Although the skies are slightly opening this week with three countries Israelis can now visit, this comes with many limitations and the big majority of us will not travel abroad in the foreseeable future. This is a good excuse to look for creative ideas for local quality tourism. Some folks dedicate a weeklong “Wine Tour” abroad to Portugal, France, or Italy. Instead, now, take the opportunity and go on a wine journey in Israel.
The wine should be just the excuse to tour wonderful landscapes, visit other culinary delights, historical sites, and round up the day with a picnic at a scenic spot.
Wine tourism or Enotourism by its formal name is a growing tourism segment around the world. For example, just in California, wine tourism generates 7.2 billion dollars annually. In the post-corona era, Israel can and should give more attention to brand itself also as a wine tourism destination. Why not have a “Wine Road” going from the Golan to the Negev with dedicated signposting, branding, and website? For many Israelis and Jews from around the world, Israel is the only country where Kosher observing people can enjoy a wine tour with a wide choice of kosher wines. With a fantastic selection of 300 wineries scattered across the country, a wine tour in Israel could cater to a wide variety of budgets.
Enotourism always goes hand in hand with other agritourism and culinary attractions that already exist exactly in the relevant regions. Microbreweries, Boutique olive oil pressing, homemade special cheese, and rural lodging.
The well-established Golan Heights Wineries were founded in 1983 and produces now around 5 million bottles annually. They are joined by not less than 16 Local wineries, ranging from tiny to mid-size establishment and spread around all the sub-regions of the Golan from north to south. The Golan is a perfect setting for a several days wine tour. Check out local olive oil (Gshur, Katzrin, Givaat Yoav), local beer (Katzrin, Gshur), Local (Natur), Boutique chocolate (Eiz Zivan), Local butcheries (Katzrin, Nov), homemade jam (Kidmat Tzvi). Perfect picnic spots can be found near many of the 160 springs scattered on the Golan.
Three wineries produce over 1 million bottles annually (Tabor, Galil, and Dalton). In addition, there are 37 more local wineries producing each between 5,000 and 50,000 bottles per year. In the Galilee, the list of complimentary culinary attractions such as olive oil presses, boutique cheese, and microbreweries is so long that it would be impossible to list them here. Choose one of the less crowded summits for a picnic with fresh air and a stunning view. A few examples (out of many) can be Keren Naftali, Mount Adir, Mount Tabor, or Mount Atzmon.
With the Golan and Galilee sharing many similar features the Golan wins if you are looking for more tranquility and open spaces, whereas the Galilee takes if you want a bigger variety of attractions, restaurants, and hotels.
Judean Mountains and plains
With Barkan Wineries producing 15 million bottles annually, 5 wineries with more than a million a year, and about 40 tiny to mid-size establishments all located in a relatively small area, the Judean Mountains are by far the densest area when it comes to wineries in Israel. As in the Galilee and the Golan, the area is full of complementary attraction, culinary and others. Plenty of picnic spots in the many KKL forests and small springs.
Opposed to the northern area, in the Judean area distances between the spots is usually short and the whole region lies in the middle of the way between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, making it easily accessible and suitable also for a shorter day tour.
Several wineries have chosen to grow vineyards in the desert challenge. The vineyards are planted mainly in the Negev Highlands (Sde Boker – Mitspe Ramon area), but there are vineyards that are also planted in lower areas. Most of them hide in remote farms and small settlements. A total of 13 boutique wineries producing each several thousands of bottles annually are scattered in the vast spaces of the desert. It might come as a surprise, but the area had been used for agriculture and winemaking for almost 2,000 years. (Some of the vineyards and planted on such spots!). Several of the farms also offer rural lodging and real ecotourism feeling. The tranquil desert atmosphere combined with great food and wine.