Tabor Winery – one of Israel’s top QPR wineries

Tabor Winery 2When I think of the wineries that have great quality wines for a reasonable price, I think of Tabor Winery today more and more. Of course Recanati continues to impress with their reserve Cab and Merlot and Petite Sirah, and their unheralded but dark horse Chardonnay. Then there is of course Netofa, which is crushing it more and more, if I could ever find a recent vintage in the USA – that is!

Tabor Winery is located in Kfar Tavor, and when you search for the older notes on the wines – the winery itself was not clear how to spell its name in English! Is it Tavor Winery or Tabor Winery. This is not a new issue in Israel, transliterating Hebrew words to English is a royal pain in the bottom, and sometime you get the Arabic twist – where Katzrin is spelled Qatzrin on Google Maps and on the road signs!

Either way, the winery did not just start in 1999, it really started 100 years before that in 1901 when Baron Rothschild – a massive supporter of Israel and a huge philanthropist, in his own right, wished to see Israel settled by Jews again. He came to Israel and spent millions of dollars – in those days – to build Carmel winery in Zichron Yakov. However, what is not so known, is that he also helped settle a small town then called Mes’ha (more on that in a bit) in 1901. The name Mes’ha came from a small neighboring Arab village that was down the road. In 1903, the Zionist leader – Menachem Ussishkin urged them to rename it to something Hebrew and so Kfar Tavor was what it was called, as the village lies beneath the shadow of Mount Tavor (Kfar means village in Hebrew – as at that time the town only harbored some 28 or so families).

Even then the spelling was not clear – in English – of whether it was Tavor or Tabor, but the city settled on Tavor and the winery eventually settled on Tabor. The desire in 1900s was for the settlement to grow grapes, but that never really happened in any large-scale until 1999 – when four families built a winery based upon vineyards they owned and managed. In 1999 they produced some 30,000 bottles, since then the Tabor Winery has grown to have some 1900 dunam of vineyards and 2 million bottles, and one of the top 10 largest wineries in Israel.

Tabor Winery

The thing I really found interesting was that the winery’s varietals have grown as more fields are planted. They now include; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Mourvedre, Tanat, Petit Syrah, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, French Colombard, and White Riesling.

Tabor is one of those polarizing wineries, but personally not for any good reason. The winery was bought in 2005 by IBBL, the largest Coca-Cola and spirits distributor in Israel. Many find this to be a great thing, including myself, while others see it as a coca cola stand-in, in a derogatory way. Sadly, they are the ones missing out of what is really happening! Tabor has become my goto white wine QPR winery – hands down, while more and more of their reds are joining my yearly Passover list as well!

A lovely pained piano in Tabor winery

What people are missing is that they see a winery owned by a large conglomerate, thinking it has become yet another of those supermarket wine producers. Wines that lack anything other than shelf space in an already crowded marketplace. What they are missing, is that their relationship with IBBL, allows them to create wines that they want – not what some armchair winemaker dreams about. The IBBL also brings them into every store in Israel, without any effort on their end and all under full temperature control – which is a huge factor when the average temperature 7 months of the year can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in many areas of Israel!

With full control, along with full support from the IBBL, Tabor has gone from being a nice winery into a QPR superstar in little over 4 years – IMHO! Sure, the IBBL relationship was there already some 10 years ago. However, it took time for them to hatch the long term plan, then they had to plant hundreds of dunam, and then they had to wait three years for the vines to be kosher to use. That takes us to at least 2009 and that is where the magic has started!

For example look at the Adama from 2009 – it was a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and it was a lovely mushroom joy. Then the 2010 Adama Merlot that received huge praise from the Wine Enthusiast, and also from me!

Now the marketing angle of the winery is one that has taken time to settle in, the goto wine at Tabor was the always consistent Mes’ha Israeli (AKA Australian blend wine). It was and still is (if you can find one lying around somewhere) a lovely wine! It was their flagship wine and it was a very reasonably priced wine. Sadly they changed the marketing angle and created new blends that killed the lovely Mes’ha. Now before we go into the then confusing marketing campaign – did you notice the name of the flagship wine?? Yes! It was the town’s old name – a nice ode to the Arab village that started it all some 100 years back – at that time!

