Establishing the Winery – The Beginning
In 1997, a pioneering couple decided to establish a unique, different factory, a winery that will be based on local produce only. As part of an extraordinary brave step, the couple planted 2.47 acres of the very first Cabernet Sauvignon on their agricultural property in the desert, near Kadesh Barnea village. Needless to say, many wine experts were amazed by this move, claiming that it won´t be possible to grow quality grapes in the desert area. However, with their typical persistence and as people of vision, the couple decided to follow their hearts and ignore all doubters.
Once the grapevines reached maturity, the couples purchased a number of barrels, plastic containers and basic winemaking equipment. In 2000, the first desert wine was made, in a limited edition of 3,000 bottles while the rest of the produce was sold to one of the leading wineries in Israel. The small amount of wine ran out within 4 months and most of the purchasers were friends and family members. Following the enthusiastic reactions to the wine, the couple decided to plant an additional 2.47 acres of Merlot. During that year, Alon started making 5,000 bottles which again, ran out before the next grape harvest began.
In 2003, when the winery staff discovered that Alon was making wine in his own home, they were annoyed and gave Alon an ultimatum which was about to change the world of desert wine.
The winery staff demanded that Alon stop his private, small winemaking and sell them his crop. Alon is not a man that gives in to pressure and with endless faith he decided to plant another 2.47 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and began making wine from the entire existing vineyard, 15,000 bottles. Alon understood the commercial potential of making Kosher wine and that year he began to do so.
Alon understood very quickly that making wine is the more simple part of the equation, marketing it however, is a completely different story. During that period of time, Alon partnered up with a small marketing company. Kadesh Barnea Winery wines were marketed by a marketing company that specialized in boutique wines, the company failed to market the wines successfully and Alon decided to take action. Alon recruited his entire family in order to establish a business; this is how the first boutique family owned winery in the Negev, was created: Kadesh Barnea Winery.
Alon sent Yogev, his eldest son and spouse Eden, to study the secrets of winemaking from the world´s best professionals – the Italians. The young couple moved to Italy and began studying wine technology in the University of Florence. They studied in a foreign language for three years. Yogev and Eden completed their studies with honors and returned to Israel to provide the winery their professional knowledge that they have learned. Alon left the marketing company and appointed Gilad, his youngest son that had no experience in the field, to be the sole marketer of the winery. Nira, the mother of the family, was appointed Operational Manager of the winery, and the family began their journey to fulfill their dream – making quality wine from western Negev grapes.
By 2006, the small winery had made 25,000 bottles, selling all of them each year. In time, an additional marketing channel was opened and due to its Kosher certificate, the winery sold about 30% of its wines to the US, when the main consumers were American Jews. The rest of the wine was sold in the winery, in restaurants and leading wine stores.
The Transfer to a Large, Commercial Winery
In 2006, upon Yogev and Eden´s return to Israel from their studies abroad, the following actions took place: The winery staff planted additional 7.41 acres of land. This time, since research and development were never done, the intention was to discover new and less common kinds that might be suitable for the Negev´s land. After quite a few consultations the winery staff planted plots of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, Sauvignon Blan and Chardonnay.
In 2009, the winery purchased advanced winemaking equipment in order for the young and gifted winemaker to make wine of the highest quality. Different types of new barrels were purchased from various places. A new, technically advanced crusher was purchased, along with an automatic bottle line, stainless steel tank, pumps and much more sophisticated equipment from top manufacturers in Italy and Israel. In addition, a new plot was added of approximately 4.94 acres from a vine-grower in the Mizpe Ramon area. The winery continued its self-research and development in order to combine and discover new plots in the Negev.
The Transfer to Ramat Negev Winery
The Kadesh Barnea winery is currently going through a branding processes and has changed its name to Ramat Negev Winery. The name came from the desire to express the unique growing lands´ grapevines in Ramat Hanegev, while representing the entire Ramat Hanegev area. Each wine is effected by the area in which it was grown. The winery aspires to make wine from Negev vineyards and allow wine lovers a rare taste of the different and special grape-growing area. In addition, Ramat Negev Winery is the very first winery that was established in Ramat Negev and one of the first to plant vineyards. As a result of an innovative perception combined with an ancient tradition, it was decided to grow vineyards in the Negev and express this terroir. The winery´s aspiration is to gather all of the agricultural produce of grapes and be a central location/central winery.
As of 2013, the winery makes about 80,000 bottles in a wide range of prices. The winery´s goal is to make quality wine for affordable prices.
The Winery´s Emphasis on Ecology
Recently, the winery has made ecology its motto. The winery goes to great lengths to pay Mother Nature back – for enabling us to establish this desert miracle. In the winery, we preserve as much as we can the balance between human beings and nature, by taking ecological actions in a wide range of fields – water, land and air.
Water: We use water that has been purified by local drilling. The water used for watering and production is salty water that is pumped from the depths of the earth. After "cleaning" the water from its natural salts it contains, we add exact dosages of fertilizer. In three years we have learned to identify the exact amount needed of each mineral. We control solely the grapevines´ nutrition and since there is no precipitation, we have learned to identify the delicate balance that the grapevine requires in order to grow the best possible fruit.
Air: The air is preserved by us not using pesticides and our prevention of spraying chemicals on our vineyards. This is possible due to the relative isolation of the vineyards. In addition, the dry desert climate prevents the creation of different funguses. This is how we are able to grow vineyards clean of spraying and chemicals.
