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Harvest 2015 has begun in Israel!!!

By | February 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|

On a Kosher wine tour into the Judean Hills leaving from Jerusalem, I had the distinct pleasure to be joined by two couples from the tri-state area.  This tour is especially fun for me as it allows for some acute discussion of the biblical period of grape growing and wine production where we travelled back in time.  Grapes have been prevalent in this part of the world since Alexander the Great came storming across the Asian continent and conquered Israel in 332BC.  The legends surrounding this conquest are wrapped in myth, but what we do know is that wine became a central element in the diet of the time along with other controversial elements of Hellenic culture that also followed.  The symposium became a central aspect of wine culture, images of Dionysus appear in mosaics and pottery across the region and most importantly, beer faded into the background as wine took its place of preeminence on center stage.

 

 

Judean Hills

By | February 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|

The Judean Hills are as ideal grape growing terrior now as they were in biblical and hellenic times.  While the Golan Heights has captured the imagination of the premier regional star here in Israel, I’m convinced that the Judean or Jerusalem Hills can stand up to just about any other region across the country.  The terra-rosa soil provides the vines with rich nutrition before they plunge their roots down into the tough limestone soil that forces them to dig for water and as a consequence, develop a ‘rough and tough’ character that allows for a certain quality and richness of berries to emerge.

This tour was especially nice as we had the opportunity to visit the very elite Flam winery and enjoy a cheese and wine pairing that left all with a smile.  In addition to this joyful winery we tasted at two other distinguished sites, enjoying another plate of cheese at Tzora winery where the winemaker, Eran Pick is the only master of wines in the whole of Israel.  While I have passed two of the five levels necessary to earn this distinction, I don’t plan on earning this title anytime soon, as the degree of near-perfection in order to do so is currently beyond my grasp.  Therefore, I will continue to share my love for wine and knowledge of Israel as we begin the harvest and prepare for another season of wine production and creation here in Israel.  With a good amount of rain this year (Thank goodness!!) we should have some delicious wine waiting for us in a few months for the whites and young reds, and for the years to come.

L’chayim, Cheers, to life, love and good wine!!!!

-Amir Katz, My Israel Wine Tours

Kosher Wine and Holy Art in the sacred city of Safed

By | February 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|

Posted on July 30, 2015

No matter how you spell it, whether Tsfat, Safed, or Sfat, this holy city in the Galilee never seems to disappoint our guests at My Israel Wine Tours.  This Kosher tour was a unique opportunity for me to test my knowledge and training as I prepare to take my exams in order to become an official tour guide here in Israel.   Having trained for more than a decade in the world of wine, I was keen for this opportunity to expand my knowledge of my new home and share my passion for wine and food with our guests.

Departing from Haifa, we set out into the Galilee and began our day of winery exploration and art examination.  Our first stop was at my favorite Kosher winery in the area of Mt. Meron, Luria Winery.  Like most of the wineries we visit, this is a boutique winery, producing around 20,000 bottles a year and refusing to compromise quality for quantity.  Named after the great Kaballist rabbi, ‘the Ari’, Yitzhak Luria this stop set the stage for the adventure that awaited us in Safed.  The winery is less than a decade old, yet this family has already made it’s mark on Israel’s growing wine scene, producing a range of whites and reds that will surely make your palate happy.  We chose to only relish in the tasting since our guests were keen to make our way to Safed, but not before trying the delicious Italian grapes of Sangiovese and Barbera that others have tried and failed to make thrive.   With attention to detail and the sloping hills of the surround area where the grapes are grown, Luria has found the secret to making these grapes which have brought fame and fortune to Italy thrive right here in Israel.   Luria also offers visits to the vineyards and the winery in conjunction with the tasting and while this extended tour is something I’ve done with other guests, this time it was all business for these seasoned wine lovers. With Safed on our heart and appointments awaiting, we set out for the rest of our day’s adventure.

Sheva Chaya has been crafting her trade for over a decade as a glass-blower and as an artist for her whole life.  This dedicated artist, mother, wife and Safed resident, originally from Denver, welcomed us into her studio and gave us a wonderful demonstration of  her work and the relationship that the Safed mysticism has had on her art and life in general.  The relationship between glass, fire, and creation took me instantly into the world of glass bottle making which has it’s own rich history in Israel, but that I’ll have to save for a future posting.  Nonetheless, after a wonderful demonstration, of her craft, and the yummy wine in our belly, it was time for lunch.

While I won’t reveal too much regarding the delicacies that awaited us, nor the other sacred wineries that we enjoyed while perusing the charming allies of Safed, I will invite you, readers and future guests to join us for a tour in the Galilee and add Safed to your list of destinations to combine the worlds of art and the art of wine to make for a lovely day in Israel.

