Tel Gezer – Revival of the Wine Industry

Gezer, a settlement established in the 4th century, B.C.E, is located in the very center of the country, on the King’s Way leading from Egypt northwards and presiding over the coastal plain. Whoever stayed there could see every arriving ship to Jaffa old port, every convoy which headed to Jerusalem. The vineyard was planted in the lands of Kfar Bin Nun, along with the slopes of the Judean Hills spreading down from Jerusalem, in the same area where King Solomon’s ancient vineyards used to be.

The Gezer area has been known as a wine-producing area for hundreds of years. From Biblical times there are pieces of evidence of wine-growing in the area. In a tour around Tel Gezer, one can find evidence of wineries and presses that testify to the production of wine in ancient times. Many have been excavated and uncovered, and they can be visited this day. Following the renaissance of boutique wineries and vineyards, the area is returning to its greatness and is gaining momentum.

The village of Bin-Nun in the Ayalon Valley, which belongs to the Gezer Regional Council, was established in 1952 in an area rich with a Jewish history from more than 1000 years B.C. The original entrance to the village was an ancient Roman road, which connected the King’s Road from the Jerusalem mountains area to the seacoast road. This road passed near the hill next to the Bin-nun winery, where two ancient winepresses were discovered.

One of the winepresses was identified with the help of experts as a simple winepress model of a grape-treading surface from the First Temple period (960 B.C.). The second one is a unique ancient winepress factory, which believed to be from the Second Temple period (about 500 B.C.) and used a technique of wooden beam winepress. At a short distance from the ancient winepress, a Mikveh for ritual purity was found, and it is estimated as a Jewish Mikveh from the Hasmonean dynasty period (140 B.C. – 63 B.C.).

Our area is characterized by a unique microclimate including a cold funnel from the valley, with cold winds at night even during the summer. The air from the hills of Jerusalem provides the needed dryness to the vineyard. This unique microclimate enhances the grape ripening, leverages the extraction of minerals from the vineyard ground, and the accumulation of flavors and aromas in the grapes. The vineyard grows in heavy soil loaded with limestone, which forms an excellent basis for flavors that concentrate on the grape. The slope of the ground creates excellent drainage, which prevents the accumulation of excess water. These fine weather conditions and the fertile soil is the fundamental basis of quality wine production in this area since King Solomon’s reign, until today.

Treating the Vineyard

Controlled growth conditions and adequate trimming allow for an appropriate ratio between the amount of landscape and the amount of fruit, something which guarantees optimal ripening conditions for the grape clusters. Precise irrigation, significant dryness, and controlled exposure to the sun’s rays contribute to the formation of quality grapes with small grains and a high concentration of flavors.

We insist upon a measured number of grape clusters per vine in order to ensure that every grape receives as many minerals and flavors as possible from the vine and the ground in order to create fine, quality wines. We aim to maintain a crop of 600-800kg per dunam, which allows the vine to concentrate all of the flavors, colors, and aromas in the remaining clusters. Today, we grow merlot and cabernet sauvignon in the vineyard. Propagation material for planting was brought by special order from France. The planting was undertaken with our own hands and with a personal connection to the land, and we insisted upon the preservation of correct spacing and personal attention for each seedling. From the vineyard’s first years it has yielded quality grapes of exceptional aroma and taste.

This year we will bring in additional species of grape from France and Italy to the vineyard in order to expand our variety.

Production Process

Wine production is not complicated in itself and humans have done it successfully for thousands of years. However, if you want to produce a quality product, you have to be professional. We at the Bin-Nun Winery believe that in order to achieve quality wine, you must invest, nurture, and, above all, love every stage of the wine-making process—from the very first stages in the vineyard to the end stage of aging of the wine in bottles.

The process of producing wine in a winery starts from the day of harvest, which is a holiday in the vineyard and the winery. All of our wine is the product of hand-harvesting that takes place with the help of friends and family members at dawn. Each plot is harvested separately, and when the grapes reach the winery found adjacent to the vineyard, they are refrigerated for a day at between 4-6°C, so that the wine-production process can begin at a uniform, controlled temperature. In the morning of the mashing, we sort the grapes meticulously by hand and transfer the chosen clusters to the dividing crusher, which separates the grapes from the stems and gently chops the grapes to the exact level required to prepare them for fermentation in tanks.

We carry out the fermentation in refrigerated, stainless steel vats in order to preserve and manage the fermentation process at a pace suitable to every species, level of ripening, and expected type of wine. The goal of this early stage is to maximize the color and flavors of the peels. The fermentation continues in these tanks for 7-14 days and ends when all of the sugar in the grapes turns into alcohol. During fermentation, in order to best extract all of the flavors and color, we carry out a pump-up process in which we gently pump the juice from the bottom of the tank every few hours and pour it gently over the grape skins that have gathered at the top to get them, or a push-down process in which we compress the cap of floating grape peels into the liquid.

At the end of alcoholic fermentation, we put the liquid from the tanks into a press, from which wine flows without peels or seeds into the bacterial fermentation tanks. The press day is yet another of the happiest days at the winery, in which the young wine is first poured without skins or seeds. On this day, the vintner checks and assesses the quality of the labor of the winegrowers over the past year. After pressing, the wine continues in a slow, anaerobic fermentation process (bacterial fermentation). This process takes place at a cold, controlled temperature to extract all of the grapes’ quality potential. At the end of the bacterial fermentation, the wine is decanted and transferred to mature and age in oak barrels.

We age the wine in French oak barrels. In the barrels, the wine undergoes a slow, micro-oxygenation process through the sides of the barrel, and characteristic wood flavors are added to the wine’s fruity flavors from the vineyard. We age the wine in barrels for 1-2 years, depending on the type of wine we are producing.

At the end of the aging process, we mix the wine from the various barrels back into tanks to create the “blend” – the exact mixture that will characterize the wine for that year. In a process of repeated tasting, we choose the optimal mix of flavors and decide the proper blend for every year. The chosen blend is returned to the stainless-steel tanks for clearing and “calming,” and from there it is transferred to bottles.

The process ends with capping with quality cork, stamping the cork with a capsule, and gluing the wine label. The just-bottled wine is now laid down for a number of months in optimally cold and dark conditions before removing it to market.