Land: Preserving the land is made possible to us by placing the shredded branches (that were shredded after the pruning process) back into the ground, this is how we naturally enrich our land. We also place back in the ground the fruit waste that comes from the winemaking process, as an enriching organic material.
The vineyards are grown on qualified lands that are designated for agriculture purposes; therefore, there is no destruction of natural habitats. All of the plantings are done on never-before-used lands; this is how the land doesn´t get worn out. We plant new plants, settle the desert and turn brown into green.
From the day the winery was established (in 2000) and through 2010, the main winemaker was the father, Alon Zadok, who practiced agriculture and management of agricultural villages for most of his life. Alon has 40 years of experience and has gained a great deal of knowledge and skills in agriculture and in the agricultural field-growing business, theoretical skills but mostly practical experience. Alon participated in many courses that teach about wine, from the history of wine through growing grapevines and producing it – he learned it and fell in love with it.
As of 2010, the main winemaker of the winery is Yogev Zadok, 32, who is Nira and Alon´s eldest son who lives in the village of Kadesh Barnea, near the winery´s vineyard.
Yogev met his wife, Eden, while completing his high school SAT tests. Their shared love for wine became a frequent topic during conversations between the couple and their time spent together turned into unique wine tasting nights. In 2006, after a need for a professional winemaker arose, the couple decided to specialize in the field of wine. They packed their bags and flew to Florence, the wine capital in the heart of Tuscany. There, throughout a period of three years the couple studied the science of wine and grapevines, in the Faculty of Agriculture. The couple returned to Israel with BAs, after practical work and an internship in Antinori Winery, the world renowned Italian wine brand. For three years, the couple lived and breathed in Italian, acquired a unique sense of style for wine which is reflected nowadays in the winery´s wines.
The wines have an Italian influence: They have less alcohol, the fruit is not as ripe and the wine is more elegant, the taste of the grapevines´ fruit is more dominant than the taste of the aging process in the barrels. The couple has two children: A girl and a boy. Here too, the couple´s love for wine is shown; the daughter´s name is Gefen, which means Grapevine in Hebrew. However, just like in every love story, each individual has his/her preferences. Eden specializes in white wines and Yogev produces red wines.
The Vision and Establishment in the Negev
In 1979, with a Zionist vision and strong desire to settle the southern desert, Alon and Nira Zadok packed their belongings in two suitcases and left their parent´s home in Geulim in the Sharon area and moved south to the south-western area of the Negev. At first, they settled in conquered Sinai in a magical oasis called Kadesh Barnea (Kseyma).
After the peace agreements were completed in 1980, they left their home and along with five other young friends, moved and established an agricultural settlement near the Egyptian border, in the desert´s wilderness. With no infrastructure whatsoever, the group struggled to establish a village and learned firsthand the art of desert agriculture.
The young pioneers attempted to plant all types of crops, from grapes to melons, eggplants, watermelons, tomatoes and more. Following their numerous agricultural attempts they realized that the Negev isn´t in fact a barren place where nothing can be grown. They learned back then what is now, 35 years later common knowledge – the Negev has great agricultural potential. Nowadays, the Negev is called the "Produce Granary" of Israel with about 60% of all Israeli agriculture being grown in the Negev.
The Winery´s Establishment
Alon is a wine lover, who inherited the love for wine from his father, who used to make wine at home. This hobby was with him for years as he traveled Israel and tasted plenty of wine. Nira, who identified his love for wine, purchased an original birthday gift for him. She sent him to a wine course with Yair Heidi and Berry Sasselov. Alon fell in love with the world of wine and continued on to another program with Yair Margalit, after that he signed up for a wine-making course at Soreq Winery. Alon quickly understood that making the wine is the easier part of the equation, marketing it on the other hand, is a different story.
During that period of time, Alon partnered up with a small marketing company specializing in boutique wines, the company failed to market Alon´s wines successfully and Alon decided to take action. Alon recruited his entire family in order to establish a business; this is how the Negev´s first family-owned boutique winery was established.
Our wines are Kosher Mehadrin and Kosher for Passover, since 2003.
Our wines are made under the supervision of Rabbi Meir Swisa, the chief rabbi of the local council of Ramat Hanegev who also has a Badatz Kashruth certification from KIR (Badatz Igud Rabbonim), lead by Rabbi Westheim from Manchester, England.
The importance of keeping the wine kosher is because it is used for the Jewish Kiddush and as food. In order for wine to be considered Kosher, only Kosher products and ingredients can be used, and everything is under the certified rabbi´s supervision.
For example: Natural ingredients are used in order to soften the wine. In a Kosher winery, Bentonite and egg whites are used instead of Casein and gelatin that are produced from pig and cattle bones. The winemaking process must also be in accordance to Jewish law:
*The vineyard must meet the Jewish "Orla" laws´ conditions (first harvest after four years) and the "Shmita" laws´ conditions (every seven years).
*Throughout the winemaking process, tithe and contributions are allocated.
*Throughout the entire winemaking process – from the harvest through turning the grape into wine only Jewish, Sabbath observing Jews work in the winery, under the supervision of the rabbi.
Kosher wine has a bad reputation for being lower quality that undergoes a cooking process which ruins its texture and taste, well, this is not the case. Making Kosher wine isn´t any different from making non-Kosher wine and the cooking process isn´t done during the winemaking process, it is done only if necessary, in which case it will be stated on a label "cooked/uncooked".