Well, I suppose last week’s photo was more challenging. Only people from my class who were there with me recognized where the photo was taken. But that’s not all that surprising, considering that it is not a popular spot on the typical tourist trail.
As those who got it correct guessed, the photo was taken at the Mony Winery cellars, near Beit Shemesh. (There was one guess that said Mony Wineries, but gave the wrong location for it — half a point!) I’ll tell you a bit more about the winery and the cellars in a bit, but first I wanted to discuss this week’s photo. I decided to choose something from a place that my tour guide course did not visit, so that my classmates don’t have the edge in this one. That being said, however, it is a site that I really enjoy, and hope to take tourists to in the future.
Anyway, more on the Mony Winery. It is somewhat unique, in that it is located on the grounds of (and leased from) a Christian Monastery (named Deir Rafat), is owned by an Arab family and makes kosher wines. A lovely story, I think.
The wines themselves are not the greatest I have ever tasted, but they are certainly above average. Well worth trying, and a visit to the winery itself is a pleasant experience.
Unlike many other boutique wineries, located in sterile new buildings in industrial parks or small converted kibbutz buildings, Mony is set in an old and beautiful building on a gorgeous plot of land. Located near Kibbutz Tzora, with its own winery, as well as near the excellent Tepperberg Winery, the winery sits in a lovely wooded area overlooking the Soreq Valley’s lush farmland.
The cellars themselves are located in tunnels that were dug beneath the monastery by monks about 120 years ago. One tunnel (closed to visitors) is the aging cellar for the wine barrels. But another one (pictured in last week’s photo) houses a few large tables that may be used for tastings and small events. When we were there, we were told that the monks (who also used to make wine there for years) used the tunnels as bomb shelters in the past.
Wine tourism is growing in Israel, as is culinary tourism in general. I love incorporating these things into larger tours, as well as organizing days that focus on these things alone. And with so many wineries in such close proximity, a wine tasting day rotating through a few can be a lovely addition to any longer visit.