I love a lot about Jerusalem. I love that even though it’s hot, it’s a dry heat with breezes. I love that it’s a bustling town, but not the metropolis that is Tel Aviv. I love that the air feels Jewish, which is a weird thing to conceptualize, but not if you’ve been here. But one of the things that I love most about Jerusalem, is that every summer they host the Jerusalem Wine Festival. There are a lot of festivals in this city; the Klezmer Festival, the Lights Festival (still never been!), the Beer Festival (skip it!) and the Arts Festival (super- fun!) but for me no festival compares to this one. This year’s festival was especially welcome, since it had been postponed from July due to “the situation” (Thanks Hamas!) But as they say, you can’t keep Jews from their wine!” (Does anyone say that? They should.) One of the really nice things about our ulpan is that they offer the students intermittent tiyulim/trips all over the city and sometimes elsewhere in the country. Usually, I skip them, having done Birthright an obscene number of times and therefore having already experienced the destinations. But yesterday, we were offered free admission to the Israel Museum! A perennial favorite and kinda pricey for an unemployed ulpan student, the museum is also host to the wine festival, so I jumped at the chance! After an afternoon of culture (still hate modern art, still love the Impressionists) a bunch of friends from the ulpan and I followed the jazzy music to the festival.
For those who haven’t been there, here’s the scenario: Sunset, the Israel Museum’s sculpture garden, breeze and music. You hand your ticket to the lady and she hands you a brand-new wine glass. Which is then yours forever! Well, definitely for the rest of the night. You take this glass to the myriad winery booths, both large (Golan Heights, for example) and boutique, where sweet and knowledgeable winery employees pour you as many tastes of as many wines as you want. Seriously! If this sounds like a dream, it is, but a very real one. You a red kinda guy? All the Merlot you can handle! You more of a white wine kinda gal? So much Emerald Riesling to choose from! Some people take the evening seriously, tasting and spitting, asking and purchasing their favorites. I am not those people. For although my friend Aaron tried valiantly to teach me a thing or two about the magical world of wines, I was not the greatest student. But for the tasting, I was all in, kids.
What’s best to pair with all these wines? Some went for sushi, others chose pizza, but I was all about the cheese plate. There were 2 large cheese kiosks, chocked full of every type of fromage, so I just asked for some diverse options, bought a couple rolls, and had a fabulous little wine and cheese party on one of the festive cocktail tables they had kindly set out for their guests. Classy shindig, for sure. After several hours of tasting, everyone is happy, everyone is friendly and everyone is sleepy. So you just head out to one of the waiting buses and enjoy a delicious sleep after a delicious evening.
I know this all seems like an advertisement, but I think everyone who attends this festival feels this same way. We wait all year for it, and if you plan a trip here, maybe try and have it coincide with this 4-evening wine extravaganza. And let me be your guide- you won’t learn a thing about wine, but I’ll share my cheese with you!