Time is ripe for Israel wine

By Karen Loftus
Mizpe HayamimFor centuries, wine has gone in and out of fashion and favor in Israel, where it has a long and storied history.

In biblical times it was referred to as the fruit of the vine. It was forbidden during the Islamic conquest, brought back with Christian crusaders and exported to Rome during Roman times until indigenous grape varieties were virtually wiped out again under Islamic rule. A rabbi in the early 19th century resurrected a modern winery, which didn't last long.

Leave it to a Frenchman to bring it back in fashion. French Baron Edmond de Rothschild of the Bordeaux estate, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, brought over several varieties of grapes in the late 19th century and planted them in Israel's Carmel Mountains.

The ancient art of winemaking was resurrected, but it was years before it was refined.

Kosher wines were long known for quantity, not quality, and were more about being kosher than being great wines. That has since changed.
The sophisticated side of the modern wine phenomena started up again as recently as the early 1990s.

There are now six prominent wine regions throughout the country, with production ranging from boutique to Titanic wineries producing as many as 10 million bottles per year.

Carmel Winery, Domaine de Castel and Golan Winery make up approximately 80% of the business.

One smaller, yet important Israeli winery is Tishbi Vineyards in the Carmel Mountains. The winery is producing French-style kosher wines under Golan Tishbi, a fifth-generation winemaker.

Tishbi is one winery behind the recent agritourism boom, which means there's more to do there than buy a bottle.

Make a day of it by taking a tour and enjoying some of their home-baked breads, cheeses and preserves in their casual homespun restaurant and ambient outdoor patio. For more information, visit www.tishbi.com.
 
To dip deeper into local agritourism, grab a Tishbi Late Harvest riesling, a muscat or something from the Sde Boker Winery and head to Mizpe Hayamim, a Relais & Chateaux hotel in nearby Rosh Pinna. Soak in your tub or sit on your balcony and take in the panoramic views of the Hermon Mountains, Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. Visit www.mizpe-hayamim.com.

Head to dinner at their Muscat Restaurant, which celebrates the local and sustainable with produce, pastries, cheeses, meats and spirits all sourced and made on site.

It's both healthy and hedonistic and a great way to pair local wines with their thriving local cuisine.
 
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