Approved hotels for the Zichron Yakov wine tourism complex

Planners have given the go-ahead for more than 250 new hotel rooms to be part of the Zichron Yakov tourist complex, which the northern city hopes will take its place as Israel’s winemaking capital.

Israel Lands Authority officials have approved plans for about 265 rooms in two separate parts of the planned 606-dunam (150-acre) project. Developers will also have the option to take an additional 64 rooms, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

The rooms will be part of the city’s Wine Park, which is planned to also include around 200 homes, restaurants, cafes, parks, galleries, shops, performance space and craft shops and industrial operations related to winemaking, including vineyards.

Leaders hope the complex will help bolster the region’s image as Israel’s Napa Valley or Tuscany, attracting winemakers, olive oil producers, artists and others involved in boutique food production.

Tourism Minister Chaim Katz said demand for ecotourism is growing.

“Israeli wine has rightly made a name for itself worldwide,” Katz said in a statement after tourist accommodations were allowed on Jan. 18. “Wine production activities contribute about a billion shekels to the state treasury annually and contribute to the creation of local jobs in remote areas. Enhancing the wine tourist experience will strengthen Israel’s position as a leading culinary destination.”

The project has been under discussion since 2002 and plans were first approved in 2007, but construction on the residential portion has only just begun. The park, located just east of Ramat HaNadiv Park, will expand Zichron Yaakov’s footprint to the south, practically to the doorstep of the popular Tishbi Winery in neighboring Binyamina.

Known for its rustic charm, with pre-state stone structures lining cobblestone paths in the city center, Zichron Yaakov has long been at the epicenter of Israel’s booming wine industry.

The city is now home to Carmel, which was founded with the help of French foundations by Edmond James de Rothschild in 1882, the same year the Rothschilds founded Zichron Yaakov. Carmel has become one of the largest wineries in the country and is responsible for approximately half of Israel’s wine exports.

Carmel Winery (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Archaeologists say that wine has been produced in Israel for thousands of years. Today, there are over 300 wineries in Israel that produce more than 65 million bottles of wine each year.

In recent years, winegrowers have increasingly sought to develop or revive unique indigenous grape varieties suited to Israel’s landscape and climate.

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