by Michael Zeff
In the small Golan Heights community of Kidmat Tzvi, Tami and Babi Kabalo have figuratively beaten their swords into plowshares by converting a wartime relic into a fully functional wine cellar in the service of their boutique winery.
A military facility that used to store munitions, mortars, and explosives used against Israel by Syria in the Six Day War is now a wine cellar used for aging Israeli wine near a site where Jews produced wine over 1,500 years ago.
The Ein Nashut Winery is located within the Kabalos’ family farmstead, Belle Ofri.
The elderly Kabalo couple own and operate the farmstead and are part of Kidmat Tzvi’s founding generation.
The community was founded in 1981 on the ruins of a Syrian military outpost used during the 1967 Six Day War. Today, Kidmat Tzvi is a productive community of 375 people made up of family farmsteads such as the Belle Ofri.
“When we broke ground on our plot of land shortly after arriving in what would become Kidmat Tzvi, my husband Babi discovered a military bunker right under our property,” Tami Kabalo told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
“Instead of having it destroyed or moving our plot further away, Babi decided to keep it as part of our property, thinking he would find a use for it eventually,” Tami explained.
After having worked as a winegrower and winemaker for several wineries in the area for more than 20 years, Babi Kabalo finally opened his own small winery called Ein Nashut in 2007.
“When my husband made the first batch, we were looking for a dry and chilly spot to store and age our wine and then we remembered the abandoned bunker under Belle Ofri. We began renovating it and of course, making it safe,” Tami said.
The entire family began emptying out the bunker of everything the soldiers left behind when the outpost was abandoned in 1967. The Kabalos cleaned the walls and even installed a new tile floor.
“The bunker only had a ladder leading straight down so Babi did some digging and built a proper convenient stairway to our new wine cellar,” elaborated Tami.
The Ein Nashut Winery today produces over 12,000 bottles of wine a year. “We currently grow and offer Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Syrah wines. We will soon be producing white wines as well,” explained Tami.
The wines of Ein Nashut are varietal wines, made from a single named grape variety. All wine is produced solely from the grapes grown by the Kabalos in their private vineyard, making Ein Nashut wine a single-vineyard designated wine.
The winery is named after an archeological site across the road from the Belle Ofri farm. According to the Israel National Parks Authority, the site used to be a thriving Jewish village during the Talmudic era roughly 1,500 years ago. Archeological research at the site has found evidence showing that olive oil and wine served as its main source of income.
“The territory of the Golan Heights is simply perfect for wine-making; the quality of the soil and the climate here are ideal for wine grapes. It must have been the same when the ancient Jewish village of Ein Nashut existed,” Tami related. “We know today that they used to produce a lot of wine and they were known throughout the Roman Empire for their wine quality.”
The Belle Ofri farm and the Ein Nashut winery are open for the public to visit if coordinated with the Kabalos in advance. Besides producing wine, the Kabalos also produce aged cheeses in the Italian and French style as well as sculptures and glass art.TPS / Tazpit News Agency