Tasting Tabor Winery’s 1/6,000 And 1/13,000

These are two limited edition wines that we first tasted when we visited the Har Tavor Winery at the beginning of the year. At that time we reported our tasting notes there, along with several other of their selections tasted. But now, in the quiet of our home, and accompanying our vegetarian dinner of kidney beans mixed with corn, baked potatoes with olive oil and black pepper, and Brussels sprouts lightly fried with garlic, we can really appreciate the quality of these two wines. Incidentally, they were perfectly paired with our food, rich in flavor.

May I be so bold as to coin a term to differentiate these two artistically blended wines. I would like to call the first wine, the 1/13,000, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, Tavor’s “Australia Blend.” The iconic grape variety of the Land Down Under is Shiraz, and in Australia, according to Jancise Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, it “appears on possibly the majority of Australian red wine labels, either in lone varietal splendour or in conjunction with, most often, Cabernet Sauvignon—typically labelled simply Cabernet Shiraz or Shiraz Cabernet, depending on which is the dominant variety.” I use my term, “Australia Blend” to differentiate such a wine from what we all know as “Bordeaux Blend.” There is a word, meritage, which was invented in 1981in California in a contest to select a term for an exceptional wine blended in the Bordeaux tradition. And in 1988 Meritage was institutionalized when a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association (now The Meritage Alliance) to identify and promote handcrafted wines blended from the traditional “noble” Bordeaux varieties. On their website they define the term, Red Meritage, as a “blend of two or more of the red ‘noble’ Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage.” Their term, White Meritage is not relevant to the wines of this tasting, but your can learn about it at the Meritage website.

The first of the two wines in today’s tasting is the 1/13,00, an Australia Blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Shiraz from grapes grown at Emek Kadesh in the Upper Galilee. It is aged 18 months in oak and has a 14% alcohol level. The name of the wine comes from the fact that its total production was limited to 13,000 bottles. It has a complexity of aromas as if one is in a deep, dark forest and the ground is covered with moist moss and crushed cherries. The cherries also come through as a taste, along with black berries and Concord grapes. It is a bit puckers, though this disappeared when we tasted the second half of the bottle the next evening. I guess we didn’t give it enough time to aerate before pouring. It has a long, tasty, and smoother finish than the wine. When we purchased it eight months ago at the winery, it cost 110 shekels or under $30.

The second wine, a Bordeaux Blend, or Meritage, the 1/6,000, is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot grapes grown on Kibbutz Malkia. It is aged 24 months in oak barrels and has a 13.8% alcohol level. The wine’s name comes from the fact that only 6,000 bottles were produced. It has heavy aromas of dark fruit and oak with a body that is strong and thick in the mouth. The taste reminds us of dark Belgian chocolate cordial candies filled with rich, creamy, and heavy, cherry liqueur syrup. Schmidt’s Fudge Haus in Columbus, Ohio describes their hand made Belgian chocolates as “filled with liquid heaven and a rich cherry center. Just one won’t be enough!” We also describe this wine as “liquid heaven.” There is a distinct taste of tannins, though gentle ones, and with no bite. Of note is that this bottle was prepared as it should be. It was taken out of the wine refrigerator in the morning and allowed to slowly reach room temperature. It was also opened about an hour before we poured it to taste with our dinner. Like the 1/13,000 the finish is long and smooth. In January, when we purchased it at the winery, it cost 145 shekels or under $40.

In our opinion these two limited edition, high quality wines for special occasions are priced appropriately, and give them a rating of A**.


Visit to Rubin Winery

Dr. Kent and Ronen Rubin, the vintner/owner of Rubin Winery

Today my good friend and colleague, Dr. Jonathan Kent, invited me to pay a visit with him to his favorite small boutique winery, Rubin Winery. Ronen started making wine about 15 hears ago up north near Kiryat Shmonah. Originally, what was started as a hobby with 20 or 30 bottles of wine has become a burgeoning profession, and he now produces approx 3,000 bottles of wine each year. He does not do any of the viticultre, but chooses, instead, to purchase the grapes which come from Meron, Alma and Kerem Ben Zimra. These are well known wine grape growing areas, but we question the veracity of purchasing grapes rather than growing. I have participated in the discussion on WineLovers forums on Israeli and Kosher Wines I am a firm believer in the need for someone who wants to make quality wines to focus primarily on the growing, and secondarily on the fermenting, aging, blending, and bottling. To make a fine wine, one needs a perfect grape, if there is such a thing. Try to make wine from what you buy in the supermarket. It just won’t work. And if someone grows that wonder-grape, he or she will use it to make their own wine or sell it to the likes of Golan Heights Winery for a top price. If you compromise on the grapes, you just cannot make an exceptional wine no matter what you do.

Enough preaching for now. We are visiting a winery run in the home of a  wonderful guy, Ronen Rubin.  His winery is in a real basement under the ground under his home. It is a beautiful set of rooms cooled to an ideal 18 degrees Centigrade, even on a hot summer day at Moshav Bar Yochai where the outside temperature today was in the mid 30’s. Ronen did all the work to build this place and he does all the renovation of the oak barrels he purchased from major wineries in the area  He has disassembled them, sanded down the inner aspect of the wood and burned the wood before reassembling the casks. In addition to being a builder, and vintner he is a cooper. Truly a man of many talents.

At his winery, we tasted the Petit Verdot (he calls it Petit Bordeaux) from the cask. It is a deep magenta, highly flavored, spicy wine which he will use for blending. We also tasted his Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 which was aged 18 months in oak barrels. It is a complex big bodied wine with a long finish with tastes of chocolate, tobacco and cardamon. His Sangiovese had little nose and a gentle flavor. He also makes a Merlot and a Cabernet Franc which we did not taste. We purchased a bottle of his 2010 Shiraz and a bottle of Port made from Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% alcohol added to stop the fermentation while there were still some sugars left.   Ronen is now also making a “Cognac” distilled product and a variety of liquers made from Nana, Ginger, Cherries and other fruits.

Ronen Rubin continues to varietize and innovate. There’s no stopping him.