Sipping and sharing wine plays a big part in many religions. So to go wine tasting near Jerusalem, perhaps drinking from the same vines that produced wine in biblical times, had more historical significance than your average day at the vineyard. Three friends and I went to a few vineyards in the Ella Valley and the Judean Hills, about a half hour drive from the old city of Jerusalem and less than an hour from Tel Aviv. One we visited, Tzora Vineyards, was larger and more commercial. Another was on a kibbutz.
My favorite, Zafririm Winery, one was on a Moshav-- which is a sort of commune in which families do their own thing. After following a few handmade signs in Hebrew directing us down a dirt road toward a mini winery, we found a family of four working away in a wine cellar-- I think they said they only produced six barrels. They invited us in for some of the best wine we tasted that day-- blends of different grapes creating something like a Bordeuax. We bought a few cherished bottles and spoke with the mother while her husband and sons made wine behind us.
Our last stop, Hans Sternbach Vineyard ,was at a little winery where a man offered us a (way too long) tour with tasting for $10. Despite the length, it was one of the prettiest places to sit- under a canopy of vines, looking out onto the hills of Judea.. a perfect place to end the afternoon.
The Judean Hills:
Behind the Zafririm Winery is an olive grove and a vineyard:
Making Wine at Zafririm:
Hans Sternbach's stunning view: