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In recent years the number of vineyards in the valleys and hills between Mitzpe Ramon and Be’er Sheva has grown significantly. These vineyards mark the first attempts to nurture grapes in the desert since the ancient Nabataeans made wine at Shivta and Avdat. Using innovative computerized watering methods (eg drip irrigation), today’s winegrowers have converted arid areas of dust into fertile land.
Located on the kibbutz of the same name, the Sde Boker Winery was established in 1999 in association with the School of Agriculture Rehovot to test the possibility of growing wine grapes with brackish water. Map.
Winemaker Zvi Remak hails from San Francisco and concentrates on making handcrafted, barrel, red wines from cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes. You can taste his wines at a stand in the visitor center next to the Ben-Gurion Desert Home.
Located close to the Avdat ruins, the Carmey Avdat Winery (08-653 5177; http://www.carmeyavdat.com;) is a family-run vineyard built on the ruins of an ancient agricultural settlement. It harvested its first yield in 2002, and now produces a rosé, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend. Map.
This is a lovely spot to spend a few nights; it offers rustic cabins with kitchen and private dipping pool (per double on weekdays 560NIS to 890NIS, on the weekend 670NIS to 890NIS). Breakfast is delivered to guests, and there’s a produce shop where local cheeses and other products can be purchased.
As well as producing organic wine, olives and fruit, the Boker Valley Vineyards Farm (052-578 6863, 052-862 2930; http://www.bokerfarm.com; weekday/weekend US$160/190, weekday/weekend $US270/300; ) offers comfortable accommodation. Map.
Operated by a friendly Israeli–Dutch family, it has five safari-style cabins sleeping between two and five; each comes with a small kitchenette and outdoor barbecue area. Guests love the spa-bath hut and the lavish home-cooked breakfasts.
The farm is a 3.5km drive north of Kibbutz Sde Boker on Rte 40, between the Telalim and Halukim Junctions. Other local wines to sample include those produced by Nana (try its impressive chardonnay), Kadesh Barnea, Ashba, Rota, Sdema, Rujum and Derech Erez.
For more information about the Ramat Hanegev region and the wine route, go to http://www.rng.org.il.