There's a winery in Israel's Upper Galilee that has nothing to do with grapes. It's the Rimon Winery, a family business, which makes wine out of the "rimon" – that's Hebrew for "pomegranate".
Israel National Radio's Yishai Fleisher and Malkah Fleisher checked in with Tair Nachmias, head of marketing at Rimon Winery (click here to listen to the full interview). "We are the only winery in the world that produces the pomegranate wine," says Tair, "thanks to a very special pomegranate tree that the owner of this place developed 15 years ago. He makes several kinds of hybrid pomegranate trees. He came up with a new one that is quite big. One pomegranate weighs 1.5 kilo, which is a huge pomegranate."
The Rimon Winery pomegranates are so unique - they are dark red and three times the size of normal pomegranate - that they are protected by a patent. "Yes, it is huge and amazing," says Tair, "I highly recommend to…come to our visitors center and see the big pomegranates. It has a very high level of sugar in it. That is how we manage to produce the pomegranate wine from it."
Pomegranate wine also has an impressive array of health benefits. Tair explains: "Our wine, besides the amazing taste, is very healthy and is good for preventing heart disease and bad cholesterol in the blood. For diabetics, it balances the level of the insulin in the blood. Studies show it can destroy cancer cells and the development of cancer. Doctors recommend drinking 14 milliliters of wine each day for your health."
Rimon Wines may also be good for the soul. There's a Jewish tradition that each pomegranate has 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 positive and negative Torah commandments "mitzvot". That's a lot of mizvot – and a lot of seeds. When asked if the tradition is true to life, Tair didn't hesitate:" Yes. We counted it. We can assure you there are 613 seeds in the pomegranate. We even put money on the table."
The pomegranate fruit has a crown shape on its top. At Rimon Winery, this is seen as a significant sign. "It is grown for a reason. It is the best fruit you can find with the highest concentration of health benefits in it. So there is a reason G-d put a crown on it. The crown is a six-pointed star like the Star of David," says Tair.
Rimon Wines come in three types: port, dry, and dessert, each of which has won prestigious awards. 70% of the wine is exported to a host of countries abroad, and the winery produces 560,000 bottles each year.
There's a new wine out too: "Today is its first day on the shelf," says Tair proudly, "It's called the Bubble Palm. You serve it very cold. It's almost like a champagne but much better."
The Rimon Winery is a family affair. "We are the Nachmiah family from Kerem Ben Zimra in the Upper Galilee," says Tair. "My uncle developed the pomegranate tree…everyone who works here in the winery is a member of the family. It's a warm place to arrive to and we welcome everyone with open arms. We are basically having fun here."
A visiting center in the orchard itself is open for people to experience Rimon Wines first hand. "Actually all of the people who try the wine are just shocked and amazed from the different taste because it's nothing like grapes," says Tair. "A lot of people arrive to the winery and say they only like dry wine and then I urge them to try the dessert wine and they taste it and are shocked at how different it is."
What is the blessing that is recited over the wine? It's not "borei pri hagafen," since the wine is not made from grapes. It's actually "shehakol nehiah bidvaro", explains Tair, meaning that everything exists through G-d's word. Thinking back on the miraculous rimon, with its benefits to the body and soul, that blessing takes on a whole new meaning.