Festival of Wine and Plenty at Ramat Hanadiv – April 9 & 10
Exciting happenings are afoot! Patience, I’ll get there shortly.
The part of the country I call the Rothschild Region, centered around Zikhron Ya’akov and Binyamina, is the heart of Israel’s modern wine industry. In the late 1800s the Baron Edmond de Rothschild (“The Benefactor”) began importing French rootstock to establish vineyards in this region, and in 1882 he founded Carmel Mizrachi, Israel’s first and largest winery.
If ever there was a place in Israel for a wine festival, this is it. Hundreds of dunams of vineyards, including some of Israel’s oldest and most established, produce over a dozen varieties of grapes in and around the towns and agricultural settlements founded by the Baron. Three of Israel’s largest and most important wineries (Carmel, Tishbi, and Binyamina) and countless boutique wineries are here.
Yet for some reason, there are wonderful wine festivals in the Judean Hills, in the Galil, in the Golan, in Tel-Aviv, in Jerusalem, but none here.
For years I have been discussing this with local winemakers; everyone thought something should be done, but no one quite knew how to go about it. Part of the problem was that the there was no one to champion the cause. The small winemakers were too busy keeping their wineries going and the local councils didn’t take much of an interest. The model to follow is the Judean Hills Wineries Association, which is so successful because of the dedication of the Judean Hills Regional Council.
After moving to Binyamina I thought I’d have a shot at speaking to the local mayors and the head of the regional council to see if I could get something moving. A few months ago we had municipal elections and I figured that talking to the new mayors might help. Just as I was getting ready to do that I got a phone call from Ruti Ben-Israel. Ruti is a licensed sommelier and she managed the visitor’s center at the Carmel Winery in Zikhron for a number of years. Currently she is managing the Shfeya Winery and running a wine education program at the Shfeya youth village. The students work in the vineyards and winery, and learn everything about winemaking from planning, planting, and maintaining vineyards through the harvesting and production processes, and even including marketing of wine – everything except drinking. This marvelous program is funded in part by the sales of Shfeya’s wine.
But I digress. Ruti is a powerhouse with nearly endless enthusiasm and energy, and she had been thinking along exactly the same lines as I. To make a long story short (I guess it’s too late for that), Ruti asked if I wanted to help with the event that she was planning. Of course I agreed without a moment’s hesitation and soon after we met at the Ramat Hanadiv park (can you tell it was a working meeting?), where Ruti told me that she had already managed to secure the cooperation of the park’s management and that they had agreed to host the festival in their beautiful gardens.
Ramat Hanadiv is the perfect venue because the Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife Ada are buried there, and this festival will clearly be a tribute to them, embodying the culmination of their dream.
So far Ruti has met with and recruited the support of the local municipalities and regional councils, the ministry of tourism, the Carmelim Tourism Association, and the “Big Three” area wineries. Many of our local boutique wineries have agreed to participate as well. So, after many years of waiting, I am very pleased to announce the first annual Festival of Wine and Plenty to be held a few days before Pesach on April 9th and 10th in the beautiful Ramat Hanadiv gardens.
The festival will be a central event of the 60th anniversary of the Ramat Hanadiv Park, which was established in memory of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and will mark the 80th anniversary of his death.
If you’ve never been to Ramat Hanadiv, this is certainly a marvelous time for a first visit.
Naturally, the main focus of the festival will be the wine tasting event, which will take place in the main gardens on both evenings from 18:00 to 23:00. The wineries have promised to bring their best wines to the festival and some will even be launching some of their new wines at this event. It goes without saying that you’ll be able to buy the wines at the festival, just in time for the Passover holiday.
At last count, 22 wineries will be participating in the festival, and the list is growing.
|Bat Shlomo (K)||Sadot (K)||Vortman|
Along with the wine, local producers of olive oil, honey, cheese, jams, chocolate, baked goods, and other agricultural products will be offering their wares for sampling and purchase. Here are the ones I know about so far:
|Jacob’s Dairy||Ruach Shtut|
|Hashomron Cheeses||Passionfruit Man|
|Masik Olive Oil||Aunt Bertha’s|
|Yovel Olive Oil|
The Wine Culture shop will also be on hand with their extensive line of wine paraphernalia.
For more serious food, the Mataim restaurant will prepare some special dairy dishes to complement the wines.
I have also just found out that there will be cooking demonstrations by chefs who appeared on the Master Chef program.
The cost of the festival will be NIS 90 at the gate or NIS 80 if you buy tickets in advance. Entry gets you a tasting glass (to keep), a map showing the locations of the participating wineries, and unlimited tastings. To avoid overcrowding and to ensure a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, ticket sales will be limited to 1,500 for each evening of the festival, so I definitely recommend getting tickets in advance.
Earlier on the first day of the festival (April 9th), there will be a by-invitation-only seminar for wine professionals (winemakers, vintners, wine journalists, sommeliers, etc.) led by Yiftah Peretz, chief winemaker of Binyamina Winery, and with the cooperation of the Ministry of Agricultural and the Israel Wine & Grapes Board. I understand that some visiting international wine personalities will be in attendance as well.
During the festival there will also be several short lectures on various wine related subjects, and possibly some special tasting workshops – details to be announced. Since this area has some of the best (if not the best) Carignan vineyards in Israel, I’m hoping for a Carignan seminar with side-by-side blind tastings.
A short walking tour to the Byzantine House at Ramat Hanadiv, with its oil and wine presses, will be led by wine authority Dr. Amos Hadas who will share his in-depth knowledge with visitors to the festival.
For more information, visit the festival’s English Facebook page or the festival pages on the Carmelim and Ramat Hanadiv websites. Israel Preker has also written a Hebrew article about the festival on his very comprehensive Wines Israel website.
And remember to check back here for developments.