By Victoria Hart
Technology meets tradition at Jezreel Valley Winery on Kibbutz Hanaton in Israel. An unorthodox approach to a unique blend of varietals and best practices in winemaking is creating award-winning wines, which also happen to be kosher, demonstrating the owners’ love of the land of Israel. This is Israel’s first start-up boutique winery, amongst an estimated 300 wineries currently operating in Israel.
Established in 2012, the winery is currently selling their 2013 and 2014 production. The first production yielded 15,000 bottles, the second 25,000 and the third 50,000. These ambitious winemakers have a goal of increasing production up to 250,000 bottles per year. Decreasing production time has been a major strategy. Whites are typically ready to bottle in nine months and reds, just 18-20 months. A unique red blend of Carignan, Argaman and Syrah is a signature product at Jezreel. The Levanim, a blend of Chardonnay, Colombard, and Gewürztraminer is a highlighted white offering. The Jezreel Red Blend 2012 took the Silver Medal at the Teravino International Wine Competition.
Winemaker Ari Erle uses mostly Mediterranean grapes, creating elegant, well-balanced wine suitable to the hot Israeli climate. He has a viticulture degree from Napa Valley College and trained in Napa before taking his knowledge to Israel.
Co-founder and CEO Yehuda Nahar brings to the business a certificate in winemaking from Tel-Hai College in Israel. He is responsible for the winemaking process from vineyard to bottle.
Co-founder and Chairman Jacob Ner-David is a successful entrepreneur in technology-based start-ups who, together with Yehuda, made a dream come true by infusing out of the box thinking into the DNA of the winery. Raised in the United States, he now makes his home on Kibbutz Hanaton along with his wife, Rabbi Haviva Ner-David and their seven children. Ner-David implemented a crowd funding effort to raise start up funds for this venture. The Ner-David family graciously hosted my group’s visit to Hanaton.
Guided tours are available Sunday-Thursday from 9 am-3 pm, and on Fridays with a reservation. The winery is closed on Saturdays for Shabbat. Visiting wineries isn’t the first reason most travelers visit Israel, but visiting a state of the art operation on an active kibbutz is a wonderful way to experience today’s Israel, and a compliment to the rich religious, historic and cultural reasons that drive most visitors to this region.
If a visit to Israel is not in your immediate future, but the allure of well made, uniquely blended kosher wines is appealing, the international online wine shop allows customers to purchase and ship wine to Israel, the United States, or Europe, purchasing in the respective currency of each region. Joining the Jezreel wine club means exclusive offers, updates on sales and special events, and a continuous supply of kosher wines.
Supporting the hard working people of Israel does not have to be political. Purchasing wine produced in the lower Galilee region of the Jezreel Valley from varietals not often available in the United States is a simple and beautiful way to honor the Holy Land.