Mt. Carmel Wine Route
The whole Mount Carmel area has been under international focus since the fierce fires devastated Carmel Forest, the Carmel National Park and the surrounding area.
Mt. Carmel is the north east extension of the Shomron mountains. It is a place where the mountains and the Mediterranean meet. The mountain range rises to a height of 1,800 feet overlooking Haifa Bay, and peters out at Binyamina, where it merges into the Sharon Plain. It is one of the most beautiful places in Israel. The Carmel National Park is the largest in Israel and has become a wildlife refuge. Carmel Forest covers a large area and is made up of oak, pine, olive and laurel trees, many of which were destroyed in the fires.
Mount Carmel was a place famous from Biblical times. It was where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. It was an area of wine and olive oil production and many old presses have been discovered by archaeologists. In those days the slopes were covered by terraced vineyards and olive groves. Wines named “Sharon” and “Carmel” were well-known in the period of the Second Temple. Appropriately the root of the word ‘Carmel’ is Kerem- El, meaning G-d’s vineyard.
The area also carries a relevance to Israeli wine in modern times. Mt. Carmel is a sub region of the Shomron Wine Region. It is the historic vineyard area of Israel, being where Baron Edmond de Rothschild first planted vineyards in the 1880’s. For most of the last 100 years it was the largest wine region in Israel. Today, it is no longer the largest, but arguably the southern Mt. Carmel still has the greatest concentration of vineyards, particularly around the winery towns of Zichron Ya’acov and Binyamina.
Mt. Carmel Wineries
The area of the southern Mt. Carmel is unique. Within close proximity it is possible to visit wineries from all stages of the development of Israel’s wine industry. Carmel Winery was built in the 1890’s, Binyamina was founded in the 1950’s, Tishbi in the 1980’s and both Tulip and Amphorae in the 2000’s. The region is very accessible for wine tourists. The southern Carmel lies midway between Haifa and Netanya. It is close to Route 2 (the coast road), Route 4 (aka ‘the old road’) and easily accessible from Route 6 – The Yitzhak Rabin Highway. For a visit to all wineries, including the bigger ones, it is advised to book in advance.
TULIP WINERY (Kfar Tikvah, Kiryat Tivon) is situated in Kfar Tikvah, a community which caters for people with disabilities. It may be found at Kiryat Tivon, which is to the west of Mount Carmel, and to the north of Yokneam. The winery was established by the Itzaki family in 2003 and has swiftly gained a name for quality and value. The Visitors Center provides an opportunity to taste wines in a particularly homey atmosphere. Tel. +972 (0)4 9830573.
AMPHORAE VINEYARD (Makura Farm, Kerem Maharal) is a very extravagantly built, technologically advanced winery in a beautiful setting, in the heart of the Carmel Mountains. Founded in 2000, the winery changed hands in 2008. They offer some quite expensive wines and it is also worth visiting the olive oil press, which is situated close to the winery. Tel. +972 (0)4 9840702.
CARMEL WINERY – ZICHRON YA’ACOV CELLARS was built by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1892 and remains the largest winery in Israel. It also houses a boutique winery with cutting edge technology and an experimental micro-winery. This is the historic winery of Israel, where it is also possible to see evidence of the more recent quality revolution. Carmel Wine & Culture (Winery St., Zichron Ya’acov) is an innovative and unique center for wine culture which combines wine tourism with wine education. It offers wine workshops, and tutored tastings. Both specialized and personalized tours of the winery may be arranged. The shop contains a selection of bin end wines and magnums unavailable elsewhere. Tel. +972 (0)4 6391788 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SOMEK WINERY(16 Herzl St., Zichron Ya’acov) is a new ‘garagiste’ producing six thousand bottles a year. It is owned by a vine grower, Barak Dahan, whose family were planting vineyards for Rothschild in the 1880’s. His wife, Hila, studied winemaking in Australia. Tel. +972 (0)4 6397982.
TISHBI WINERY (Industrial Zone, Binyamina) lies in between Zichron Ya’acov and Binyamina. It was founded in 1985 by Yonatan Tishbi. The present generation’s great grandparents, arrived from Russia in the 1880’s to settle in the tiny village of Shefaya, north east of Zichron. They also became vineyard owners with the sponsorship and encouragement of Rothschild. The Tishbi Winery Visitors Center provides tours, tastings, and a selection of foods, wines and olive oils. Worth seeing is the Alambic Still for distilling brandy, purchased from the Cognac region of France. Tel. +972 (0)4 6288195.