Tabor Winery shop

The marketing approach was simple, though at that time not well implemented or described, but now it looks and is very logical. In 2011, when they started the new Adama II line, they also released two limited edition wines, calling them bu the number of wines that were being produced -1/13,000 and the other 1/6,000. They have thankfully cleaned that mess up and focused on a single Limited Edition wine – that also has the moniker on it that describes the bottle count, but the focus of the name is Limited Edition. It is also now only Cabernet Sauvignon.

The lineup starts with the Har series that is the lower line – it comprised of wines that are simple in some ways, but also deceiving good wines, especially in the whites, with a lovely unoaked chard and a lovely Gewurtz that are both quite yummy for the price! The real insane value though – where Tabor is absolutely crushing it is in the Adama series. The Adama Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Rose (one of the best roses of 2014 by far), and Roussanne and wines that prove that you can indeed make world-class wines for 11 dollars a bottle. In the shuk they are selling 3 Tabor Adama wines (Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, and Shiraz) for 120 shekel. That comes to an INSANE 11 dollars a bottle for a wine I scored A- and more (the Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc that is). Personally, I would buy a case of the Merlot at that price and drink for the next two years. That is what I did with the 2010 Merlot which is even better! You can also stock up the some Sauvignon Blanc, if you do not drink Shmitta wines as there will be slim pickings in Israel for the next year, white wine wise, if you are not a Shmitta drinker. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is fine for another year – no worries there.

Sadly, while the Merlot Adama is clearly in the forefront of placing the embattled grape back on the Galilee map after Yarden killed it (along with Flam of course as they source their Merlot grapes from the North) – the Adama series has yet to do the same for the Cabernet and Shiraz grapes. The Adama Cab and Shiraz are nice enough, but they lack the quality that exists in the Merlot. If I were a marketing agent at Tabor – I would push for working on those two, before creating new blends in the Adama II series. With a rocking Adama QPR crushing line, they can leverage that to push the Adama II line even harder. But hey, I do not run marketing anywhere!

Next, there is the bubbly line – called Pearls, which while very good for the Arba Kosot – four cups of wine on Passover, as it is a red, non mevushal, and low alcohol option for folks who actually want to be vertical throughout the seder. But otherwise, it has nice enough options, but none that are really enticing. They make for a good entry level bubbly option for people who want bubbles for a picnic or a hot summer day. There is a more elevated sparkling line – called 562 Brut. There is are red and white dry wines – but I did not taste them.

The next line is the Adama II series – which is where the real innovation and focus of the winery is now, and where the majority of the varietals are used. Clearly the Adama II series is a winemakers dream and marketing person’s nightmare! Here you have 7 wines – 5 blends and 2 single varietals (Riesling and Chardonnay) that combine almost every single variety the winery owns, into the wines that are graced by the Adama II moniker. Now, I am not saying the majority of the grapes are used in this line, just the vast majority of the winery’s varietals are used in this line (depending on what varieties are used in what wine that year). Officially, there is no rule to what goes into what wine – that is up the winemakers; Aryeh Nesher – head winemaker and Or Nidbach – the associate winemaker.

Or Nidbach and the Tabor wines we tasted

Depending on the vintage the Keshet can have cab and merlot or Mourvedre and Marselan like it does in the 2012 vintage. As the vineyards take root and the qualities of each start to come to the forefront, some of these blends may start getting a bit more concrete. But for now, the shifting sands of the Adama II series to me makes for a very entertaining Winemaker’s job, but maybe a bit more complicated marketing person’s job.

Finally, there is the top line wine – the Limited Edition – which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and has been consistently a very impressive and old world style wine.

Overall – of the wines I tasted, I was very impressed by many of them. Sure some of the Adama II wines are pushed to a point where I would not enjoy them, they still well-built and do not have any clear flaws. Yes, I dislike the fruitiness of two of them (Sufa and Raam), which is shocking when you see the label – the Sufa is only 13.5% alcohol! I did enjoy the wines sourced from Mediterranean fruit, like the 2012 Keshet and the 2012 Lehava (though less than the Keshet). The other two, the Ram and Sufa were a bit too pushed for my taste. Finally the three white wines in the Adama II line – rocked!

Sadly, many of the wines I rave about – the whites and rose in particular, are not exported to the USA. So, look for them in Israel on your next trip!

