Or is it Tavor Winery? In Israel the location of the winery is in K’far Tavor at the base of Mount Tabor (“Har Tavor” in Hebrew). And in the coffee-table book, The Wine Route of Israel, it is also listed as Tavor Winery. So why do so many people, including the winery’s own website, call it Tabor? After much surfing the world wide web and discussion with Nurit, my wife and fellow israelwinetaster, we conclude that if you are Israeli, you say “Tavor” and if you are Anglo, you say “Tabor.” This presents a mild dilemma for us Americans living in Israel even though we have been here nearly 20 years. Wow, has it really been so long? But that’s nothing compared to the length of time that this site has been around. Mount Tabor is know to have been the site of a major battle between Barak and the forces of the Israelite Judge, Deborah back in the 14 century BC. It is believed by many Christians to be the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is also a beautiful spot and for your enjoyment I have embedded a dazzling panoply of still pictures of the location.
The village at the base of Mount Tabor was founded by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, the same gentleman who was instrumental in starting the Carmel Winery in Zichron Yaakov. His interest in Kfar Tavor was over 100 years ago. Again, he saw the potential for growing wine grapes in this region of the lower Galilee, and for many years the farmers of Kfar Tavor grew grapes for the wineries of Israel, dreaming all the while of their own wine production facility. This was finally realized in 1999, when four families decided to set up their own winery by using the produce of their vineyards. By 2005, they were producing 300,000 bottles of wine a year of which 40,000 were exported. This has increased to 1,500,000 bottles in 2011, approximately 10% of which is exported. Their growth has raised the winery to sixth place in Israel wine production quantities. Its Kosher Cabernet- Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz wines are produced from the vineyards of Kfar Tavor and vineyards in the Upper Gallilee.
The Tabor Winery Visitor’s Center was built in 2001 as part of a complex that also houses their Marzipam Museum and Bordeaux Restaurant. The location is beautifully designed and maintained to the point of giving the appearance and feel of having been built yesterday. We were greeted by Reut who gave us an explanation of the wines and served them for tasting. The winery produces four series of wines, which, with recent name changes, has caused a bit of confusion to the wine tasting public.
The youngest wines, which were called “Tabor” were aged in casks for four months. But the name and production method has changed. I saw these bottles in the supermarket yesterday with the name, “Har” on the label. Translated from Hebrew, this means “Mount” and since they come from Tavor Winery next to Mount Tavor, it would seem to me to be a good name. They are marked straightforwardly as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Chardonnay and are now produced entirely in stainless steel fermentation vats containing staves from barrels to impart a woody oak flavor.
The second series, part of which we tasted on our visit, is called “Adama.” The translation of “Adama” is soil, and each is named from the type of soil in which the vines grow. We tasted three of these from the 2008 vintage. They are aged in casks for 12 months. “Tera Rosa” (Red Earth), a Cabernet Sauvignon varietal is a gentle and tasty wine but has a thin body and a short finish. The second Cabernet Sauvignon varietal of this series, called “Bazelet” (Volcanic Soil), has a bigger body and more dominant flavors with a longer aftertaste. Lastly, the Merlot “Bazelet” was quite fruity but didn’t linger on the palate. They cost 67 shekels, or about $18 at the present exchange rate.
We rapidly moved to, and concentrated on their “Limited Edition” wines, which used to be called “Mes’ha” series, but now are called “1/13,000” and “1/6,000” with reference to the number of bottles produced of each. In fact when you buy one, it is labeled with its own number in the series. They are also produced differently from the old Mes’ha. These are both blends and are aged in oak casks,18 months for the 1/13,000 and 24 months for the 1/6,000 . We tasted the 2006 vintage of these wines. The “1/13,000” is composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Shiraz grown in Kadish Vineyard. It has an aroma of a bouquet of flowers, a nice body and a moderate tannin level with lengthy finish. It sells for 110 shekels or just under $30. The “1/6,000” is made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot from the Malkia vineyard. Daniel Rogov said of this wine that it is “full-bodied, with generous tannins but those integrating well with spices, blackberries, blackcurrants and a hint of purple plums. Good fruits here but overall not a highly complex wine and one showing a bit of unwanted alcoholic heat that rises on the finish.” It is sold at the winery for 145 shekels or just under $40.
There is another series between Adama and the Limited Edition wines. It is called Adama II and consists of two wines, neither of which we tasted, but purchased to take home to taste there. One of these is a varietal Syrah and the other is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Syrah. Both were graded 90 by Daniel Rogov and we look forward to tasting and writing about them. They are sold for 80 shekels, equivalent to approximately $21.
It is clear that Tabor Winery is rooted in the history of the wines of Israel, but not satisfied with the status quo. It is growing and maturing. We look forward to new and interesting wines in the near future.
Many thanks to Reut and CEO Oren Sela for introducing us to the products of their work.