BINYAMINA WINERY is situated in the picturesque town of Binyamina. It was founded in 1952 and was then called Eliaz. It is the fifth largest winery in Israel producing nearly 3 million bottles a year. In 2008 the winery changed hands, and the new owner has invested heavily in new technology. The Visitors Center sits in an old preserved building, surrounded by spacious grounds. The shop offers Binyamina wines and wine accessories. Tel. +972 (0)4 6388643/2 or email@example.com
OTHER LOCAL WINERIES include:
Levron – a domestic winery in Haifa.
The Cave – Binyamina Winery’s boutique wine, with barrels aged in a real cave.
Smadar, Poizner and Efrati – family wineries in the center of Zichron Ya’acov.
Salomon – small family winery in Amikam Moshav, west of Zichron.
Alona – a family winery at Givat Nili.
Each are making wine with character and passion and are well worth a visit.
Mt. Carmel Vineyards
In the little closed valleys of Shefaya, north east of Zichron, or the flatter Hanadiv Valley, south of Zichron, it is possible to see many vineyards growing all the main grape varieties. Some of the younger vineyards are trellised to allow for mechanical harvesting, but many of the older vineyards are in bush-vine style, close to the ground. The most successful variety in this area is Carignan, which was first planted in 1882. For many years it was used for cheap blended wines, but is lately producing excellent quality wines from low yield, old vine vineyards.
The elevation of the vineyards is up to 150 meters above sea level. Soils range from calcareous clay, terra rossa, limestone to chalk. The climate is Mediterranean. Winters can be cool and rainy and the summers are hot and humid. Moist westerly winds from the Mediterranean provide a cooling influence. The slopes provide a windbreak to protect the vineyards, many of which are situated in little valleys to the east of the hills. Annual precipitation is about 600 mm.
A vineyard is the perfect place for a picnic, especially with a bottle of the locally grown wine.
Mt. Carmel Winery Restaurants
If visiting wineries and vineyards makes you hungry, there are some good restaurants situated in the wineries themselves. They offer the opportunity to eat whilst absorbing the winery atmosphere and tasting wines produced closeby to where you are sitting.
TISHBI COFFEE HOUSE, (33 Hameyasdim St. Zichron Ya’acov) is housed in one of the original buildings on the ‘Founders Street’ owned by the Tishbi family. This is an ideal place to begin the day with an Israeli breakfast. Tel. +972 (0)4 6290280.
TISHBI WINERY VISITORS CENTER (Industrial Zone, Binyamina) includes a diary restaurant which is kosher. Here it is possible to sit under the trellised vine to enjoy local cheeses and a glass of wine. Tel. +972 (0)4 6288195.
BISTRO DE CARMEL, (Carmel Winery, Wine St., Zichron Ya’acov) is situated in the ‘Winemaker’s House.’ Today it is a restaurant serving a Mediterranean style, kosher dairy menu. The restaurant is made up of a number of small rooms, suitable for intimate VIP dinners, a balcony overlooking the winery and a large attractive deck pateo, suitable for larger groups or parties. For bookings: Tel. +972 (0)4 6290977
BINYAMINA WINERY VISITORS CENTER (Hanassi St., Binyamina) offers a kosher meat restaurant in the building originally founded in 1925 by Rothschild as a perfume factory. It may also be hired for events, summer functions, business meetings etc. The steaks and salads are recommended. Tel. +972 (0)4 6388643/2 or
A visit to the southern Mt. Carmel wine country would not be complete without visiting Ramat Hanadiv. Baron Edmond de Rothschild was known as the ‘father of the yishuv’ by David Ben Gurion. However of all places that he helped, it was Zichron Ya’acov and Mt. Carmel that had a special place in his heart. He purchased land in the area between Zichron Ya’acov and Binyamina, which came to be known as Ramat Hanadiv (‘Hill of The Benefactor’) and requested to be buried there. In 1951 the remains of Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife were interred in a specially constructed mausoleum. This is the place for a hike or picnic. Apart from the opportunity to pay respects to the founder of Israel’s wine industry, there are beautiful gardens, a nature park and a short film about Ramat Hanadiv. There are also archaeological and historical remains, including an ancient wine press. Tel. +972 (0) 4 6298111 or www.ramat-hanadiv.org.il
Visit the wineries and vineyards of the southern Mount Carmel and the beautiful town of Zichron Ya’acov and you experience nearly 130 years of Israeli wine culture. You may then agree with Rothschild that this is the Tuscany or Provence of Israel. It remains the heart of Israeli wine.