Tzuba Winery Visit and Wine Tasting
On Friday in early August, my friend and I, drove around the winding roads of Route 3965 (Sderot Hahotsvim) up from Highway 1, past the Sataf junction, and on and up Route 395 to Kibbutz Tzuba. At the entrance of the kibbutz, drive past the gate and take the second left and follow the sign to Yekev Tzuba. The winery’s rectangular and unassuming building lies to the back of the kibbutz overlooking a bluff and an ancient wine press from the first millennium. As you drive up to the building you can see the vineyards to the right and Tzora Winery’s vineyard to the north.
We met Paul Dobb – the head winemaker, at around 8AM in the morning, and we moved upstairs to the understated but quite lovely tasting room that overlooks the ancient wine press. Paul said, he has plans to spruce up the winery with a deck and a tasting bar, which sounds nice, but I found the current setup quite enjoyable. The winery is growing since we last visited them, and they are releasing new single varietals. The first new varietal is the 2007 Pinot Noir. A lovely French Burgundy look-alike with Israeli attitude. Besides the new Pinot Noir, Tzuba is shipping some of their wines to the USA through Royal Wines (the largest importer of kosher wines). Tzuba has sold all of last year’s wines except for their top of the line Metzuda series, which they are in no real rush to sell to distributors, because it is a wine that is just coming into its own, and has more life left in it. So, the 2005 vintage of the Metzuda blend can be found both locally in the US and in Israel, while the rest of the lineup, which is long and impressive are only available locally in Israel.
The lineup, which is visible at their website, is quite impressive, with a nice variety of both red and white wines. When we were last there we had a chance to taste a few of the white wines. This time around, the white wines were from shmitta (2008 vintage), and so we did not partake of them. The vines that Paul helped to plant in 1996 are growing well, and the varietals are now starting to show quite nicely. The Sangiovese is starting to come around, the Pinot Noir is now solid enough to stand on its own and not be plowed into the Red Belmont (their table wine). Their noble varieties have been solid since day one, Cabernet, Merlot, and Shiraz. I am really looking forward to the day when they start selling Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Till then we will be more than satisfied with the current crop of red options. The white wines are a different story. Beyond the Chardonnay (both late and normal harvest), none of the whites are standing on their own. The winery plants many white varieties, but none of have yet to be sold on their own – Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are blended into the White Belmont. Viognier is lurking, but not yet bottled into anything. Though we did not taste the Chardonnay this time, the last time we tasted the 2006 vintage, it was quite lovely. We tasted the 2007 White Belmont at the Jerusalem Wine Festival, and were equally impressed by its tart yet ripe flavors. Either way, both the red and white wines from Tzuba will keep many a wine connoisseur quite happy.
When talking with Paul while tasting some wonderful wines, he explained to us that the winery’s mantra is about creating value based world class wines. To that point the wines are priced reasonably within Israel, while in the US, the prices are a bit higher, but that is more about the importer than Tzuba. Currently, Tzuba is producing 40,000 to 50,000 bottles a year, and they are planting new vineyards to allow them to grow the winery. On an aside, Kibbutz Tzuba, will be ripping up their fruit trees and replacing them with grape vines, according to the Jerusalem Post. This is not because of the increased interest in grapes and wine, but rather because of the increased concern over water shortages within Israel. As the article states, grape vines need a tenth or less of the water required for fruit trees, and since grapes can fetch at least as much on the open market, they will be replacing their fruit trees with grape vines. I just thought that would be interesting to report. On the way out of our wine tasting, I took some pictures of the current vines (in the distance), and the fruit trees right next to them.
I want thank Paul and the Tzuba Winery for taking the time to meet with us and to show us how far the winery has come and a wonderful glimpse into its flourishing future. The wines notes follow below in the order they were tasted:
2007 Tzuba Tel Tzuba Pinot Noir – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine is reminiscent of a terroir based Burgundy. The nose is hopping with rich minerals, cherry, strawberry, and a bit of sweetness like Cherry Herring. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with loamy soil, strawberry, and cherry. The mid palate is acidic in nature, with more loamy soil, and a touch of coffee. The finish is long with bright red fruit and spice. Quite a nice Pinot Noir and one that I hope is exported to the US.
2007 Tzuba Tel Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine has cherry, cranberry, raspberry, spice, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has cranberry and plum that lead into a mid palate of oak, balancing acid, and nice integrating tannins. The finish is long with tannins that coat the mouth and linger long on the palate, along with more spice.
2007 Tzuba Tel Tzuba Shiraz – Score: A-
The nose on this purple colored wine is redolent with pepper, tar, cassis, blackberry, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine follows the nose with blackberry and cassis. The mid palate has tar, tannins, and tobacco. The finish is long with elegant tannins, tobacco, and black fruit. Quite a nice Shiraz that is sure to impress.
2006 Tzuba Hametzuda (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec) - Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine is deep and brooding with blackberry, oak, and flinty loam. The mouth on this full bodied wine is deep, brooding, complex, and mouth coating with inky blackberry, cassis, and chocolate. The mid palate is balanced with oak and tannin. The finish is long and spicy, with acid, tannin, tobacco, and pepper. This can be drunk now, but one that will be best enjoyed in a year or so.