Tabor Winery: My Annual Visit (12 May 2010) (K)

By: Daniel Rogov

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?By: Daniel Rogov

As so often happens, the morning (Wednesday, 12 May) started early as I made my way to yet another winery, there to visit and do tastings. Today’s visit was to the Tabor Winery.

Founded in 1999 by several grape-growing families in the village of Kfar Tabor in the Lower Galilee, this modern winery draws on white grapes largely from their own vineyards near Mount Tabor and on red grapes from the Upper Galilee. Initial production was of 20,000 bottles and current production is about 900,000 bottles annually. In 2010 the winery will pass the million bottle point, and, with about 700 dunams (about 180 acres) plans are to expand slowly until annual production will be between 3 ? 6 million bottles annually. Among new grape varieties now being planted perhaps the most exciting is of Tannat, the grape so dark in color and so deeply concentrated that the Madiran region and the red wine that relies on this grape are often referred to as “the heart of darkness”.

European-trained winemaker Arieh Nesher is currently releasing wines in three series. The top-of-the-line label is Mes?cha, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. A second label, Adama, reflects the type of soils in the vineyards. In reading the labels it may be useful to know that adama translates into soil; gir is chalky soil; terra rossa is red earth; charsit is clay and bazelet refers to volcanic soil. There is also a more basic series released under the label Tabor.

Several years ago, the Central Bottling Corporation, which is the local producer of Coca-Cola, bought into Tabor and in 2005 increased its holdings in the winery to 51%. Wines continue to rise in quality as well as to offer excellent value for money.

My thanks to winemaker Arieh Nesher, viticulturist Michal Akerman, CEO Oren Sela and Tsvika Bar of the Central Bottling Company, for hosting me for a fine tasting, for their good company and for the pleasant lunch (and several espresso coffees) we shared at the winery after the tasting.


Tabor, Sauvignon Blanc, Adama, Gir, 2009: Pale straw in color, unoaked, and crisply fresh with aromas and flavours of citrus and kiwi fruits along with a note of freshly mown grass. Medium-boied, lively and refreshing with just enough complexity to capture our imagination Drink now. Score 89. K (Re-tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Shiraz, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Dark garnet towards royal purple, medium-bodied, reflecting its development with oak staves with gently spicy cedar notes and gently caressing tannins. Opens with aromas and flavours of red plums and raspberries, those going on to black cherries, all with a light and easy-going herbal note. Linger nicely. Drink now-2011. Score 87. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Syrah, Adama, Terra Rossa, 2008: Dark ruby towards garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and a tempting hint of sweet cedar wood opening to reveal generous blackberry and black cherry fruits, those supported nicely by notes of dark chocolate and an appealing biter-sweet note that rise on the finish. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Merlot, Adama, Bazelet, 2008: When first poured a bit flat on the nose and palate but not to worry for all this needs is about ten minutes to open in the glass. Medium- perhaps medium- to full-bodied, with firm but gently gripping tannins and notes of spicy and smoky wood opening to reveal black and red berries, cassis and peppery notes. Round and generous. Score 89. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adama, Bazelet, 2008: Deep garnet, with orange and purple reflections. Full-bodied, showing soft near-sweet tannins and generous spicy oak all in fine balance with blackcurrant, blackberry and purple plums. From mid-palate on an appealing spicy note and, on the long finish, tannins and fruits rise together. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adama, Terra Rossa, 2008: Full-bodied, with tannins and spicy oak integrating nicely and opening to show generous black fruits, chocolate and tobacco. Long and round with a hint of black olives on the finish. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Merlot, Adama, Single Vineyard, Ben Zimra, 2008: Garnet towards royal purple, opens with generous spicy sawdust on the nose and firm tannins, those needing a bit of time to integrate. As the wine opens it does so with a remarkable resemblance to Cabernet Sauvignon, being full-bodied, concentrated and round, with black and red currants as the dominant fruits, those supported by notes of freshly roasted herbs. Best from 2011-2015. Score 91. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Blended Red, Special Edition, 2008 (Barrel tasting): A tentative blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvigon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Syrah. Made entirely from grapes from the Malkia vineyard on the Lebanese border, deep garnet with near-sweet tannins and notes of vanilla from the oak in which it aged. Fruit forward, showing generous blackberry, cassis and citrus peel notes, those complemented by hints of bitter-sweet chocolate and, on the long finish, a note of cigar tobacco. Best from 2011-2015, perhaps longer. Score 91. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Petite Sirah, Adama, Charsit, Special Edition, 2008: Super dark garnet, well concentrated but ripe and round, with near-sweet tannins and a gentle spicy wood influence. On the nose and palate ripe spicy plums and wild berries, those matched nicely by notes of hazelnuts, dark chocolate and sweet chewing tobacco. Long and generous with a light herbal note rising on the finish. Drink now-2014, perhaps longer. Score 90. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

