By Deena Levenstein
The drive to central Binyamin from Jerusalem is breathtaking with its open roads, hilly landscapes and scattered towns, villages and settlements along the way.
After only getting a little lost we arrived at the beautiful Gvaot Boutique Winery, on a hilltop alongside a small Jewish settlement, Givat Harel.
We met the winemaker and co-owner, Dr. Shivi Drori. Sitting in their cottage-like building, we began to talk about the winery, Shivi’s research and the (very) long history of wine-making in the area.
Gvaot Winery – then and today
In the year 2000 Shivi and his partner begin growing high quality grapes and selling them. In 2005 they figured, why sell them if they could use them for their own wine? And thus Gvaot Winery was created.
They started with 5,000 bottles a year and today produce around 40,000 bottles annually that are sold in Israel, Europe and North America.
Actually, one of the unique things about the winery, and one of the things that makes it a beautiful place to visit, is that the winery sits alongside the vineyards. One feels the expansive nature clearly sees the complete wine-making process.
Click on the photos for a slideshow.
Shivi explained that irrigation is the most important factor while growing premium grapes. And once these grapes make it to the winery, the focus is on maintaining the natural potential in the grapes. “Don’t cause harm” is their ongoing motto throughout the decision making process.
Of course since it was 10 o’clock in the morning, it was time to taste a few of the wines. My favorites were the Dances in White, a dry white blend of Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, and a red Cabernet Sauvignon.
Shivi’s treasure hunt research
Shivi comes across as sincere and down-to-earth. He told us how twelve years ago a teacher at the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University helped him grow an appreciation for high quality wines. Shivi’s father is also a winemaker but of the sweet “kiddush wine” type (often used for blessing the Shabbat).
He continues to conduct research through Ariel University. His main area of interest is in combing the land old grape varieties not currently grown or used that were very possibly used for wine a few thousand years ago.
Around 120 varieties have been found so far, 20 of which are good for wine production. In fact, Barkan Winery has already planted a vineyard with one of these varieties.
Read more about his research.
Wine and local agriculture in the Bible
Shivi told us biblical stories of wine and vineyards and wars… Because 3,500 years ago there were many wineries in the area, one can find many antique wine presses scattered around. Here is one that we got to see:
A taste of the spectacular views
There is stunning nature and amazing views in every direction. (Click an image for a slideshow view.)
More info about the Gvaot Winery
Gvaot Winery has won local and international awards for their wines. They also produce around 1,000 bottles of olive oil a year “just for fun.”
All their products are kosher lemehadrin, including for Passover.
More about the area
There is a lot to do in the Binyamin region. In another post I’ll also be writing about the amazing archaeological findings at Ancient Shiloh, the cool American couple who make wood instruments, 100% natural wine and more and a woman who has a little bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere that includes glass workshops for couples.
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