The vineyard at the Domaine Boutique Herzberg Kosher Winery

If you ever wondered how things get built around here or how they make the materials that go into roads, bridges or housing, you should have come on a trip with ESRA Rehovot on January 10.

Nesher is located in the heart of the Shfela near route 6, 431 and the roads to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. You can’t imagine how large a plant it is. It covers nearly 1000 dunams, 100 of which comprise a limestone quarry which is the building block of cement. We had the unique opportunity to see the inside of the ‘grinder’ that pulverized the raw material later to be mixed with other chemical compounds that go into making cement.

Nesher is 92 years old. The British decided that it was useful to have building materials on site rather than import them from Europe or England, so Nesher was born. Our tour was on wheels with the exception of our visit to the grinder and a view of the quarry. We had an excellent guide and our group comprised 25 people.

Our next stop was at the Domaine Boutique Herzberg Kosher Winery where we walked around the vineyard (which at this time of year lies dormant). We were treated on arrival to a small tipple of hot mulled wine - a wonderful treat on a cold day.

The Herzberg Winery is a family-owned and run enterprise. Founded by Max Herzberg on Moshav Sitria (the winery uses the French spelling of Sitrya), not far from the city of Rehovot and in the foothills of the Judean Mountains, the winery released its first wines from the 2007 vintage. Now cultivating their own vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Sirah, the winery relies largely on organic techniques and uses a minimum of pesticides.

Max Herzberg is a world-famous biotechnologist who has single-handedly created and sold more companies than many of us even know or can keep track of. Max immigrated to Israel from France and quickly became a world-class biotechnologist and a leader in his field and in the corporate world. However, after getting his fill of running biotechnology departments at universities and running and starting companies, Max decided he would plant a vineyard.

He approached his clearly intelligent wife (who happens to be a Tunisian – so that helps a lot of course) and asked if she minded if he planted a few vines. His wife replied, “You mean you want to plant the entire field – right?” Sure enough, in 2005, by the time Max was done, the entire three-acre field, right next to his home in Moshav Sitria, was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. It is not clear if this particular location within the Judean Hills is well situated for Malbec but, as Max puts it, time will tell. Max also makes use of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a neighboring vineyard.

The first true year for the winery was in 2008, though there were some 300 bottles from the 2007 vintage. The 2012 vintage produced 4,500 bottles – nice, realistic and manageable growth.

Max does it all; he prunes his vineyard and sulfurs it with a machine, and of course makes the wine. The only thing he does not do is pick the grapes by himself: he has folks to help with that.

They produce small pressings of three types of grapes for wine – Malbec and Chardonnay, and the third variety of wine was Village. The Village and the Reserve wines are made from a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec grapes. The Malbec and the Rose are from Malbec grapes only.

It was a delightful experience and of course we tasted and tasted and bought and bought! Max welcomes small groups and lectures about wine-making.

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