45 minutes away from Tel Aviv lies the beautiful Baron de Rothschild’s settlements: Zichron Ya’acov, Binyamina-Givat Ada, Emek Alona and Emek Hefer. The map of this region is tightly embroidered with farms, wineries, olive groves and orchards, not to mention gorgeous hiking, and biking trails and nature reserves.
Ramat HaNadiv Park in Zichron Ya’acov is a natural gem dedicated to the memory of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, whose family was the largest benefactor of Israel since before the State was declared. He founded industries ranging from scent factories and glass works, to wine cellars and bottle manufacturers. As a tribute to Baron Rothschild and a way to demonstrate the outcome of his vision, local producers such as small family businesses and boutiques got together to showcase their creations in Ramat HaNadiv.
This spring wine festival, curated by Ruti Ben Israel, sommelier and proprietor of ‘Wine and Plenty’, is a complete sensory experience for the guests.
The venue is a beautiful garden featuring a wine-related art exhibit called Full-Bodied, curated by Aya Bernhard-Ravsky. Visitors can feast their eyes on interesting art, and the beautiful aesthetic of the park.
The festival also features live music by Lay Z Gordon Starting Five, which will accompany the wine tasting activities and add to the event’s ambiance.
Fresh green grass, the park’s beautiful flowers and teasing smells waft from each booth, be it a winery, a cheese farm or an olive oil maker. The air Is saturated with exotic scenets like passion fruit liqueur or spa-quality creams made with wine, as well as delicious street food and samples of exquisite offerings from the regional kitchens.
Sandwiched in between the wine booths are many types of olive oil, spreads, cheeses, chocolates and even strawberries! Each round of wine tasting can be complemented with these delicious food offerings, and wine lovers’ taste buds will be cleansed and ready to experience some more wine. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah are prevalent, but so is Carignan, which although not very common in Israel, is apparently grown mainly in this area.
Three winemakers in particular deserve special mention:
Eyal Winery opened in 2008. ‘The wine-making business is actually a side business for my family,’ explains Eyal Ohayon, the owner. ‘My father and his father have been growing grapes for many years for sale to other wineries, but our family always made our own wine as well.’ The winery is now certified kosher, and makes about 7,000 bottles a year.
Argov Winery produces about 3,000 bottles a year. Its Petite Sirah from the 2013 variety won a prestigious Terravino award earlier this year for the Best Israeli Home Winery.
Shfeya Boarding School
Shfeya Boarding School offers winemaking as one of its trades at the school. Made by high school students at the Meir Shfeya local boarding school, their special wines come in two varieties: Merlot and the Merlot Carignan blend. ‘Many of our students are new immigrants, who come to Israel on special programs for teenagers’ said Georgiy, who is a new immigrant from Georgia.
The festival of the senses starts from the moment the guests receive their own slick branded festival glass. The touch of cold glass is followed by the texture of finger foods, soft cheeses, breads and olive oil gently dripping on the fingertips, or the brush of a stranger’s shoulder at the booth. The wine festival romance envelops guests with a special kind of buzz. It is an unforgettable evening.
The Festival of Wine and Plenty will return to Ramat HaNadiv next year. Until then, the next unique wine festival will begin in mid-May and continue every weekend from May 12 to June 13 in Ramot Naftali, where four local wineries create an unforgettable experience through their signature parties, including a rock cover band, a salsa dance party, a bluegrass experience and a chill, social, mingling event.