I want to update you on the happenings with My Israel Wine Tours since January. I moved back to Boston, MA to be closer to family and establish myself in a career where I can grow as a professional and leader.
My Israel Wine Tours is continuing to conduct wine tours in Israel. I trained wine experts before I left Israel and they are on the ground taking groups to the wineries. Many groups have come through since the end of January and My Israel Wine Tours looks forward to educating groups on the history of Israeli wine, the modern day trends of the Israeli wine industry, and the art and science of wine making.
“They wanted to kill us; we won. Let's eat!” This is the mantra for most Jewish holidays, and Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays, because we eat yummy food and not matzoh - and there are, as Adam Sandler says, “eight crazy nights” of parties with friends and family!
No Jewish celebration is complete without wine. When you plan your Hanukkah party, what Israeli wine will you serve with your Hanukkah cuisine? Here are some perfect pairings for your Hanukkah feasts - or nosh!
Start the evening with some bubbly spirits and Loukoumades (aka Fried Honey Puffs). There are Israeli wineries that make bubbly, such as Tishbi Brut, Gamla Brut, Pelter Blanc de Blancs (not kosher) and lastly, something new and unique on the market: Pombubbly, from Rimon Winery, wine made from pomegranates. I love the Pombubbly for celebration time!
Along with the appetizers, you should include scrumptious Sweet Potato Latkes (my favorite and the recipe is included below) which pairs well with a crisp Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. I suggest the Tzora Neve Ilan 2010 or the Gamla Sauvignon Blanc 2010, because the aroma and flavors of the tropical fruits blend deliciously well with the taste of the sweet potato.
For the main course of traditional Ashkanazi mama’s cooking, you can’t go wrong with a juicy brisket, apple noodle kugle and tzimmes. I hope while you are reading this your mouth is watering and your stomach is screaming to you, “I’m hungry for Hanukkah food!” Since everyone has a different pallet and appreciation for red-dry wine, I would put a variety of red wines on the table for your guests. Here’s the list of my suggestions:
Tzuba Harmony 2010, which is a blend of Sangiovese and Shiraz. This wine is full of red fruits and is a fresh, light red dry wine for those people that do not want a heavy wine. If you cannot find this wine in the States, then look for other Tzuba wines like the Cabernet 2009 or Metsuda 2007.
Amphorae MedRed 2007 (not kosher): a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It is oaked in French barrels for 12 months so it is not overpowering in oak and is well balanced. There are great flavors of berries, mocha and dark chocolate.
Dalton Reserve Shiraz 2009 is a beautiful eggplant color and is a rich powerful wine with a hint of peppery spice and flavors of wild berry and licorice. This wine is for people that love a deep, rich red wine to drink with their juicy brisket.
If you are not sufficiently full, there is always room for desert!
If you live in Israel than you are in sufganiot (donut) heaven during Hanukkah. Every bakery makes a wide variety of flavors, and of course there is always the traditional jelly flavored sufganiot. There is also the famous Krembo that only comes out in the Winter season in Israel. A Krembo is a cookie bottom, marshmallow in the middle and covered with a thin layer of chocolate. With these desserts, I would pair an elegant dessert wine such as the Tzuba late harvest Chardonnay dessert wine or the Odem Mountain Amber dessert wine. Both of these wines have a honey and almond flavor and pair well with any dessert.
Some other boutique Israeli wineries that I would recommend for the other nights of Hanukkah are: Yatir Winery, Ella Valley Winery, Adir Winery, Ramot Neftaly Winery, Naaman Winery, Agur Winery and Vitkin Winery. There are 300 wineries to choose from in Israel and these are just a few of my favorites!
There are many more Israeli red wines that I love and would pair with a tasty Hanukkah meal. Thank goodness there are eight nights of Hanukkah to light the menorah, drink wine, exchange presents with friends and family and eat latkes and sufganiot. L’chaim!
Esther Cohen, a native of Boston, is the Founder of My Israel Wine Tours, a company that has taken over 600 people on wine tours around Israel. She lives in Tel Aviv with her husband.
Sweet Potato Latke Recipe from AllRecipes.com
· 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded · 2 eggs, lightly beaten · 1 tablespoon brown sugar · 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour · 2 teaspoons ground cloves · 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon · 1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
Place sweet potatoes in a colander. Place a paper towel over the potatoes, and squeeze the potatoes to release as much liquid as possible. Let the potatoes sit to release more liquid, then squeeze again.
In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cloves and cinnamon; mix well.
Heat oil in large heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Form mixture into pancake size cakes, and fry in hot oil. Flip cakes after 2 to 3 minutes (when bottom is browned) and brown other side. Drain on paper towels, and serve piping hot!
On September 11th through October 2nd, Jonathan and I enjoyed our honeymoon in Croatia. We rented a small car and drove around the country enjoying the views, hiking, wine, eating, islands, people watching and being cut off from the World for a little bit.
Croatia is in the midst of starting to become a major wine country. It was an ancient wine country and there are wine presses from over 3000 years ago. Croatia went through a civil war from 1991 to 1995 and since then they have revitalized their tourist and wine industry.
