity to buy wine and snacks to go picnicking in the desert. Those not inclined to drive home afterward can book the vineyard’s unique luxury cabin built from a missile carrier.
This family-owned winery in the southwest Negev offers generous wine tastings (six different wines!) as well as a video telling the story of the winery and, when possible, a tour of the barrel rooms and containers. The wines nurtured in unique desert conditions – hot days, cold nights, isolation from pests and more – offer a different and wholesome Israeli experience.