Binyamina Winery was founded in 1952 by Joseph Zeltzer. He immigrated to Israel from Hungary infused with a passion to continue being a winemaker, as he’d been in his country of birth. Zeltzer originally named the winery Eliaz, after his son who fell in battle during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. He soon began making wine in the center of what was then considered Israel’s official wine region.
The site for the factory was chosen because jasmine plants, which were used to manufacture perfume essence, grew abundantly in the area. The factory eventually failed, closing its doors in 1937. Other than its occasional use as a hiding place for members of the Hagana movement, the Jewish underground, the building remained abandoned until the establishment of the State of Israel.
At that time, Zeltzer’s longing for a winery to manufacture sweet wines and liqueurs led him to the heart of Binyamina, the hub of Israel’s wine region. Here, with vineyards right on his doorstep, Zeltzer set up his operations in the former perfume factory building with its rich and remarkable history.
Zeltzer’s winery originally specialized in sweet wines, simple table wines and liqueurs, and was made from grapes only from vineyards in the Binyamina region. At that time, all winemakers had to work through the Carmel Mizrachi wine cooperative. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, personally intervened on Zeltzer’s behalf to pass a law allowing Zeltzer to receive a small amount of grapes for independent wine production. The winery became known mainly for its fine quality liqueurs and brandy produced under the Hard Nut Liqueur label, named in honor of Ben Gurion, who was famously known as a “hard nut to crack.”
Although it always remained privately owned, the winery changed hands several times until the mid-1990s. Bankers, real estate professionals and movie producers viewed the winery as an Israeli treasure where agriculture, industry and Zionism converged. It was finally purchased in the early 1990s by movie industry executives, who gained full control in 1996. Wasting no time, they invested enormous resources to transform Binyamina into one of Israel’s leading wineries. Over the ensuing 14 years, they invested in upgrading the vineyards to obtain the best quality raw materials, purchasing the finest wine production equipment and establishing one of Israel’s finest barrel cellars. They also renamed the winery, which has been known as Binyamina Winery since the mid-1990s.
In August 2008, the winery was purchased by private investors who recognized the winery’s immense potential and sought to continue its role as a leader in Israel’s wine sector. To this day, they continue to invest regularly and unsparingly in the vineyards, premises, equipment and human resources.
There is, in fact, an intriguing story behind the winery’s current location in the heart of the quaint village of Binyamina. Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, after whom the village of Binyamina is named, established a perfume factory in the village in 1925.