We started our jouney up north in the region of Zagorje which borders Slovenia. There were signs for local wineries everywhere! We did not hire a guide but went around by ourselves tasting the mostly white wines of the region. All the local people were very nice, although English was hard to come by. We enjoyed seeing the harvest which was done by local people.
Wine tasting was very easy in this region and we could fill a liter of wine for $3! Wine is a part of the daily culture in Croatia and they are proud of their local varieties and ideal wine climate.
The views from our apartment and when we drove was vineyards for as far as the eye could reach. It was really spectacular.
Our second destination was Istria, which used to be ruled by the Italians so there is a definite influence of Italian food and culture. We stayed in a little town called Bale and drove all over Istria. We went in search for their truffles, olive oil and wine. There was more red wine options in Isrtia and their local variety is Zinfandel, but it is called Plavac, which is said to be native to Croatia.
If you are traveling to Istria, I highly recommend visiting the interior and the coastal town of Rovinj.
We traveled down the Coast of Croatia to the island of RAB, then the old port town of Zadar and the hub of Split. We tasted delicious local wine and food throughout our trip.
We went to the markets and cooked even!
I highly recommend a trip to Croatia...my recommendation is to see it via car and stay at local places, not hotels.
If you would like to see pictures please click here.
The Golan Heights Winery, for the last twenty years, has been one of the most influential wineries in Israel. Having been cited as the winery that sparked the quality wine revolution in Israel, Golan Heights has grown into the third largest producer of wine in the Holy Land but maybe should be rightly known as the largest producer of consistently good wines. Under their flagship label Yarden (Hebrew for “Jordan” as in the Jordan River), this winery has paved the way for Israeli wines into more restaurant’s’ wine lists internationally and more wine magazines than maybe any other Israeli winery. That’s not to say necessarily that they make the best wine in Israel. They might but there’s now plenty of competition to that elusive prize however, the case can easily be made that make more well-respected wine than any other Israeli winery and that for the last 25 years they blazed the trail for many smaller producers by showing the potential for which grapes could make great wines in Israel.
Additionally, Golan Heights under its various labels, may account for the largest selection of varietals being made by one winery in Israel. It’s vineyard locations situated at a wide range of altitudes in Israel’s most northern wine growing region, gives it the flexibility to plant and prosper with a range of grapes that many international wine makers might envy. Visiting their Visitor Center adjacent to their winery in Katzrin, the impressive size of their tasting room rivals that of many smaller wineries complete facilities. It’s takes a large room to display all their labels and when I was last passing through, a bus load of Eastern European tourists easily could work their way around the shelves without overcrowding anyone travelling alone.
On my first visit, I was treated to a tasting of about dozen wines and there was still at least a dozen more that I wanted to try before time constraints and palette fatigue (the bane of any wine writer or critic) convinced me another tasting would have to be in the cards at a future date.
Jonathan (my fiancé) and I traveled to California to visit Jonathan’s parents this past September. We decided to take a nice side-trip to San Francisco, from LA and make our way up the coast and through some wine country. We started our trip in Santa Barbara where we had a delicious brunch with Jonathan’s Uncle Steven and Aunt Phyllis, who gave us a few different pamphlets on wineries in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley.
We traveled through the Santa Ynez Valley and stopped at some beautiful view points, but we decided that the wines in Pasa Robles were the wines we wanted to taste. We got a recommendation from one of Jonathan’s friends to visit Fratelli Perata, a boutique family-owned winery. We fell in love with their wines and atmosphere. The family grew up around vineyards in Italy and wanted to recreate their wine in California. I highly recommend visiting their winery if you are passing through Paso Robles! The wife gave us a tasting of all their wines but by far our favorite was the Mafalda. Words can not explain the deliciousness, fruity flavors and aromas that are in this wine. It is perfect!
Dinner at Sycamor Springs, enjoying our bottle of Fratelli Perata
The next winery we visited was Castoro Cellars, which was a larger winery with a bigger selection. The woman that did the tasting for us was very knowledgeable and sweet. We bought a bottle of their 2006 Cabernet Franc, which was enjoyed at a dinner with friends in Israel to celebrate our return.
Unfortunately we did not have an opportunity to go to other wineries, but the next time we are in California, we will be sure to visit many more.
Hearst Wine collection
If you are ever traveling up the Coastal Road in California, you must stop at the Hearst Castel and take one of their many guided tours! We enjoyed the garden tour which took us into Hearst Wine Cellar. Some of the wine and alcohol were from the 1800's!
Today I visited LOTEM, an Integrated Nature Studies program who are the leading organization in Israel offering field trips, extracurricular activities and creative workshops to people with special needs. Lotem is located in Emek HaShalom near Yoquanam (Carmel Region) that has the only wine press accessible for disabled people. There is also an oil press and by Summer 2010 there will be a bread bakery.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Paula, Amos and Ronit who toured me through the beautiful landscape, the farm and the wine and oil press. From June to October thousands of people take part in making wine the “old fashion way” and enjoy walk along the trails around the hills of the Carmel.
If you are bringing kids on your wine tour, then this is a perfect activity for them…but also for you!
I moved to Israel in June 2008 not knowing what I was going to do in Israel. It turns out, my wine hobby is my career. MIWT coordinates wine tours for tourists and locals around Israel's 300 wineries in 5 regions on a weekly basis. Come join the fun!