Ruti Ben Israel is a passionate advocate of all things wine. Trained as a sommelier in Italy, Israeli born Ruti returned to Israel with a mission to put Israeli wines on the map of international wine connoisseurs. She spent a few years as the manager of the Center for Wine Culture at the Carmel Winery, Israel’s largest winery situated in Zichron Ya’acov, before becoming an independent consultant for boutique wineries in the Carmelim region encompassing Zichron Ya’acov and the surrounding towns and the southern foothills of Mt. Carmel.
Recently, Ruti transitioned into the role of the manager of the Shfeya Winery which at its core involves residents of the Shfeya Youth Village as apprentices throughout the winery in almost every facet of winemaking and viticulture although those underage of course can’t drink they still find the opportunity engaging and Ruti’s personality and dedication are a big reason why.
As part of promoting Israeli wines, Ruti has been a vocal and active advocate of promoting the different wine appellations in Israel. With the Carmelim region which encompasses Shfeya (and her former employer Carmel and dozens of other wineries) Ruti was the driving force and organizer this year of the Carmelim’s ‘s first wine festival, Ramat Hanadiv’s Wine & Plenty Festival. Located in a pacific nature reserve about 1 hour north of Tel Aviv, the festival featured over 60 wines from 22 wineries from Israel’s most tourist friendly wine region that hosts a large concentration of wineries often within walking distance to each other where many live in the houses of their ancestor’s that came here 130 years ago to tend to then the first international grape varietals brought to Israel.
The Ramat Hanadiv Festival attracted over 2,000 guests over two evenings which for its first year is a resounding success for a festival outside of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa. Guests were treated not only to an opportunity to taste from the region’s largest commercial wineries: Carmel, Binyamina, Tishbi and Recanati (who all make a million or more bottles) but it gave many smaller wineries an evening for them to pour for a larger and more diversified crowd than their smaller wineries often making about 10,000 bottles of year attract on their own. One of Ruti’s goals was to show that it’s not only the larger wineries that wine lovers should be seeking out but the boutiques and garagistas in this region often have made memorable wines which in smaller batches often lend themselves to presenting what unique about the region terroir.
Local cheeses, extra virgin olive oils and chocolates also enhanced the gourmet experience with Ruti’s husband, Benny Ben Israel acting as the festival’s culinary advisor, Benny and a few former Master Chef contestants presented cooking and wine pairing demonstrations in concert with the Carmel Winery. Benny is a guide for culinary trips from Israel to Italy and he designed several street food selections that were well received at the festival and they attracted a long line of interested diners that often returned for more of the same.
The Margalit Winery and the Cave both presented VIP tastings within the festival in a private room and some traveled hours to partake of these hard to find these boutique wines appearing on the pages of many of Israel’s best restaurant’s wine lists.
Ruti was encouraged by the turnout at the festival, the enthusiasm of the guests and the expressed satisfaction of participating wineries.. So, it looks like next spring Ruti will bring this great tasting opportunity back for a return engagement and though little if anything seemed lacking, rest assured Ruti won’t rest on her laurels and will be dedicated to seeing that the next festival is even bigger and better