Tzora Vineyards: My Annual Visit With Tasting Notes (K)

By: Daniel Rogov

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By: Daniel Rogov

Continuing on my wine-tasting ramblings, on Tuesday, 27 January, I found myself at about noon in the company of winemaker Eran Pick of Tzora Vineyards Winery, there to do barrel, advance and re-tastings from the 2008 and 2007 and 2006 vintages. My thanks to Eran and to CEO Uri Ran for a fine tasting, long discussions and good company. My thanks as well to the two genuinely nice women who work at the winery’s visitors’ center for a fine light lunch of delicious salads, mini-quiches and, need it be said, good espresso coffees.

Because of changes both in the winemaker, ownership and in the vineyards, a bit of updated background is in order before the tasting notes. As a side note, I recall with great fondness my first visit to the winery in 1993, there to sample white wines with Ronnie James in a quasi-refrigerated trailer adjoining the building that was yet to become a true winery. Believe me, tasting Chardonnay in a distinctly over-chilled twenty-year old trailer with Ronnie James was an unmitigated pleasure.


Set on Kibbutz Tzora at the foothills of the Jerusalem Mountains and overlooking the Soreq Valley, this formerly kibbutz-owned winery released its first 1,500 bottles from the 1993 vintage. Production in 2004 was about 60,000 bottles, in 2005 it was reduced to about 30,000 bottles, but in 2006 and 2007 rose again, the winery now producing about 80,000 bottles annually
The winery was founded as a one-man enterprise by Ronnie James, a visionary viticulturist who was dedicated to the influence of terroir on his wines. James, who earned a high level of respect throughout the local wine industry, passed away in 2008, but not before bringing aboard winemaker Eran Pick who had experience in California, Bordeaux and Australia. Pick has maintained the winery?s devotion to terroir and is currently releasing five wines, three of those named after the single vineyards from which the grapes were harvested (Givat Hachalukim, Shoresh and Neve Ilan), one a Judean Hills blend made from two vineyards and Misty Hills a flagship wine released only from selected vintages

Recent private investment has added state-of-the-art equipment to the winery, and together with the kibbutz?which remains a part-owner?the winery has full control over its own vineyards, those yielding Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvedre, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer . The Tzora wines have been kosher since the 2002 vintage. Construction of a new winery in the Shoresh vineyards is currently in the planning stage.


Tzora Vineyards, Blanc, Neve Ilan, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Made entirely frm Chardonnay grapes, developing in French oak, 40% of which are new, already drinking quite nicely, showing medium-bodied, with fine acidity and minerality setting off tropical and summer fruits, those on a lightly spicy background. Fresh and lively with just enough complexity to grab our attention. Drink from release-2012. Tentative Score 88-90. K. (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Givat Hachalukim, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet in color, deeply aromatic, full-bodied and showing tannins that lurk quietly before making themselves felt in fine balance with the influence of the wood. Opens to show floral and veggie notes, those complimenting and not at all hiding the blackcurrant, purple plum and blackberry fruits. Opens nicely on the palate. A wine with presence. Best 2011-2015. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Neve Ilan, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): A blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, dark garnet towards royal purple in color, opening soft, round and almost creamy with fine blackcurrant and wild berry notes, and then going on to show hints of hot pepper, freshly cured tobacco and Mediterranean herbs. A long near-sweet finish. Best 2011-2015, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 90-92. K (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shoresh, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Perhaps to be blended with a small amount of Syrah, at this stage full-bodied and concentrated but at the same time elegant and round. A spicy red, medium- to full-bodied, with gripping tannins in fine balance with spicy wood and fruits.On the nose and palate generous black fruits and notes of Oriental spices, those backed up by a comfortable hint of dark chocolate. As this one develops look as well for a note of mint that will creep in softly. Drink from release-2015. Tentative Score 90-92 K (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Syrah, Meubanim, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Probably destined for the Misty Hill wine of 2008, a deep, dark purple, with silky smooth tannins integrating nicely and showing an appealing array of aromas and flavors, those including blackberries, wild strawberries, leather and light meatyt notes, those on a lightly spiced oaky background. With fine balance and structure shows well for the future. Best 2011-2016. Tentative Score 91-93. K (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)



Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Judean Hills, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Not a blend as has come to be expected but this year made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium- to full-bodied, with gently mouth-coating tannins and spicy wood notes in fine balance with currant and wild berry fruits, those supported nicely by notes of spices, tobacco (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)and freshly turned soil. Opens nicely and lingers comfortably. Best 2010-2013. Score 89. K

Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Givat Hachalukim, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Living up to barrel tasting notes. Dark garnet in color, generously aromatic and opening to reveal a medium to full-bodied red with soft tannins integrating nicely with spicy wood and fruits. On the nose and palate opening with raspberries, those going to blackberries, currants and hints of orange peel. Firm but yielding, generous and long. Drink from release?2012. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shoresh, 2007 (Barrel Tasting): Blended with 15% Syrah, opens with a deep nose of plums and freshly turned earth. Goes on to show spicy oak and gently caressing tannins in fine balance with peppery blackcurrants and blackberries, and, on the long finish, with tannins rising comfortably an appealing note of saddle leather. Best 2010-2015. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Re-tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Syrah, 2007 (Barrel Tasting: A candidate for the Misty Hills release. Deep royal purple in color, full-bodied, with still firm tannins and generous spicy oak just starting to settle down now to match plum, black cherry and spring flowers, those on a background of dark cocoa. Calls to mind the Syrah releases of Yves Cuilleron and believe me, that is a compliment. Needs time for its elements to come together. Best 2010-2015. Tentative Score 90-92. K (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)


Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Neve Ilan, 2006: Medium to full-bodied, deep garnet toward royal purple, with tannins integrated with notes of spicy oak and fruits. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot opening with raspberries and red currants, those yielding to red plums, spices and earthy minerals. Soft, round and generous. Drink now-2012. Score 89. K (Re-tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shoresh, 2006: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, reflecting its 18 months in oak with a sweet cedar nose. Soft tannins integrating nicely with the oak and opens to show a tempting array of currants, wild berries and purple plums, those matched by notes of minerality and cocoa. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2014. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 27 Jan 2009)

Tzora Vineyards, Misty Hills, 2006 (Advance Tasting): A blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, those aged for 18 months in barriques. Deep and youthful royal purple in color, full-bodied, concentrated and intense, showing generous mouth-coating tannins and a judicious hand with the oak, all in fine balance with fruits. On first attack strawberries and red currants, those going to black fruits on a background of earthy minerals and Oriental spices. As this one continues to develop look as well for notes of saddle leather and tobacco. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2010-2015. Score 92. K (Tasted 27 Jan 2009)

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