By Yael E. Geller
Nestled in the foothills of picturesque Mount Tabor is the family-established Tabor Winery. One of many wineries situated in the Galilee region of northern Israel, Tabor Winery is unique in many respects. The company was started in 1999 and at the time produced a mere 1,500 cases of merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
In 2005, something amazing happened. The Coca-Cola Company of Israel acquired the majority of shares in Tabor Winery, expanding its portfolio into the wine industry. The infusion of capital gave Tabor the ability to purchase state-of-the-art equipment without compromising its family values. In 2017, Tabor produced a whopping 250,000 cases of 15 different grape varieties.
The winemaking process at Tabor is like a smooth-running orchestra. Playing each instrument in its specific way is what creates the beautiful symphony found in each bottle of wine. Conducting is head winemaker Arieh Nesher, who has been with Tabor since 1999 and has been making wine for 46 harvests! Arieh and assistant winemaker Or Nidbach are producing some of the most flawless, delicious wines coming out of Israel today.
In 2009, Tabor decided it was time to take its winemaking to the next level. They brought in Michal Akerman, an agronomist who holds the position of head viticulturist. Agronomists study the science and technology of plants that are used for food, including soil science and plant genetics and physiology. A viticulturist understands how to grow the best grapes based on research of the land and its vines. This is a challenge for most wineries, since climate, soil, and disease can be unpredictable throughout the process of winemaking, from growing the grapevines to bottling the wine.
Tabor has become world-renowned for its diverse portfolio. In the last three years, Tabor has been invited to the Wine Spectator Experience, held annually by Wine Spectator Magazine and received the critics’ choice award every year! Tabor is the only Israeli winery to have accomplished this.
In 2012, Roussanne grapes, originally grown in France in the Rhone Valley, were introduced at Tabor. Always a few steps ahead of the rest of the industry, Tabor decided to take the lead and has set a goal to have half of its wine production composed of white varietals by 2020. Right now Tabor has 12 white-wine labels and continues to plant and experiment with more varieties.
If your mouth is not watering yet, here are some Tabor offerings at the market now, along with the foods they would complement.
Tabor Mt. Tabor Chardonnay 2017. When I first tasted this wine, I could hardly believe it. It is such a great value — an affordable wine that delivers big-time! It is fresh and vibrant, with delightful citrus and tropical notes of ripe pineapple and guava with zingy acidity. Great with sushi, light snacks such as chummus and pickles, or a chicken salad.
Tabor Adama Barbera Rosé 2017. It is no wonder that Tabor has jumped on the rosé bandwagon. Rosé has been the drink of choice throughout the spring and summer seasons for the past few years. Tabor’s current rosé, which has been winning awards every year since it was introduced in 2013, is made of 100 percent Barbera grapes, an Italian varietal famous for its natural acidity and notes of red fruits. The current offering of the 2017 Tabor Adama Barbera Rosé is mouthwatering, with a nose of unripe strawberries, watermelon, and raspberries. The mouthfeel is luxurious, with notes of grapefruit pith, red currants, and ripe strawberries. If the description does not tempt you, the deep strawberry color will. This wine would pair perfectly with an appetizer of fresh wild-caught cod ceviche with lime, scallions, and some red chilies.
Tabor Adama Sauvignon Blanc 2017. Contrary to popular belief, sauvignon blanc is the parent of cabernet sauvignon, not its little brother. Indeed, cabernet sauvignon is actually a hybrid of sauvignon (blanc) and cabernet franc. These varietals are famous for producing some of the best wines in the world. This is a personal favorite of mine. Every year we wait for this release. The nose is intoxicating, with hints of lemon peels, grapefruit, honeysuckles, and candied ginger. The mouth is as impressive, with bracing acidity, which makes you keep going back for more. This would pair beautifully with a warm mushroom risotto appetizer.
Tabor Single Vineyard Tannat 2014. This is a first for the land of Israel and Tabor Winery. Planted by Michal Akerman, the grape used in this tannat, which gained its fame in the Madiran region of France, had never been grown or bottled in Israel until Tabor introduced it with the 2013 vintage. This full-bodied, rich and tannic wine is fascinating, with its aromas of roasted herbs, oriental spices, and black fruit notes. It would pair beautifully with an herb-crusted rack of lamb.
Tabor also makes several mevushal wines that would complement any simcha or occasion, such as the sparkling Brut 562, the Mt. Tabor Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, the T Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Limited Edition. The Tabor Limited Edition is, in my humble opinion, the best mevushal red wine produced by Israel to date. I could not believe it was mevushal when we came across this wine on a recent Shabbos!
Tabor Malkiya. The name of this wine does it justice as the queen of red wines produced in Israel. This wine is made of 100 percent cabernet sauvignon and is fit for a king or queen. It has a luxurious nose of blueberries, freshly ground coffee, new leather, and wet earth. The mouthfeel is coating and silky, with flavors of black fruits, pencil shavings, and a hint of cranberries. This wine can stand up to your yom tov rib roast with a coffee rub or smoked french roast. Nothing says it is yom tov like a beautifully complex wine such as this.
Tabor has offerings at every price point to satisfy everyone from the newbie to the seasoned wine drinker. I like to suggest starting with the Mt. Tabor wines and working through each series — Mt. Tabor, Adama (a personal favorite), Adama II, Brut 562, Single Vineyard, Limited Edition, and Malkiya — to get a feel for what Tabor is all about. It is also well worth it to visit the winery’s visitors center in Kfar Tabor. For a tour or tasting reservations, please call +972-4-6760444.
Yael Geller holds a Master’s of public health degree from George Washington University and is a longtime wine enthusiast.