Vered Ben Sa’adon takes wine very seriously. And why wouldn’t she? As the co-owner of the Tura Winery with her husband Erez, the two put in every shekel they had into creating what has become one of the premiere wineries in Israel.
After selling their grapes to other major wineries, the two branched out on their own and created the family estate winery in 2003. In those early days of struggle, the couple sold 1,200 bottles a year. Today, they sell 100,000.
Sa’adon attributes their formula of Patience and Inspiration – the two words on the label of each bottle – to their success. Patience because one must appreciate that the wine-making process is a slow art and inspiration because it is the holiness of the land that inspires the creation of such fine grapes.
“The chances were high that we could have just created a lackluster bottle of wine,” she remembers of the early days when her and Erez would experiment with their early creations.
“There were no guarantees. But we were blessed with good fortune, and it’s no coincidence that this land is called the Mountain of Blessings (Har Bracha),” she said, of the Samarian mountain where the winery is located.
Achieving such skyrocketing figures did not come easy. Sa’adon, who married Erez while she was a senior in high school, cleaned homes during her pregnancy, while he worked long days in the vineyard to make ends meet.
“We started from nothing. We moved here with nothing. We harvested this land because it was important to us. And those early days were difficult,” she said, of their beginnings in Rehelim, a community in Samaria that is home to some 800 people.
The pastoral community is named after two women killed in terror attacks, both named Rachel and one of Judaism’s matriarchs, Rachel. It is fitting then, that Sa’adon, has made her home in a place that cherishes not only the Bible, but the feminine spirit.
“My ancestors harvested wine here over 2000 years ago; this is a gift from Jeremiah. It was always clear to us that we’d come here and do something significant and historic for our people,” she said.
Since the creation of Tura, something significant has transpired among the vines – a burgeoning winery that is considered one of the first successful boutique wineries in Israel and the first major one to come out of Samaria.
Its flagship Mountain Peak line, for example, has earned an excellent score of 90 in Wine Spectator – one of the leading wine publications in the world. The Bordeaux-style blend is aged in fine French oak barrels for 22 months and is a robust, yet not too heavy, red. The winery has won over 60 medals worldwide and sells 40% of its bottles to an international audience.
Of course, all this selling can be exhausting, especially considering Sa’adon travels abroad often to meet with potential buyers. However, she is grateful for the opportunity to not only sell her wines, but to sell wine cultivated from Israel’s biblical heartland.
“When you look at the map of Israel, our vineyard really lies in the center of our beautiful, but tiny and narrow strip of land,” she said, explaining why one of their wines is called “Heartland.”
Growing up, she admired her grandmother who fled from the Nazis. Sa’adon story is a complex one. Born in Holland to a non-Jewish mother and Jewish father, she came to Israel and converted to Judaism along with her mother and sister. As such, she understands very well what can happen to a people who don’t have their own homeland.
Like Esther before her, Sa’adon advocates for her people’s need for self-determination, no matter the cost. “My grandmother taught me to never take this country for granted,” she said.
Today at the winery, while this booming success has left room for growth, the Sa’adon’s have chosen to take their time and protect the quality of what they have.
‘We have the potential to create over 250,000 bottles with their 250 dunams (25 hectares), but we’re not doing that. We want to protect and ensure the quality,” she said.
“It’s not easy to live here. But we love this land. We’re here not only for the people of Israel, but also for the land,” she added.
It is fitting, then, as we celebrate Purim, that Tura represents not only the mitzvah of drinking wine on this holiday, but also celebrating the strength of women. Both Esther and Vashti in their own way were powerful figures; Esther with her fierce modesty and love for her people and Vashti, whom Babylonian and Eretz Yisrael traditions treat very differently. The rabbis of Israel asserted that King Ahasuerus wanted to rebuild the Temple, but that it was his wife, Vashti, who stayed his hand, aghast that he sought to rebuild what her forebears had destroyed.
Sa’adon and Tura enable the Jewish people to celebrate and ensure that they will endure no matter whatever threats are thrown their way.