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Geography of Israel: Tzora Vineyards

Tzora Vineyards opened their newly renovated wine center, just in time for the current harvest. A wine tasting with winemaker Ronnie James was informative and even those of us who are not wine experts, thoroughly enjoyed the hour and half wine-tasting workshop, which was followed by dinner outdoors to the tune of a live Jazz band.

In 1993 Ronnie James, of Kibbutz Tzora established Tzora Vineyards, the first winery in the kibbutz movement. Before establishing the winery, James, who is an agronomist, spent 30 years growing grapes in the Sorek valley’s Samson Hills. However, the grapes that he grew were sold to other wineries, while he longed to make his own wine.

The place is low key, but the moment you walk into the wine center/store – you get the feeling that quite a bit of time and effort went into this boutique winery’s new marketing showcase. The outer hall houses the store, where wines, locally made olive oil and fresh cheeses are sold. Adjacent to the store, the new tasting room overlooks (via a glass wall) the barrels of wine, as they age.

What made this wine tasting different was the introduction to Georg Riedel’s concept of wine tasting. For four decades, Riedel has been making wine glasses designed to highlight the finest characteristics of particular wines.

Our tasting included a set of four Riedel glasses. The basic concept behind Riedel’s glasses is that there is a correlation between the shape of the glass and the characteristics of the wine. Once we had tasted a particular wine, our host instructed us to pour it into a different glass. It was really quite amazing to sense how differently wine tasted, when poured into a different glass. Once you go through this exercise, you will no longer have any doubts that wine does taste differently, in different glasses and that apparently certain wines ‘belong’ in certain glasses.

Johann Leopold Riedel founded Riedel Crystal in Bohemia, in 1756 -- over 240 years and 10 generations ago. Today it is a growing business and glasses are sold worldwide. The glasses come in all manner of shapes and sizes from small thimble sized glasses to fish bowl type tumblers. Georg Riedel visited Tzora Vineyards for a special tasting, in May of this year. Riedel’s glasses may be ordered on site.

Plans are currently underway to hold the combination wine tasting and dinner, regularly, on Thursday nights, from 8:30 –11:00 PM. Note that the tasting workshop is conducted in Hebrew, although there are options for organizing group events, in other languages as well.

Individuals, who want to visit the winery, can stop by during regular hours and receive a brief explanation, tour and tasting at no charge. Groups should coordinate a guided tour (which is available in various languages, for a fee), in advance.

If you would like something light to eat during your visit, sandwiches and cheese platters are also available. While these may be on hand, if you want to be sure of having light refreshments, simply call ahead and order.

Directions: Tzora Vineyards is located about ten minutes from the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, off Route #38. As you drive south, look for the sign on the right, shortly after the main entrance to Beit Shemesh.

Hours of Operation: Sunday – Thursday, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Friday, 10:00 AM- 2:00 PM, Saturday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

02/990-8261 TEL 02/991-5479 FAX

Pricing: Individual visit and tasting of one to two wines, FREE. Group Guided Tour (16 people+) 16 NIS/pp Tasting workshop and dinner, 110 NIS/pp, reservations are required.

Sources: Gems in Israel