Warm regards to all, Amir Katz   host and guide at My Israel Wine Tours

A Half Day Tour from Haifa Yields Smiles and Surprises

By | February 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|

Posted on July 25, 2015

We departed from Haifa for a half-day wine tour with some new friends visiting from the US along with some Haifa locals to join.  As guests and residents of my home, I’m always happy to accommodate smaller group tours and we also offer discounts for tours leaving from here as well to show our appreciation.  Our first stop was with friend and distinguished winemaker, Barak of Somek winery.  The love and passion of this 5th generation winemaker is unquestionable and our guests were taken back with the enthusiasm of this gentleman giant.  This family, boutique winery produces just 13,000 bottles of wine, but don’t let this little number confuse you.  These are some of the most sought after wines in the country and my guests

At Somek with our host, winemaker Barak

were not disappointed whatsoever. Barak crafts 7 different wines, both red, white and rose.  These wines are part of a distinguished lineup that awaited us after having visited this ‘garage operation’.  His work all takes place in the backyard of his home where a traditional basket-press is still the main tool for his delightful undertaking in crafting his delicious wine.

From the garage and barrel room, we enter his new tasting room inside his home where the air conditioning and cool white and rose wine is a welcoming treat for us under the warm Israeli sun.  Barak is a friend and I make a point to visit him on my Carmel wine tours, not only on behalf of my guests, but also so I can pick up a few bottles for my own collection of this delicious, hand-crafted wine, some of my favorite in Israel.  While the wine is not Kosher, I’ll have to wait until after Shabbat to enjoy this  pleasure that I chose not to drink on the Jewish Sabbath, versus the rest of the week when I’ll partake most happily.  We sample from the rose, chardonnay, and a mix of single varietal as well as blended reds.  Somek never seems to disappoint and Barak is always a gracious host, sending us off is style to a lunch date at Tishbi winery, where I worked, running their visitor center upon returning to Israel 3 years ago.

Our time at Tishbi was quite delicious as their restaurant is top notch and the wine tasting is only enhanced by the Valhrona chocolates that they import, complimenting the dark and bold red wines our guests enjoyed with the rich flavor of cacao.  The tasting left us giddy and a little shikkur though your host made sure not to partake for the safety and security of our guests; well, just a tiny sip.  Having worked at the winery, I know well the virtue of this wine and left the enjoyment to our guests who fulfilled their part by tasting, talking, and relishing the fruit of the vine.

With the harvest beginning next week, your host will be splitting his time between the labor of love in the early mornings, picking grapes by hand, and the tours in the afternoons that brings our guests into the wineries, cellars, and vineyards across Israel.  We hope you’ll join us for a tour and come enjoy a day of touring, tasting with us at My Israel Wine Tours.

L’Chayyim,

Amir Katz

Tasting at Tulip Winery in the Galilee

By | February 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|

Posted on May 30, 2015

A small group joined us last week for a half-day tour in the area of Haifa.  It was a wonderful excuse to accompany this reunion of sister living here in Israel and visiting from the US to Tulip Winery in the lower Galilee.  The winery is located in Kfar Tikva (village of hope) within the town of Tivon.  This special community is a personal favorite, not just because of their excellent wine, but because of the story of the winery itself.  The name kfar tikva carries with it a special meaning, in that a large number of the employees at the winery are handicapped.  Rather than reject an otherwise perfectly capable population from the work force, Tulip has been participating for years in a work-service opportunity where people with special needs are able to help and engage in the labor of love to help produce the wines that make this yekev so special.

This was indeed an exceptional day for a wine tour since the summer’s heat had not yet struck us, sending us running for shade and shelter from the heat.  While July and August are just around the corner, and the summer heat will accompany, it’s still cool enough to get out into the vineyards and run around the country chasing after the wineries that we love and love to share with our guests at My Israel Wine Tours.  Our knowledge is expanded with each tour as we learn from our guests and from the different wineries that we visit.

These youngsters were thrilled with the wines that we made available to them on the tour and that we were able to go into just enough detail about how the wines were made so they could learn a little bit about what they were drinking and how it came about.  While it’s of the utmost importance to enjoy your wine tour and we work to make sure this goal is met with every tour, as a former wine-maker and merchant, there are so many layers of background, and complexity that go into making the right wine for the right time that I am so eager to share with our guests.  While I could talk for hours about shaping of barrels, or the different machinery that has developed in the past decades that have revolutionized the industry, I try not to overwhelm my guest and bore them too much.  So while I’ll touch upon these topics gently so our guests can start to develop their own wine experiences, or expand upon previous knowledge, the most important element for us is your enjoyment.

So with that I’ll wish a L’Chayim, cheers, salut and chin chin to all our friends at My Israel Wine Tours and sign off for now.    -Amir

 

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