Towards the end of Sukkot, Baroness Tapuzina asked me if I’d like to drive out with her and Mr. Baroness T. There was a regional wine festival promoting the wineries of the Judean Hills, and they proposed to travel and taste. Drive through those cool, hilly roads and go tasting from winery to winery? Sure I wanted to go. We thought it would be fun to blog the event in our separate ways, so be sure to click the link above and see the event from the Baroness’s viewpoint.
The Baroness drove, and Mr. Baroness, holding the map, directed. They bickered gently up front, and I lolled happily around in the back seat. So good to get away from the round of shopping, cooking, and washing up that consume the holidays when Yom Tov falls in the middle of the week. Never mind all that – our picnic lunches were carefully packed, the day was sunny and mild, and we were in a mood of pleasant anticipation.
At first we talked about the things that fill our heads and keep us compelled all day – work, colleagues, travel, politics, the economy. The cities and highways fell behind. Soon we were driving through higher country, traveling on roads that ran among vineyards and plowed fields. The talk fell into an easier, relaxed mode. We retold old stories, argued about this and that, touched on the ever-absorbing topic of food, got lost and found the way again. Eventually we arrived at Kibbutz Tzora, parking near the pub.
That bale of hay amused and baffled me. Why park a bale of hay in front of your pub? Maybe someone just thought it looked cute.
Anyway, there is also a kosher winery on the pleasant grounds, with a grape arbor covering the entrance walkway. To the right there were several wooden tables, covered in attractive red tablecloths. No doubt the winery arranges evening tastings, or meals where you can sit with friends and while the time away over glasses of that good wine…
The visitor’s center was small, but well-lit, clean, and friendly. The kashrut certificates were easy to spot:
I bought my one bottle there: a full-bodied, single-vineyard Merlot called Shoresh. I’m glad I bought my wine there because it was the best winery we were able to visit that day. Apart from the Merlot, I tasted a delicious Rose and a white dessert wine that was too sweet for my palate, but which Mr. Baroness enjoyed.
The hostess was much cuter than the bale of hay, so I asked her to pose:
And then we went on our way.
The next winery on our trail was Mony. This one intrigued us because it is on the grounds of the Dir Rafat Monastery. It was bought from the monks by a private family, and the wines have, strangely enough, been kosher since 2005. It has earned 3 stars from the respected wine critic Daniel Rogov, but I found the wines, at least the kosher ones I tasted, pretty awful. Others present, tasting the pre-kosher vintages, assured me that they were better. I’ll take their word for it.
What was interesting to me was the tasting/party room. It was a cave where at one time, the monks had covered the floor with straw, and grown mushrooms.
Apart from wine, there were hand-pickled olives, jerrycans of olive oil, honey, and vinegar for sale.
Since it was chol ha mo’ed (the week of Sukkot), some of the wineries we planned to visit were closed. I was disappointed that Tepperberg was closed for renovations, and so was Katlav. In fact, we visited no more wineries. But we did see a spectacularly happy sukkah:
…and settled down for a picnic in a woods. A few picnic tables, some trees and rocks with lizards sunning themselves, and three hungry winos. Baroness Tapuzina and Her Better Half had sandwiches of Corsican Basil Bread, which looked divine. The recipe is on the Baroness’s blog. (I looked kind of measly with my few slices of cheese in a pitta.) They brought crisp potato chips. I brought vegetable soup in a thermos. Sliced cucumbers, green and black olives, and bottled water, and that was the sum of it. It wasn’t splendid, but it did the trick. The only thing really missing was some coffee. I had thought of making tehina cookies, but the holiday cooking had worn me out, so I didn’t. The funny thing was, the Baroness had also thought to make tehina cookies, but didn’t, for the same reason. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d both brought. More cookies for us!
This area was set up for campfires. It must be fun, on Lag B’Omer, to sit around on those stone benches and gaze into the leaping flames.
We sighed, stretched ourselves, and piled back into the car. It was time to go home.
What a relaxing day – at least for me, who didn’t drive. I am keeping my bottle of Shoresh from Tzora for a while, to get over the travel shock before I open it. Something nice to look forward to, and a pleasant souvenir of my day on the wine trail.
With a Baroness, no less.