Soreq Winery is celebrating its 20 year anniversary this year. This boutique operation of 35, 000 bottles a year was started by the Shacham family back in 1994. Today, Soreq Winery also operates as Israel’s leading wine making program. The school has the clear advantage of operating within an active winery, allowing the students to gain real world experience in the craft, right from the beginning. Once a year, the school is hosting a Home Winery Festival which is a lot of fun and certainly recommended. Among the school’s faculty one can find researchers, Wine makers, Agriculture consultants, Industry experts etc. It is worth mentioning that the school has been around as long as the winery has, The school’s alumni have proceeded to open more than 100 new wineries in Israel to this day.

I feel that the motto of the school, “creating happiness through wine production” is very much in line with the personality of Nir Shacham, Wine Maker at Soreq and Head Faculty member of the school. On the day that we were touring the winery, Nir had already paid a visit to his vineyards in Mizpe Ramon in Southern Israel and made it back to the winery for a 10:00 AM wine tasting. He was energetic, knowledgeable and it certainly showed that he was engaged in something that he loves doing.

The winery is not kosher and that allowed Nir to offer us barrel tastings that he pulled of Tal Shachar Merlot which was nice and fruity. Another lovely wine (that we already had at dinner since) is the 2013 Rose, made of 40% Grenache, 60% Carignan and a tiny bit of Syrah. My absolute favorite was the 2011 Petite Verdot, not a varietal one encounters in Israel often.

Nevo Hazan created this winery by himself but is thankful for “intervention from above” in his words that has helped create Nevo Winery, A tiny yet beautiful 7K bottles a year winery in the Village of Mata, Judean Hills.

The story of how this winery was started is certainly out of the ordinary. We meet passionate and hardworking wine makers all the time but in this case the story is a bit different. It all began 15 years ago. Nevo who was finishing the building of his house was moving out of the wooden cabin that was next door, had found out that his aunt has fallen ill. The aunt who was living in the north, had been scheduled to start treatments at the Haddassa Ein Karem Hospital, and he invited her to live in his now vacant cabin a short distance away from the hospital. At the time, the land the house was on was re-measured and the Hazan family found out that an old bomb shelter that was no longer in use was now a part of their property as well. This shelter would later become a wine cellar.

According to Nevo, his aunt is no ordinary lady either. In the process of Chemotherapy and Radiation treatments this lady had the energy to climb the trees near the house and pick olives to make olive oil from, fruit to make Jams etc. When Harvest time came around, Nevo’s aunt had asked him to get some wine grapes so they can make wine together. The wines were terrific. Nevo’s aunt got better and after about a year she headed back home. Nevo told her before she left that he would continue making wine from that point onwards. He then started building a tasting room outside the family’s house. According to Nevo, no architect or engineers were involved and the tasting room has been built by him alone. This in my honest opinion is one of the most beautiful winery tasting rooms I have ever been to. Outside the tasting room, Nevo also built a brick oven to bake bread and roast lamb for a long period of time, yet another trick he learned from his favorite aunt.

Nevo attended the 2 year program at the Soreq wine making school in the Judean Hills and is now producing wines from grapes in Mata, some of which are from his own vineyards. Last year as a pilot Nevo produced a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Rose which has been a great success and will be produced on a larger scale this year. In addition, Nevo winery produces a crisp, non oaked Viognier as well as red varieties of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon which have been aged 18 months in French Oak. One final blend is of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The wines are lovely and so are Nevo and Ifat who will welcome you at the winery.