So, as you can see – the majority of the wines from the two Adama lines are not only impressive – but they are also quite good deals!

My many thanks to Justin and Or for taking the time to taste the wines with me. My wine notes follow below:

2014 Tabor Chardonnay, Har (Mount Tabor in USA) – Score: B+ (QPR)
This is a very nice unoaked Chardonnay. The nose on this wine shows nice apple and tropical notes, with ripe peach and litchi. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is well balanced with good acid, along with a great attack of ripe and round fruit, citrus peel, spice and lovely overall pith. Th finish is long and lingering with nice spice, core acid, herb, lemon, and grapefruit lingering long. This wine is not really a Chardonnay – IMHO, as much as it is a nice quaffer wine styled after Sauvignon Blanc. NICE!

2014 Tabor Gewurtztraminer, Har (Mount Tabor in USA) – Score: B+ (QPR)
This wine is a classic – ripe fruit, sweet from residual sugar, and very tropical in nature. The nose on this wine is lovely with notes of banana, tropical madness, with guava, wet grass, herb, with straw and mineral. The moith on this medium bodied wine is nice and round with very nice control on the sweet notes, melon and floral rose hips, balanced well with lovely acid and ripping mineral. The finish is long and round with a honeyed finish and great pith. NICE!

2014 Tabor Riesling, Shahar, Adama II – Score: A- (QPR) Sold only in Israel
The nose on this wine shows lovely petrol, with bone dry tart fruit, straw, honeysuckle, guava, pink grapefruit, and pineapple. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and textured with great gooseberry, yellow grapefruit, intense citrus, lovely melon, honeydew, and nice warm spices. The finish is long with crazy acid, herb, bitter notes, intense tart fruit, floral notes, slate, almond pith, and acid linger long. BRAVO! This wine is only getting better with age!

2014 Tabor Rose, Adama – Score: A- (and more) (crazy QPR) – Sold only in Israel
To me this is one of the best roses out of Israel, along with a few others, as I stated before here. This wine is made from 100% Barbera. The nose on this lovely wine is ripping with tart fruit, plum, strawberry, melon, grapefruit, tart citrus, and raspberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is aggressive with searing acid, rich fruit, and layers of spice and saline, some will love it, others will hate it. The saline, is followed by gooseberry, with intense acid, bitter notes, followed by rich cherry, dirt, and very nice spice. The finish is long and bracing with tart fruit, earth, dirt, saline, mineral, and spice. BRAVO!!!!

2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Adama – Score: A- (and then some) (QPR)
The nose on this wine is a blockbuster and continues to cement Tabor as the QPR wine leader in whites and reds. The nose shows ripe gooseberry, cat piss, lovely tart fruit, lemon, and citrus creme. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is wicked tart, with ripping acid, lovely tart kiwi, summer fruit, along with crazy saline, mineral, all wrapped in tart fruit. The finish is long with green apple, straw, lemon, and more gooseberry lingering on the crazy long, slate, mineral, and acid finish – BRAVO!!!

2014 Tabor Chardonnay, Adama – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine is very nice with sweet oak, ripe fruit, peach, apricot, honeysuckle, and floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round, with good acidity and rich tart fruit, with herb, grapefruit, lemon friache, and brioche. The finish is long and sweet, with rich sweet notes, ripe quince, honey, and sweet herb of mint and basil. Nice!

2014 Tabor Gewurtztraminer, Adama – Score: B++ Sold only in Israel
The nose is rich and honeyed with spice and herb, showing peach and apricot, with guava and wet grass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely round and sweet, with honey and guava and mad spice, all wrapped in nice complexity with spice and nutmeg and candied pear. Lovng and spicy sweet finish with good enough acid, spices, and nutmeg.

2015 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Adama – Score: A- (QPR) Shmitta and Sold only in Israel
The new 2015 Sauvignon Blanc does not miss a beat in terms of flavor and acid profile, but beware it is a Shmitta wine. The nose on this wine is ripping with ripe fruit, crazy spice, gooseberry, ripe grapefruit, intense tart fruit and cat pee. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine, is fuller than the 2014 with still impressive balance, with still good tart acid, but less than 14, but showing added weight, with guava, banana, a really nice body from more lees contact, along with green apple and lovely nectarines. The finish is long and acidic with ripe tropical fruit, and hints of floral notes. BRAVO!!!

