The ultimate community winery is one that is born out of a community for people with special needs, who contribute to the production. This is a wine that needs extra respect. There are two unique and special wineries in Israel that come into this category.
Tulip Winery is a gem situated to the east of Mount Carmel. It may be found in a small village called Kfar Tikvah, or the Village of Hope, near Kyriat Tivon. The village was founded in the 1960’s, designed to help those with special needs. The objective is to care for those people that society sometimes forgets or pretends do not exist. Kfar Tikvah allows them to live a full and normal life with dignity. It provides each of its residents with a home, a livelihood and the opportunity to contribute to the community. Everyone is given the chance to reach their full potential.
The Yitzhaki family started a winery there in 2003. A cynic may have said in the beginning, that it was a good hearted gimmick, but any thoughts like this have been swept away by the winery’s commitment to the village and its inhabitants, and the seriousness and quality of the winery.
The manager of Tulip Winery is Roy Yitzhaki. He is young, dynamic and good looking. He seemed to start in the wine business as a bit of fun, but became more and more drawn in as sales and recognition grew. His devotion to the winery, the principles of the village and his workers is heartwarming. He has built a team in his image and is always looking forward.
Some of Tulip’s labels are very innovative. The varietals, made from one grape variety, are name ‘Just’. So the Cabernet Sauvignon is called Just Cabernet Sauvignon. The blends are called ‘Mostly’. This is followed by the name of the dominant variety. It is all very clear and obvious when it is explained, though a little confusing if not.
They source grapes from all over but mainly from the Galilee. From the beginning, Tulip’s wines gained a name for quality and value. The wines were priced very reasonably, even when the wines were scarce. This was an early sign of Yitzhaki’s wisdom, beyond his years. Today they are no longer a small boutique winery. They produce nearly 200,000 bottles a year.
The winemaker is David Bar Ilan, who took over in 2012. He a dreamy-eyed wine lover, who, initially, wanted to do anything to do with wine, even if it meant working in sales. I got to know him when he worked for Carmel Winery in the Restaurant Division.
However he was always determined to get in to the messy side of the wine business. He travelled to Australia for a harvest and worked at Amphorae Vineyards. When needed, he has the advice of Arkady Papikian, once of Carmel Winery at Rishon Le Zion and Dalton Winery. Arkady has really been the dominant wine consultant in the 2000’s, advising a long list of Israeli wineries. He is now the winemaker at Amphorae, but spares time to keep a fatherly look over Bar Ilan’s shoulder.
For David Bar Ilan, to work in wine is fulfilment of a dream. He is at his happiest when making wine. As a result he makes happy, consumer friendly wines, which are very good quality and offer great value for money. The world’s most famous wine critic would agree. On three occasions, a Tulip wine has scored 90 points in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Kishor Vineyards is situated at Kishorit, which is a special residential community for adults with special needs. The community was founded in 1997 by parents and professionals on the site of the Kishor Kibbutz. Members can work in a wooden toy factory, dog kennels, riding stable, organic vegetable garden, a bakery, free-range egg farm or organic goat dairy. Or they can work in the vineyard and winery.
In 2007 they planted their first vineyard. In 2010 they harvested their first grapes. They produce over 35,000 bottles a year from their own vineyards, which are 500 meters above sea level. They are cared for by the members of the community.
The winery represents a reasonably new wine growing region. When we talk about the Galilee as one of Israel’s finest appellations, the reference is mainly to the Upper Galilee. Most of the vineyards and wineries are in the Kedesh Valley on the Lebanese border or near Mount Meron and the Merom Galil region. Then there is the Lower Galilee near Kfar Tabor. However, Kishor is situated in the Western Galilee, an area already famous for its olive groves, but less so, for vineyards.
Though new, they gained immediate notice because of their very stylish, ‘less is more’ labels. They were obviously designed by someone with a good notion of ‘perception of quality.’ Yet, it is the quality of wines that has really put them on the map.
They are the responsibility of Richard Davies. He is a big guy with a rough beard and a ready smile. He has great experience in agricultural management, particularly from South Africa. He arrived at Kishorit in 2007 and started the vegetable garden and fruit orchard. Now he has the wine bug and manages the vineyard and winery.
He was savvy enough to get good advice. Itay Lahat, one of the country’s most talented winemakers and a prolific wine consultant, is there to assist when required.
The first quality recognition was almost immediate. In Eshkol Zahav 2014, Kishor had an outstanding result winning a gold, silver and bronze medal. Eshkol Hazahav, (The Golden Cluster), is Israel’s premier wine tasting competition. Not bad for a newish winery.
Tulip and Kishor both have visitors centers, (Kishor’s is new), and both are well worth a visit, though it is best to book in advance.
They are both kosher wineries. Tulip since the 2010 vintage, and Kishorit since its founding. If Kashrut had an ethical element, then these two wineries, would have the highest level of Kashrut possible. Y’shar Koach!
Tulip White Tulip 2012
A super summer wine made from Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. An attractive, enticing aroma, a touch of apparent sweetness and a refreshing balancing acidity from the Sauvignon, make this a popular wine.
Tulip Syrah Reserve 2010
This Syrah and the Mostly Shiraz are arguably Tulip’s best wines. It is a grape variety that Tulip handles really well. The Reserve Syrah is quite a big wine with aromas of blackberry, plum and spicy notes, a middle palate of chewy fruit and soft tannins. A very good, new world style example of this variety.
Tulip Black Tulip 2011
This is not an elegant wine. It is full bodied, powerful, concentrated and oaky, but it is well-balanced. It is made from the main Bordeaux varieties led by Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeply colored, it has lashings of black fruit, in a vanilla blanket. Mouthfilling flavor and a long finish.
Kerem Kishor White 2013
One of the most enjoyable young white wines I have tasted recently. It is made from Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. It is grassy, aromatic and very sauvignon, but with a little tropical fruit in the background from the Viognier. A refreshing, high quality wine.
Kishor Savant Red 2012
A Bordeaux style blend made mainly from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot grapes. The varieties were fermented and aged separately. The wine is elegant with good depth of fruit, an attractive green character that I like and a well-balanced finish.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery & regularly writes about wine in international & Israeli publications.