This weekend we enjoyed a simple meal of alcohol and brown sugar braised ribs cooked in a crockpot overnight. The ribs were lovely and only needed for the fat to be removed from the braising liquid – and magically we have a dinner. The dish was paired with some brown and black rice and a fresh green salad.
For wine we opened a bottle of the 2009 Tzuba Metsuda. This wine is a Bordeaux blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine was nice and round and ripe, but not so complex to keep your attention for long. The ripe blueberry was interesting, but that was about it. A rich and even somewhat layered wine, but lacing in complexity was its issue.
I have written about Tzuba Winery a few times already here early on, here again, and my latest post here. The winery was early in planting much of the Judean Hills while the rest of Israel concentrated on the Shomron and the Galil. Now they are the grape capitalists of the Judean Hills and are improving both their wines and their winery facilities.
The wine note follows below:
2009 Tzuba Metsuda – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine starts off with nice green notes, as it opens it reveals charcoal, graphite, currant, and blueberry. The mouth is full, ripe, and plush with integrated tannin, along with plum, blackberry, boysenberry, sweet cedar, and herb. The finish is long and herbal with menthol, chocolate, tobacco, and spice. This is a wine that is not very long for this earth. I would drink this within the next year or so.
As we drive the 395 to get to Kibbutz Tzuba the winery’s vines grace our approach – they stretch from the bottom of the hillside along the valley below and all the way to the entrance of the Kibbutz. The Kibbutz is a high tech Kibbutz, building bulletproof glass and other protective shielding, a thriving business in these trying times.
As we drive up to the winery, which is to the left, after you enter the Kibbutz gate, the winery is straight ahead, and Paul Dubb was there to greet us. Paul is the wine maker for the Tzuba Winery and has been growing grapes for the Castel Winery, and some other 10 wineries, since 1996.
Actually, Tzuba is a winery whose history and very existence is intrinsically intertwined with Castel Winery, and many of the other big boys of Judean Hills. How you ask? Well, it all started in 1996 when Kibbutz Tzuba made a highly fortuitous and almost prophetic decision to plant some 110 acres of grape vines! That was only a year after Castel’s maiden release of its Grand Vin, and only a few years after Ronnie James started Tzora Winery, also in the Judean Hills. The crazy thing is that the Kibbutz decided on doing this even before they had actual contracts to sell these grapes. Further, they planted more than just the classic noble grapes. Of course they planted Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, but they also planted Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Nebiolo! The winery has three sets of labels for its wines (levels if you may): the top-of-the-line Metzuda that is produced only in selected years; Tel Tzuba of varietal and blended wines, and the popularly priced Hamaayan.
Yes, that is the setup, but how is Tzuba Winery intertwined with Castel and other Judean Hill wineries? Simple, where did these wineries get their grapes? Who had vines back in 1999? Tzuba! Who was the vineyard manager in 1996? Paul Dobb. Who was the vineyard manager for Castel in 2000 till 2004? Yes, Paul again. What is Castel named after, the old Belmont Castel fortress that Eli Ben Zaken named his winery after! The very same castle/fortress that over looks the Tzuba Winery! The very same fortress that the Metzuda (the fortress) wine label is named after. The same fortress that the Belmont wine label uses. In so many ways the Catsel winery is deeply intertwined with the Tzuba Winery. In a way, you could say that Kibbutz Tzuba and the Tzuba Winery are the grape capitalists of the Judean Hills.
With all that said, this is NOT to say that Tzuba is Castel’s second label, rather Tzuba is many ways is the purveyor of Castel’s very blood, its grapes. Further, Tzuba’s approach is actually 100% counter to Castel’s approach. Mr. Ben Zaken will be happy to tell you that his desire is to recreate Bordeaux, without its terroir flaws (climate and temperature). In many ways Ben Zaken has been successful in his desired transportational affect, but that is not what Mr. Dobbs is looking for. Actually, Mr. Dobbs is looking for Mediterranean styling in his wines. He desires the very fruit, mineral, and rich herbs that drench the hillsides of the Judean Hills to be transported into the very body and nose of Tzuba’s wines.