From here it was on to a vertical tasting of the Mes’cha wines, those from 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2005 (there was no 2006 release)

Tabor, Mes’cha, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Tasted from components now developing in new French barriques. Full-bodied, super-dark garnet, with a nose bursting with black fruits, opens in the glass to reveal blackcurrant, raspberry and huckleberry fruits, those complemented by notes of green olives and freshly cut Mediterranean herbs. Best from 2013. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Mes’cha, 2008 (Advance Tasting): A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz (70%, 20% and 10% respectively), aged for 12 months in French oak. Dark, full-bodied, with gentle spicy, smoky and vanilla notes from the wood, opens in the glass to show blackberries, blackcurrants and bitter herbs, all in fine proportion to the caressing tannins that are here. Best from release (anticipated in about 2013). Score 91. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Mes’cha, 2007: (Advance Tasting): A blend of approximately 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 10% Syrah, oak aged for 24 months and showing generous spicy and toasty notes and still firm tannins waiting to integrate and settle down a bit. Opens slowly in the glass to reveal black currants, purple plums and red and black berries, those on a background of citrus peel, cigar tobacco and bakers’ chocolate. Drink from release (scheduled for 2012)-2016, perhaps longer. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Mes’cha, 2005: A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Shiraz and 10% Merlot, aged partly in 2000 liter casks and partly in 225 liter barriques for 24 months. Dark garnet with orange reflections, full bodied, with its once firm tannins and generous oak now integrating nicely. Concentrated and intense, with rich currant, wild berry and licorice notes supported by notes of Mediteranean herbs and cigar tobacco. Long, generous and elegant. Drink now?2014. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 12 May 2010)

And then on to four sparkling wines, each of which presents the critic with somewhat of a dilemma for as much as each of these are light and frivolous and meant for quaffing pleasure, giving them scores would be somewhat insulting. In a sense, wines not to be taken the least bit seriously but to be consumed, very well chilled, without calling for much thought other than the smile they may bring to the face. Some will love them. Others will not. Truly a case of chacun a son gout or, if one prefers English over French “different strokes for different folks”.

Tabor, 562 Blanc, n.v.: Named (or, at one’s choice, numbered) for the altitude of the vineyard from which the grapes were selected, a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet a blanc de noirs (white wine made from red grapes). Developed on the lees of the Chardonnay and made by the charmat method, that is to say with secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks, a nearly colorless wine with a mousse that lingers on and on and on, looking something like soap bubbles but fortunately not at all tasting like that. Lots of bubbles here, with generous lemon and lime fruits, reminds me of a sophisticated version of the soft drink, Sprite. Those who don’t like it won’t but those who do will love it. Drink now. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, 562 Rouge, n.v.: Somewhere in color between cherry and fire-engine red, a color that cannot help but make you smile, made by the charmat method entirely from Barbera grapes, with bubbles that go on and on and flavors of raspberries, cherries and Bazooka bubble gum, all coming together to remind me of that old New York Deli standby of Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda. Extra dry but so fruity that many will think it sweet. Serve very well chilled and chuckle contentedly as you sip. Drink now. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Pnimim (Pearls) White, 2009: Made by the charmat method, a moderately sweet blend of Gewurztraminer and Viognier, with notes of grapefruit and orange peel. Low in alcohol (about 10%) and lively, a simple but fun wine for summertime quaffing. Drink now. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

Tabor, Pnimim (Pearls), Red, 2009: Cherry red towards garnet in color, with moderate sweetness set off nicely by fresh acidity and showing appealing wild berry and cassis notes on the nose and palate. Made entirely from Merlot grapes by the charmat method, a not-at-all complex but fun wine at its best at picnics, roof-top parties or at the beach. Served well chilled. Drink now. K (Tasted 12 May 2010)

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