(Israel) - Fall is the best time to explore Israel during its peak harvest season for both wine and olive oil.
Olive oil and wine go back to the very dawn of the Jewish people in Israel and today they are the best expression of the Mediterranean diet and are symbols of the new quality Israeli cuisine. From wineries in the Negev desert to olive picking in Galilee, there are a variety of experiences which showcase the vast variety of Israeli wines and olive oils.
Wineries in the Negev Desert
Israel’s Negev Desert covers over half of Israel’s total land area, and it is an area bristling with beauty.
The reddish, gleaming desert terrain is characterized by many impressive geological rock formations, allowing visitors to enjoy a unique view of an untouched vastness -- both silent and majestic. Throughout the Negev, there are also traces of past civilizations, their agriculture as well as stunning archaeological sites. And today, it offers an unmistakable backdrop for encountering the Bedouin tribes, also known as people of the desert. The desert is perfect for creating wines as grapes mature and ripen faster in warmer conditions, leading to lower acidity and higher sugar levels.
• Sde Boker Winery - The first winery to open in the Negev was the Sde Boker Winery, begun 15 years ago as an experiment led by Zvi Remek, a member of the Sde Boker kibbutz who studied agronomy in California before returning to his home. Having previously worked in the grape vines of the kibbutz, opening the winery was the start of a transition from simply growing produce in the Negev, to creating a high-value product from it. Slowly, the Sde Boker Winery expanded, and today is still modestly housed in the old communal laundry facility of the kibbutz. Combine a visit to Sde Boker and visit the home of Ben Gurion.
• The Boker Valley Vineyard - The Boker Valley Vineyard not only grows its own vines, but also offers visitors the opportunity to taste many of the other wines produced in the Negev Wine Route -- making it totally unique. Run by a couple of diverse origins -- Moshe is from Eilat and Hilda from the Netherlands, as well as the wines, they also sell local olive oil, wine and olives, and offer beautiful accommodations in the heart of the desert.
• The Negev Wine Route - The Negev Wine Route has 25 isolated farms engaging in agriculture and tourism. The farms welcome visitors to stop, taste and enjoy the unique Negev Friendly Desert route. The vineyards create some highly respectable and well received wines and offer a very unusual experience for tourists exploring the desert.
Olive Oil in Galilee
Arguably one of the most beautiful regions of Israel, the Galilee is situated in the north of the country, and it is characterized by its beautiful, lush landscape full of vegetation, amazing natural landforms, historic sites and quaint rural communities.
The Galilee makes up much of the north of Israel and is divided into three areas: the Lower Galilee, Upper Galilee and Western Galilee and within are the famous Sea of Galilee and River Jordan. Stunning agricultural villages sit alongside ancient ruins, and amazing hills and valleys are mentioned throughout history as the location of famous battles and events. All the varieties of olives are grown and harvested here in the Galilee and nurtured by the waters of the Jordan River, making Galilee the perfect place for olives.
• Avtalion Oil Press - Looking out onto breathtaking views of the Galilee is the Avtalion Oil Press. Inside lies the huge oil press. Here olives picked from nearby vineyards are crushed and the pips and flesh removed. High-quality olive oil is then produced and delivered to the local residents. During the pressing season (October - January), visitors can watch this process in action. They can either bring with them their own olives or pick them from the nearby fields. Throughout the rest of the year, the place is still open for visitors to see the equipment, watch demonstrations, attend lectures about the olive oil industry and its history in the Galilee and enjoy a tasting workshop sampling the different local products.
• Hananya Farms - Hananya Farms, located in the Western Galilee, is the perfect place to spend a day enjoying a nature walk, a picnic lunch and, of course, olive picking. It also offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the various cultures of people living in Israel today.
• Gailiean Olive Oil Festival - The Galilean Olive Oil Festival takes place across Northern Israel’s Galilee region every November. Due to the many qualities that the olive tree has to offer, it has become a recent tradition for the start of the olive harvest period to be celebrated.