Bloggers’ Day Out — Gush Etzion Winery — July 2011

It was a glorious Friday morning a little over a week ago when Ju-Boy and I set out for the wilds of Petach Tikva to pick up the marvelous Mimi of Israeli Kitchen… wait a minute, haven’t we done this before?  As the late (and great) Yogi Berra once said, it’s deja vu all over again!  [Edit:  Oops, Yogi's still kicking, thanks Abby, sorry Yogi... blushing...]  Yes, it was that same glorious Friday morning, but after we had viewed, tasted, tippled and nibbled at the food expo at the Lone Tree Brewery in Neve Daniel, a bunch of us decided a little wining and dining was in order, and we made our way to the Gush Etzion Winery.  I ended up getting even more than what I came for…

Gush Etzion (The Etzion Bloc) is situated just south of Jerusalem and is one of the most history-filled areas of both Biblical and modern Israel.  King David, when he was just a little shnip with a slingshot, used to tend his sheep on the hills of the Gush.  In the 1920s a collection of Israeli settlements sprang up in the area, only to be destroyed in the 1948 War of Independence.  The settlements were rebuilt following the Six Day War in 1967, along with many new settlements.  There’s something about the hills of Gush Etzion that calls to many Israelis and Jews from all over the world.  And there’s a certain “something” about the people that settle there.  The amazing creativity of those who took part in the food expo is just a small example of what can be harvested from the Gush.

Shraga and Tamar Rosenberg out in the vineyards

And one of the wonderful things that is harvested from the Gush are grapes, and their wonderful, boozy derivative, wine.  The area has been producing wine since Biblical times.  The Gush Etzion Winery is owned by the Rosenberg family of Efrat. They, together with some of the neighboring kibbutzim of the area, have come together to revive the once ancient and now modern tradition of local wine-making.  Together with the Tishbi Winery (located in Binyamina), they opened a new state-of-the-art winery in 2005 with an impressive visitors’ center that includes a fish and dairy restaurant.  Of course it includes a restaurant!  You didn’t think I was going to go on and on like a travel blog, did you?  Let’s get to the food and drink!

Every winery needs an antique car parked alongside the equipment. Ju-Boy says it's a 1960 Nash Metropolitan. I would have said it's a yellow car.

Our little group, replete with cookies, chocolates, beer and herring from the morning, was more than ready for… well… more!  First we had a tour of the winery itself.  The original winery was actually in the basement of Shraga Rosenberg’s house.  His first efforts resulted in 7,000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  These days the winery produces 40,000 bottles of the lovely stuff a year, and has added Reisling, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and my own personal favorite, Gewurztraminer.  The winery itself was not in operation that day, but we were shown where all the magic takes place.  We were then led into the restaurant for a little wine tasting.

Shraga and Tamar and their glorious bottles

We all sat around a table set with wine glasses, some plates of pretty and rustic bread and a spittoon.  We drank from the glasses, we nibbled in the bread in between, we even had sips of water to clear our palettes, but the spittoon remained pristine.  Spit out good wine?  Are you insane?  The Gewurtz wasn’t available for tasting, but I tried the Sauvignon Blanc from their Ha-Alon Ha-Boded (The Lone Oak) series and enjoyed it very much.  I had already had a few sips and started believing that I was a proper wine taster, swirling the wine around the glass, smelling the aromatic bouquet, tasting, swishing, and gleefully swallowing.  At one point I even called the wine playful.  Pretentious?  Moi?

We also had lunch at the winery’s restaurant, a fish and dairy buffet that was delicious.  There’s nothing nicer to do on an early Friday afternoon than eat yummy salads, tasty egg dishes and wash it down with some pretty good wine.  One of my favorite dishes there was something I had never tried before, lemony chickpeas.  While we were chatting with Shraga he introduced us to the chef who made the salad, Assaf, who gladly wrote down the recipe for me.  Here it is:

Having trouble deciphering the recipe? Let me write it out more clearly for you.

The Gush Etzion Winery is situation at Tzomet Gush Etzion (Gush Ezion Junction)

Visiting hours at the restaurant and the visitors’ center:  Sun-Thurs 9 AM to 11 PM, Fridays 9 AM to 2 PM in the summer and to 1 PM in the winter.

Tel:  972-2-930-9220

http://www.gushetzion-winery.co.il

Lemony Chickpea Salad

I took the recipe as Assaf wrote it out above and played around with it last Friday, carefully writing down amounts and ingredients.  I managed to recreate my new favorite salad in just a try or two.

  • 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or one can, drained and rinsed, to equal 2 cups)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons pickled lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • minced scallions for garnish

Rinse and drain the chickpeas and place in a mixing bowl. At this point I added a bit of salt and pepper.

This is what pickled lemon looks like for the uninitiated.

Add the pickled lemon and the lemon juice. Mix well and taste. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Top with the minced scallions, which I didn't do in this picture. Chill for at least half an hour before serving.

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About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 3 August 2011, in Alcohol, Bloggers, Breakfast, Israel, Salads, Vegan, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I never noticed the lemony chickpeas on the menu, glad it took a visitor to point it out. Thanks :)

    • I don’t know if they are on the menu. We never saw a menu, we just were inundated with food by Shraga. But if you see them next time you’re there, go for it. Or make them at home. :-)

  2. I’m very impressed that you were able to recreate the salad from the chef’s hastily-written note!

    • It’s a very simple recipe with an “I should have thought of that” twist. Also, the memory of the deliciousness lingers on, so I just needed the hint of the ingredients.

  3. Irmgard Upmanis

    I love winery tours. We have done a couple when visiting the Niagara region. They have such amazing sounding dishes in the restaurants but we have never indulged as these restaurants are out of our price range – lol!

  4. Great writeup, Mirj! I was too busy being afraid of heights to give the yellow car more than a passing glance… did you find out why it’s there, in the middle of a winery?

  5. That is one of our favorite restaurants – glad you enjoyed!

  6. Can’t wait to make this salad! BTW – Yogi Berra is still alive – :)

  7. sheerpretzels

    The by-now-not-so-new man in my life is planning a business trip to Israel, and has invited me to join (now THAT bodes well for the future!). The wine region trip looks really exciting and fun. But googling I see that Gush Etzion is in disputed territory. Does that make it unsafe?

    • I had no qualms about going into the Gush, although some people do. Safe is a subjective term. I think you have more of a chance of getting into trouble in central Tel Aviv these days.

  8. Great post Mirj – as always. How’re the bubbles?
    Suz

  9. Mirj, where did you find those pickled lemons? I’ve always pickled my own and have never seen them in a jar. And… next time you’re in the Gush you have to try Gavna restaurant. It’s next to Bay Ayin, in the woods. Very rustic, charming and great food.

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