Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Psagot Winery – Visitors Center, Vineyard and Ancient Caves

Psagot Winery is located on the Judean Mountain. The winery offers an audio visual exhibit, a strategic exhibit and an outlook over the Judean Mountains as well as a visit to two ancient caves. Visiting the winery is more than the visitors center, it is an encounter with Christian volunteers who came to harvest in the Promised Land.
Psagot Winery – Visitors Center, Vineyard and Ancient Caves

Psagot winery was established by Yaakov Berg. His family came to Israel from Russia and planted the vineyards over 20 years ago as part of their wish to develop agriculture in Israel. Around the year 2,000, Yaakov became interested in wine making, and in 2003 he already started making his first wines, about 3,000 bottles as a hobby that turned into a big business. Today the winery makes around 300,000 bottles a year, mostly exported abroad. The winery makes 5-6 red wines and 2 white wines, many of which are blends and are aged around 13 months. We tasted two wines – Psagot Edom and Psagot Merlot, served to us by the winemaker Yaakov Or-ya.
·         Psagot Edom 2013 – a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, an Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged 14 months in French oak barrels. It has good body and very fruity taste (120 NIS).
·         Psagot Merlot 2013 – aged 13 months in French oak barrels. The wine won a number of medals. It has full body and taste that lasts a long time (790 NIS).
·         Also sold this year are Psagot 7 red and Psagot 7 white. These are blend wines made from all the grapes in the vineyard. They are Shmita (release) wines that according to the Jewish religion are made for the benefit of the community. They are sold for cost price of 50 NIS in accordance with the halacha of “Otzer Beit Din”.
The winery has Badatz Kosher certification from Harvest 2016 and Mehadrin.
The visitors center of Psagot Winery is called Nahlat Binyamin visitors center. It is located on the edge of the mountain overlooking the area. From the vineyard’s balcony you can see Jerusalem, the Judean Mountains and Desert. The view is the rocky mountains of Binyamin area. The winery is elegant, spacious and welcoming. If you look down on the floor you’ll see glass windows looking down to the barrel room.  The visit to the winery includes a 30 minutes movie about the history and geography of the area, an audio visual exhibit and a strategic exhibit. These are available in a number of languages including Hebrew, English, Russian, French, and Spanish.
If you’re already in the visitors center, I highly recommend going out to the vineyard, located at 900 meters elevation. The breeze is wonderful there also during hot summer days. The area is rich with caves, many of which are ancient and served for wine press. The multitude of wine press caves and the testimonials found in Josephus Flavius’ writings indicate that Israel was a world center of wine making in ancient times. In our tour we visited two caves.
The first cave contains old wine-press and oil-press (combined). The site and the cave were excavated 30 years ago and the findings were dated to the bible time. While the cave is dated to the bible years, the findings in it (the remains of the oil and wine press structure) are dated as younger. It was probably used for this purpose in later days. The photograph below shows the cave, on the left hand side there’s a tunnel leading up to the vineyards, which was probably used to bring the grapes into the wine-press cave.
The second cave was only used for wine pressing. The pits on the floor were used for wine pressing. The cave is full of roots. The humidity in the caves helps the vines obtain water and minerals. This cave was a wine-press cave 2,000 years ago. But new plaster on its walls suggests that it was turned into a water pit. The cave was used by Psagot winery as a barrels room in its early days.
If you’re lucky enough to come to Psagot during the harvest time, you will meet there the Christian harvesters from Hayovel organization. We met here Caleb and Tony Waller, who established the organizations. They believe in the Jewish people and in the Land of Israel, their vision is that when the Jewish people will work the land of Israel, redemption will arrive. They recruited to help the people here, and arrive each year to help the farmers in Israel. Caleb arrived here for the first time 12 years ago from Missouri, at the age of 14. When he touched the land of Israel, he felt exaltation and believes that the connection to god comes from the Holy land – the land of Israel. They established the organization that brings thousands of people every year to work in agriculture in Israel. He devotes himself to the project and spends 6 months a year here. You can read more about Hayovel organization, volunteer or donate to it.
In summary, you can visit the winery and visitors center, enjoy the different movies and exhibits, visit the vineyard and caves and taste Psagot wine. Coming here is an experience and an exciting visit. The visitors center also hosts events. You can combine the visit with additional activities such as a Judean desert off road trip and kosher barbecue at Ha’cnaanit restaurant located a few minutes from Psagot winery.
Nahlat Binyamin Visitors Center, Psagot. 02-9979333

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