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Interview with "Beyond Grapes" Author Yacov Morad

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Yacov Morad is a winemaker, author, and founder of Morad Winery in Israel. At the tender age of 10, he watched his father make wine on a small plot of land just outside their home, and by the age of 12, he was making wine all by himself. After 30 years of experience, he decided (along with the love of his life-his wife Ester) to convert his lifelong hobby into a full-time profession, so in 1999, Morad Winery opened its doors to rave reviews and the international press-all of whom were fascinated by the fact that a small winery in Israel can make wine out of parsley, sweet potatoes, and sage. The winery became a household name; Yacov appeared on a great many popular TV shows and news broadcasts and hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all around the world in his boutique winery's visitors' center. Morad Winery was the first commercial winery in Israel to make wine out of almost anything BUT grapes. Now, more than 20 years later, Mr. Morad and his wife are retired. Yacov Morad now spends most of his time teaching students the secrets to making mouth-watering wines and liqueurs out of anything but grapes, in the comfort of their own homes.

Can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Yacov Morad, and I was head winemaker, founder, and CEO of the world-famous Morad Winery in Israel. Over the past 55 years I’ve been happily married to my wife Ester, with whom I raised four beautiful sons, two grandsons, and two granddaughters. Not only have I been blessed with a wonderful family, but I have also been able to provide for them doing the thing I love most - making wines and liqueurs out of anything BUT grapes.

When I was about ten years old, I used to watch my father pick grapes in the family vineyard, squeezing them in reverence, dropping them in clay jugs and preparing them for fermentation. Even then I remember being hypnotized by the smell of fermentation and the aroma of freshly squeezed grapes. This is where I fell in love with wine, so much in fact that by the tender age of twelve I was already making wine on my own.

In 1968, I met my future wife Ester. ​I told her all about my passion for winemaking and she informed me that her father also made wines, but that his were of a particular nature. One day, I was invited to Ester's house. Following the “cordial guest” norms, I decided to bring with me a bottle of homemade wine. I gave her father the bottle, and he looked at me and said, "Let me show you my wine." He handed me a strangely colored glass of wine; it was delicious! The flavor was one that I had never tasted before. I asked him what it was, and he replied with a smile, “Pumpkin wine!”

Ester’s father opened my eyes to a new type of wine, one that can be made from anything and everything. From pomegranates to apples and carrots, the flavors were wonderful, and their taste captured my heart and created a spark in my imagination.

After getting married, my wife and I moved to a small village in Northern Israel called “Yokneam Illit” (now a big city), and in the basement of our tiny home were all sorts of bottles containing fermented wines and liqueurs from fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants. ​For 35 years I have developed countless types of wines and liqueurs in the comfort of my own home until I finally decided to turn my life-long hobby into a full-time business and open my very own winery. Morad Winery received a surprising amount of publicity in radio, television, and the press. Primarily because of the uniqueness of the wines and liqueurs that were made there, the winery was visited by thousands of tourists, celebrities, and influential figures in the world of wine, from Israel and abroad.

How did Beyond Grapes come to be?

Having so many people visit and appreciate my love of unique wines and liqueurs has given me so much pride in my life, and so I decided to write a book, or, rather, a series of books, which teach the average enthusiast how to make wines and liqueurs out of anything but grapes.

What about the winemaking process do you enjoy?

I love picking the right piece of fruit, and watching it go through the process, from tree to fermentation, to a small glass tank and finally – a bottle of wine. There’s something magical in that.

What has the process of winemaking taught you?

You get the best results out of life when you apply love and patience to your craft and to yourself. I recently made a chocolate liqueur out of a Nutella Chocolate spread; however, I was so eager to taste it, that I only allowed it to age for 2 days before pouring myself a glass and giving it a taste - the results were not great. I decided to give it another week, tasted it again, and it was one of the most delicious liqueurs I have ever tasted. That reinforced my winemaking mantra – love and patience.

What role has homemade wine making played in your life/in your community’s life?

Winemaking played a very important part in my life. It was more than just a hobby. It was a business, it was a craft, and aside from my beloved wife Ester (and my family of course), it was the thing I loved most. I get so much satisfaction out of watching the faces of friends and acquaintances as they try to guess which fruit, vegetable, or medicinal herb that white wine they’re tasting is made out of, and I get equal satisfaction and pleasure out of watching smiling strangers look at me with bewilderment and go, “Wine that was made from parsley?!” My products are made with love, and to me, sharing them with my friends, family, and community is the most satisfying thing I can think of.

Why did you want to write Beyond Grapes?

I have a lifetime of experience making wines. So I decided what better way to share the love than to publish a book that teaches people the craft of winemaking and liqueur making.

Which is your favorite recipe in Beyond Grapes and why?

My favorite recipe is a parsley root wine. I originally took it as a challenge, not realizing that it was going to work. I thought, ‘What’s the most ridiculous wine I can make?’ My wife suggested, parsley! I got to work. I invested a lot of thought and a lot of time in its development, and after tasting its unique taste, I realized that there is no fruit, vegetable, or spice plant from which I cannot make wine.

What are you working on next?

I spent a big chunk of COVID lockdown writing the next book in the Beyond Grapes series. It includes over 100 recipes for delicious, mouth-watering liqueurs out of a vast array of fruits and vegetables (included in it is that Nutella liqueur. Wait till you try it. It’s amazing!).

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