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Dec 29, 2013 09:46 AM

Israeli wines - are there any worth seeking out?

We're going to Israel in about ten days. We're on a tour and will traveling about. I've read that Israel is making wine but have no idea of the quality. I'd love to know if any of you wine folks have any experience with them. TIA.

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  1. Cabernet Franc made by the Somek Estates Winery. This is one of the best Israeli wines I have ever tasted. It is, unfortunately, very hard to find. The winery is located in Zichron Yaakov, so if you are there, you can tuck in and buy some. I got to know it at Habasta, one of Tel Aviv's best restaurants (Hashomer Street, off Nahalat Benyamin).

    Another wine that I like is Flam Merlot Reserve, although I think that it is overpriced at close to $50 a bottle.

    8 Replies
    1. re: bcc

      Just checked our itinerary and we're visiting a winery in Katzrin in the Golan Heights. I'll be keeping an eye out for your and any other recs. Thanks.

      1. re: c oliver

        How many free meals will you have in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?

        1. re: bcc

          We're on our own two nights in Jerusalem and one in Tel Aviv. We have additional dinners, one each, in each city and aren't averse to breaking away.

          1. re: c oliver

            The level of gastronomy in Jerusalem is about two orders of magnitude behind that in Tel Aviv, That said, I can recommend Chakra in Jerusalem. Other places you might look at are Mona and Bolinat. Zuni is ok for a hamburger, though cresyd turns up her nose at the place. I haven't been to Adom or Cavalier for years, but both impressed me, when I did go, with their lack of finesse.

            Tel Aviv is a different story entirely. If you can, get to Habasta. It is in the middle of the shuk (market) and has an extremely market-driven menu. Another place that is really great is Oasis. You won't have any trouble finding a table at Habasta if you go around 8:00 pm. Later than that it starts to fill up. For Oasis a reservation is necessary (03-620 6022). The place has about 4 tables, is only open in the evenings, but is really superb.

            1. re: bcc

              You're so very kind to tell me about all this. Will make plans accordingly. Thanks, bcc.

              1. re: c oliver

                One more thing. These days it is common to leave a tip of 10% in Israeli restaurants.

                1. re: bcc

                  Current tipping advice is ALWAYS welcome!

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Spent a couple weeks in Jerusalem, was impressed with the food. The service, not so much. Without fail, when they came to serve the dishes they had no idea who ordered what. Interrupted our conversations to help them do their job. I expect that at a Denney's, but any place better than that, it's easy to note on the ticket for anyone who's bringing the food to do it professionally.

    2. Many terrific wines now being made in Israel. Golan Heights Winery has a good tour and a good selection of wines. Ella Valley Winery really terrific wines, very good tour. Ella Valley is in the Judean hills and is the valley where David slew Goliath and wine has been made for 2000 years. Castel makes opulent (and famous wines) but winery visits are hard to come by and not worth it due to the dour and supercilious demeanor of the staff. Make sure you try Clos du Gat's wines: well made and elegant. Dalton is another big winery in the Upper Gallilee, making some good wines (I like their Syrah and their Barbera). Yatir in the northern Negev is also worth looking for.

      Agree that Tel Aviv is a much better food town than Jerusalem but am a big fan of Machne Yehuda restaurant, which is a block away from the market of the same name (which is an awesome market).

      2 Replies
      1. re: chefdilettante

        Sorry to hear that the Castel people are so difficult. Their Chardonnay "C" wine is one of the best Chardonnays I've ever had, kosher or nonkosher.

        1. re: chefdilettante

          Machneyuda, the restaurant, has a good reputation, but the noise levels are atrociously high.

        2. I was just in Israel and was very pleasantly surprised with a several bottles of Flam that we had. There was a blend (Classico) and a I think, a merlot.

          1. Something else to consider...Friday night can be slim pickings for dining. You can't just walk in and eat everywhere. I'm sure Tel Aviv has enough Shabbat options eg the new Ritz Carlton in Herzliya. But I'd plan carefully.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sal_acid

              Just checked the itinerary again and the first Friday will be when we arrive (after 24 hours of travel) and that's just a meet, greet and dinner at the hotel. The second Friday will be spent traveling and touring Nazareth,Haifa and Caesarea en route to Tel Aviv with another dinner at the hotel. We'd never done an escorted tour until Turkey earlier this year. This company gives us VERY full days and sometimes that hotel dinner (in Turkey pretty boring) is about all we were up to. I don't anticipate a problem for us but an important reminder for others. Thanks.

            2. Food and Wine Magazine -- Israel:

              Wineries mentioned: Golan Heights Winery/Yarden, Vitkin Winery, Dalton Winery, and Tulip Winery

              Also, this newspaper has quite a few reviews of good food and wine: It's one I've called upon before:


              Search for winery or wine.

              For example:
              "How Israeli wine caught up to France, Italy and California"

              Register for 10 free articles per month.

              1 Reply
              1. re: maria lorraine

                WOW and WHOA :) That looks great. Wish you were going to be our food and wine guide! Best, C