Wednesday, March 2, 2011
It was a beautiful sunny March day - about 23 C - so we decided to try a wine and cheese combination in the nearby Sharon Valley in central Israel.
Our first stop was Jacob's Dairy - a dairy farm featuring cow, goat and sheep products. The Dairy is a family run dairy, originally established in 1936. It is located in K'far Haroeh - about 20 minutes north of Ra'anana, right off of Highway 4 - at the Haroeh Intersection.
The store offers a wide variety of cheeses for tasting. We sampled some goat camembert, sheep roquefort, and a few other specialty cheeses. The dairy sells these cheeses by weight along with cream cheese products, yoghurts and some fruit and nut spreads. The cheeses were delicious.
The dairy shares the premises with Agadat HaLechem - the "Bread Legend" - which produces a fine selection of oven fresh breads and rolls, emphasizing whole grain and multi-grain products. Perfect accompaniment for the cheeses...
Jacob's Dairy is an ideal starting place for a wine and cheese trip - or to gather some of the ingredients for a picnic at one of the nearby hotspots in the Sharon Valley. www.jacobsdairy.co.il. K'Far Haroe, Hefer Valley. All of the products are Kosher.
From the dairy, it is about a five minute drive - one intersection north on Highway 4 - to get to the Recanati Winery. The signs to the winery are not well marked. The Visitors Center does not look like it has been set up to attract a high volume of traffic. The main winery sign is obscured - and entry to the center is by way of intercom buzzer.
However - Recanati produces some great wines. Established in 2000, Recanati is a growing winery that has been making highly acclaimed wines. The winery is rated as a four star winery by Israeli wine critic Daniel Rogov, signifying consistently high quality wines. It currently produces more than 900,000 bottles of wine a year and continues to grow.
At the visitors center, we were greeted by a friendly host who was happy to offer freshly opened samples of almost anything we wanted. We tasted the winery's high end wine - the Special Reserve 2007 - a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We also tried a number of 2008 Reserve wines including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Syrah-Zinfandel blend. All of the wines were quite good - though we particularly enjoyed the Cab Franc and the Cab Sauvignon.
The winery does not offer spectacular deals - the prices were competitive with specialty wine stores and other Israeli wine sellers - with only a 5% discount offered for purchases of 6 bottles or more. In fact, some of the wines are much cheaper at the Israeli duty free shop at the Ben Gurion Airport - which typically runs a "buy 3 get 1 free" special. Of course, that doesn't help much if you are limited to two bottles at your destination. Israeli residents are able to buy 4 - take two along - and leave 2 at the duty free shop for pick up on return.
The Recanati Winery is located at 217 Gesher Haetz Street in Emek Hefer, Israel. www.recanati-winery.co.il. The wines are all Kosher - though mainly not Mevushal - for those who might be concerned. Generally, quite a number of Israeli wines are produced under Kosher supervision though very few of the higher calibre wines are Mevushal - a par-boiling process that renders them fit for broader use within the very observant community.
These two stops can provide all the necessary ingredients for a great picnic - bread, cheese, spreads, great wine - all that is missing are some of the great fruit that are readily available at small booths along the way.