2015 Tabor Roussanne, Adama – Score: A- (QPR) Shmitta and Sold only in Israel
I loved the 2013 Roussanne – one of the few pure Varietal Roussanne wines on the kosher market. Sadly 2014 was not up to snuff. The 2015 vintage is very nice again, sadly it is a shmitta wine.

The nose on this wine screams Roussanne, with mad straw, earth, wet dirt, mineral, with tart fruit, and spice. Lovely hay and straw that I love with great tart fruit and nice wrath and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, ripe, dirty, and edgy, with a nice body, earth notes, garrigue, great acid, with great bite, that comes together with pith, quinine, pear and apple. The finish is long and spicy with great spices and hints of blossom. BRAVO!

2014 Tabor Zohar, Adama II – Score: A- (and then some) (QPR)
This wine is another of those fascinating blends that honor the Adama II label. This wine is a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Roussanne, and 20% French Colombard. The nose on this wine is a blend of a couple of the fruit, with lovely spice, green apple, and such from the Chardonnay, followed by grapefruit and gooseberry from the Sauvignon Blanc. The mouth on this medoum to full bodied wine is full, ripe, almost creamy and rich, with great acid and mouthfeel, great attack with acid that lends the mouth a viscous approach, followed by tart pear, dried peach, apricot with quinine and pith. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, white pepper, floral notes with rose. Really well balanced wine, BRAVO!

2012 Tabor Keshet, Adama II – Score: A- Sold only in Israel
This wine is a blend of Mourvedre and Marselan – a unique blend at that! This is a wine with 13.6 alcohol on the label and it is ripe! Very impressive, still the wine is balanced and well made – just do not be fooled by the alcohol. The nose on this lovely wine is really fun with lots of blue and black fruit, lovely floral notes, orange blossom, with earth and forest floor. The wine opens to start with a mouth that is a bit too pushed for me, but with time the wine opens to show more balance with intense mineral, along with a rich ribbon of charcoal running through it, with blueberry and blackcurrant with intense spice of cloves and pepper and hints of sweet notes with balance and great acid. The finish is long and spicy with nice mineral, sweet tannin, spices, and root beer.

2012 Tabor Lehava, Adama II – Score: B+ Sold only in Israel
This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Tempranillo, and 20 % Petit Verdot.
This is another wine that starts off pushed, but it stays that way with a lovely nose of of great earth, loam, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is pushed, almost overripe, with more dirt, spices but showing nice acid and spices, with cloves and sweet cinnamon, blueberry, plum, tart raspberry and cherry, with a nice mineral core. The finish is long with draping tannin and sweet notes.

2012 Tabor Limited Edition, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/11,000 – Score: A- (and much more) (QPR)
The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe, but controlled, with ripping mineral, intense black fruit, tar and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, extracted, and dense, with draping mouth coating tannin, with impressive elegance and mad cassis and red berry, raspberry and ripe red cherry, black plum, with butterscotch. It shows a great body, layered, with perfect balance, great acid, with ribbons of graphite and spice, more tart and ripe black fruit, with earth with dirt, and graphite and mineral that rips through the body. The finish is impressive and draping with great complexity, pith and oriental spices, quite lovely.

2015 Tabor Gewurtztraminer, Adama – Score: A- (QPR) Shmitta and Sold only in Israel
The nose on this wine is classic Gewurtz, with crazy honeysuckle and pineapple with great weight and buddy with sweet notes that feels rich and complex with floral and guava and ripe fruit that flows into sweet herb and crazy pith fun orange and nectarines pits and lovely ripe.

Posted on February 29, 2016, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Two questions
    1. What do you mean by pushed? As in the mouth of nose is pushed?
    2. Would you be able to tell me the halachot background behind the permissibility of consuming shmittah wine? Is there difference between Ashkenazic and Sefaradic norm?
    What’s the opinion of the rabbinic authority in your mishpacha?

    • Pushed to me means too fruity/overripe/etc. Shmita is a Local area Rabbi thing – there are some who do not consume any shmita wine, while other who are fine with it.

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