Dr. Harold Caballeros is the Rector of Universidad San Pablo Guatemala and his daughter Andrea studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Hertzelia. After spending few days on a business conference in Tel-Aviv, Harold decided to stay in Israel two more days and spend some time with his daughter. A fantastic way to do that is by touring the country and tasting some of the great wines it has to offer.

We left Tel Aviv in the morning and drove north about an hour toward Kiryat-Tiv’on. While driving we talked about Israeli boutique wineries – a recent phenomenon that has grown immensely in recent years. The two admired the changing view as we left the Coastal Region and entered the region of Lower Galilee. Our first stop was at the Tulip Winery one of the most interesting and award winning wineries in Israel.

Tulip is located in Kfar-Tikva (the “village of hope”) a beautiful Kibbutz – like community that serves as a home for two hundred developmentally and emotionally disabled adults. Tulip winery, which was established in 2003 by the Itzhaki family employs three of the residents of Kfar-Tilkva and the visitors have a chance to get to know the employees during their visit. As we pulled in to the small parking lot of the winery, Harold immediately pointed out the bountiful little vineyard at the entrance to the winery.

We were greeted by Itzhak Itzhaki (owner) and Natan (“The King”) a 65 years old employee at the winery. Following Itzhak we crossed the visitor center and entered the little production area (Tulip produces one hundred thousand bottles a year) where we could see the spotless clean machinery ready for the grape picking that starts this week. Next we entered the cellar, where an amazing smell of oak wood and wine along with cool temperatures makes everyone wish they could stay there for long time.

Getting back to the Winery’s visitor center, the time for the first wine tasting of the day has arrived. Out of the twelve bottles we could have tasted from we picked six (leaving some room of the other winery) Starting with the new 2009 Tulip White (30% Sauvignon blanc 70% Gewürztraminer), Tulip Just Cabernet Sauvignon (100% CS, Gold medal at “2009 best Value” competition), Tulip Mostly Cabernet Franc (85% CF, 15% CS. 3 Gold medals and one silver), Tulip Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (90 Points from “Wine Spectator Magazine”), Tulip Syrah Reserve (90 Points from Robert Parker and one of my favorite Israeli wines). The last wine tasted was the Tulip Port Esperansa a special dessert made in Remy Martin barrels! Such a good wine Andrea had to take a bottle home.

Understanding we needed a break from wine tasting, we left Tulip and drove to Zichron Ya’akov (30 min) to visit Barak Dahan at Somek Winery. Barak is a fifth generation of grape wine growers who along with his wife, Hila decided to open their own winery. Somek’s vineyards are all located nearby in Bik’at Hanadiv (Baron Rothschild’s valley) which makes this winery an Estate Winery. Barak and Hila pick all their grapes by hand and all the winemaking process is done manually with no machinery intervention [a rare occurrence nowadays] . Since it was a hot day, the Caballeros who usually opt for red wine were happy to taste Somek 2007 Chardonnay (100% Chardonnay, 1 year barrel) next on the tasting list were the 2005 Carignan, & the 2005 Bik’at Hanadiv (60% CS, 35% Merlot, 5 % Petit Syrah).

After a short lunch in one of Zichron’s memorable restaurants, the Caballeros were ready for their third winery of the day. We left Zichron Yaakov and drove north to the Moshave Kerem-Maharl where the Makura organic farm and Amphora Winery are located. The Amphora Winery is one of the most beautiful Wineries in Israel. Designed by and Italian architect and built in 2005 from local stone, the winery has a distinct European look. Amphora Winery was bought last year by a prominent Russian business man who decided to invest heavily in the winery with a goal of producing the best possible wine. One of the changes was to sign the world’s famous winemaker Michel Rolland as an advisor to the winery.

Harold and Andrea chose to start the visit by tasting some of the winery’s wines. They started with the Viognier (excellent and crisp) which was followed by the semidry Rose 08’ and the dry Rose 09 which was unlabeled due to the fact that it was bottled two days before. The Caballeros also tasted basic Med-Red, Rhyton and Amphora which used to be the premium line of wines. The surprise of the visit was the tasting of the fairly new ultra premium wines called Unica that were released early this year and that even the writer of these lines did not have the chance to taste. All the Unica wines were aged 28 month in three and five hundreds liter barrels and then aged in Bottle for another ten months. The first Unica tasted was a blend of Shiraz Merlot Cabernet (45% S, 35% M, and 20% C) such a good wine, Harold insisted on taking one home with him! The Second bottle we tasted was “Unica Merlot Barbera” (83% M, 17%B) this one was opened especially for us! [A big treat considering the price of such bottle (275NIS or 70U$)] The Caballeros did not miss out on the tour of the winery which ended at the very impressive cellar.

After tasting some sixteen wines or more (we stopped counting) the Caballeros were ready to go home.
One hour later we pulled into the hotel driveway. The Caballeros had an amazing day as did I.