Showing posts with label Israeli wines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Israeli wines. Show all posts

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sukkot 2014 and Tulip Winery

There is little doubt that the holiday of Sukkot is about the best time to be in Israel, whether as a visitor or a resident Israeli.  Known in Hebrew is "z'man simchateinu" - "the time of our happiness," Sukkot is really quite a special holiday.

There are festivals across the country geared to a whole range of different demographic groups, from children's music to wine and beer festivals.  A quick glance at the newspaper shows a Yemenite Culture festival in one city (B'nei Ayish), a wine and beer festival in Ashdod, an Uzi Hittman sing-a-long event in Tel-Aviv and many other events in towns and cities all over Israel.  Many are free, city sponsored events.  For example, Israeli singer Eli Botner performed a free concert at the city centre stage (Yad L'Banim) in Ra'anana last night.  We dropped in to watch some of it.

Students of all ages have lengthy school breaks.  Many go on camping or hiking trips with different youth movements.  Two of our children participate in Noam (the youth movement affiliated with Conservative Judaism - "Masorti" in Israel).  This year, they are on a two day trip to the Negev - camping, hiking along or through rivers and enjoying the outdoors - in terrific weather conditions.

Before the tiyulim began, we managed to squeeze in a five family sukkah hop starting on shabbat afternoon, which was quite fun.  Each family was charged with preparing one course of the meal.  All of the sukkot were located in Ra'anana though in some cases the walk from one sukkah to the next was more than a half hour.  While many families try to put these events together in other countries, the conditions are often less than ideal.  (We once spent the night in our Sukkah in Toronto when it was close to 0 C).  Here in Israel, the weather was perfect for this type of event. The families were close enough to each other to allow for walking from one place to the next and the atmosphere all over Ra'anana was quite conducive to this type of celebration.  As we walked from stop to stop, we passed by hundreds of sukkot all over the city.

During Sukkot, many people also travel to other places around the country for visits to all kinds of different attractions, including national parks, wineries, nature reserves and other tourist spots.  We decided to visit the Tulip Winery yesterday.  Tulip is in Kiryat Tivon, about an hour north of Ra'anana.

Tulip is one of my favourite Israeli wine producers.  It was founded in 2003 by the Yitzhaki family. The winery was built in Kfar Tikvah ( the "village of hope"), a community for special needs adults.  The winery employs many residents of Kfar Tikvah and helps integrate them into the community.  Tulip has an annual production of approximately 220,000 bottles.   The Tulip visitor centre also features a range of products that were made by Kfar Tikvah residents. 

Tulip Winery
The visitor centre staff were knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.  They were also quite generous with tasting samples of a whole range of Tulip wines.  Almost all of the wines we tasted were delicious.  Starting with a white wine, White Franc, we worked our way through a tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Cabernet, Reserve Shiraz, Mostly Cabernet Franc and two of the winery's finest blended wines including a special anniversary edition called "DNA 2011."  All of the wines were quite good.  The visitor centre was featuring a "buy three get one free" promotion, so we picked out four interesting bottles.  The prices ranged from 60 N.I.S.-100 N.I.S. for most of the wines (about $20 to $30) to 210 N.I.S. for the DNA 2011 (about $65).  We were tempted, but decided not to take a bottle of the DNA.

Tulip does not offer a daily tour though arrangements can be made in advance for groups.  But the winery really does offer a unique mix of social responsibility and excellent wine, which makes it a very highly regarded and popular institution and one that seems to me to deserve support.  The wine is certified kosher by the circle K organization as well as several Israeli kashruth authorities.  (The story of the process the winery underwent to receive kosher certification in a fascinating story by itself but one for another time). 

The holiday of Sukkot continues for two more days in Israel before culminating with the joyous festival of Simchat Torah.  That will bring the holiday season to a close as well as the annual cycle of Torah reading.  Sukkot marks the official start of rainy season in Israel (in theory, at least), just after harvest season ends. 

So we have two more days to enjoy eating meals in the Sukkah, waving the lulav and etrog and, of course, sharing the appropriate mid-Sukkot greeting - "mo'adim l'simchah" -  (Times of happiness), to which the little known but proper response is "chaggim u'zmanim l'sasson" (Festivals and times of joy). 

A happy and healthy new year to all and - "moadim l'simcha"...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Israeli Kosher Wine Festival - Jerusalem - Jan 30 and 31, 2012

I attended a Kosher Israeli wine festival in Jerusalem on January 30, 2012. It was touted as the first entirely Kosher wine festival in Israel. Although there are more than 250 wineries in Israel, many are not certified as Kosher. As a result, most Israeli wine festivals feature a mixture of Kosher certified and non-Kosher certified wines. There are very high quality Israeli wineries in both categories, though all of Israel’s largest wineries have Kosher certification. Often it is seen as too expensive for the smaller wineries to make arrangements to get official certification.

The festival was held at Binyanei Ha-umah – the Jerusalem International Convention Centre. Running from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. for two days, the exhibition featured booths from more than 30 wineries, all Israeli. With a relatively modest admission fee of approximately $20 (or $10 in advance) guests were given a Spiegelau red wine glass (that they could keep afterwards). We are able to wander around tasting 2 to 5 wines from each of the different represented wineries. It is of course crucial to either take public transit to this kind of event or spit out most of the wine. We opted for the former, since the location was right next to the Central Jerusalem bus station and I would hate to have to spit out all of that tasty wine.

Most of the wineries were not hesitant to provide tasting samples of some of their best wines. For example, Recanati was offering tastes of its award winning “Special Reserve” that sells for approximately $50 a bottle. Golan, Dalton, Carmel and others were also pouring some very nice wines.

I particularly enjoyed visiting with the folks from Ben Haim and Sagol wineries and sampling some of the delicious wines while chatting with the friendly vintners. Ben Haim was pouring a 2003 reserve Merlot…which was quite enjoyable.

One winery, Rimon, was offering sweet dessert and port style pomegranate wines. I have had Rimon’s dry pomegranate wine and quite enjoyed it. These dessert wines were a bit too sweet for my general consumption.

Wines were available for purchase at a discount, with a larger discount being offered for much larger purchases. There were also some food booths outside the exhibition centre including sushi, bread and cheese plates, and some other offerings.

The crowd was interesting. Since this was a Kosher festival, it drew a wide range of guests from the secular to the religious and even ultra-religious, all of whom were able to enjoy the same wine.

I won’t write extensively now about the real differences between Kosher certified and non-Kosher certified wine but we did witness an incident at one of the booths. An observant Orthodox woman reached over to pick up and look at a bottle of wine. The Mashgiach at the booth announced that since she had touched the bottle, he had to declare it “traif” and could no longer serve at. I won’t get into all the details of this now, though there actually were some women at some of the booths serving wine.

Overall, the facility was very nicely arranged and the booths were quite attractive. We enjoyed it quite a bit, though to quote one of my favourite cousins, I was probably somewhat “overserved.”