In vino, vacation

Hotels okayed for Zichron Yaakov wine tourism complex

Planners give green light to component of well-aged Wine Park development, slated to include homes, galleries, workshops and more wine-centric attractions in the northern city

Rendering of proposed wine park and surrounding homes, Zichron Yaakov, January 2023. (Courtesy: Tourism Ministry).
Rendering of proposed wine park and surrounding homes, Zichron Yaakov, January 2023. (Courtesy: Tourism Ministry).

Planners have given the go-ahead for over 250 new hotel rooms to be part of a Zichron Yaakov tourist complex that the northern city hopes will ensconce its place as Israel’s winemaking capital.

Authorities from the Israel Lands Authority approved plans for some 265 rooms in two separate parts of the planned 606-dunam (150-acre) project. Developers will also have the option of taking on an extra 64 rooms, according to the Tourism Ministry.

The rooms will be part of the city’s Wine Park, which is slated to also include some 200 homes, restaurants, cafes, parkland, galleries, shops, a performance space, and craft shops and industrial operations related to winemaking, including vineyards.

Leaders hope the complex will help cement the region’s image as Israel’s Napa Valley or Tuscany, drawing wine producers, olive oil manufacturers, artists and others involved in boutique food production.

Tourism Minister Haim Katz said demand for ecotourism was on the rise.

“Israeli wine has rightly made a name for itself worldwide,” Katz said in a statement after the tourist accommodations were okayed on January 18. “Winemaking activities put about a billion shekels into state coffers annually and contribute to local job creation in outlying areas. Improving the wine tourist’s experience will bolster Israel’s position as a leading culinary destination.”

The project has been under discussion since 2002 and plans were first approved in 2007, but construction on the residential section has only just begun. The park, located just east of park Ramat HaNadiv, will expand Zichron Yaakov’s footprint south, practically to the doorstep of the popular Tishbi Winery in adjacent Binyamina.

Known for its rustic charm, with pre-state stone structures lining cobblestone paths in its city center, Zichron Yaakov has long been at the epicenter of Israel’s rapidly maturing wine industry.

The city is already home to Carmel, which was founded using French rootstock by Edmond James de Rothschild in 1882, the same year the Rothschilds founded Zichron Yaakov. Carmel has grown to become one of the country’s largest wineries and is responsible for approximately half of Israel’s wine exports.

Carmel Winery (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Archaeologists say wine has been produced in Israel for thousands of years. Today there are over 300 wineries in Israel, producing more than 65 million bottles of wine each year.

In recent years, viniculturalists have increasingly looked to develop or revive unique local grape varieties suited to Israel’s landscape and climate.

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