Tabor Winery: Where Technology and Jewish Innovation Revolutionize Wine
Nestled in the foothills of the picturesque Mount Tabor is something unique only to Israel, Tabor Winery, one of many wineries situated in the northern Galilee region.
However, there are many aspects of this family-established winery which set it apart from other wineries in the region and in Israel.
Tabor Winery was started in 1999 and at the time was producing a mere 1,500 cases of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2000s were a time of growth and prosperity not only in terms of the expansion of the production line but also for the variety and quality of the wines. In 2005, something amazing happened. The Coca Cola Company of Israel became Tabor’s majority shareholder, expanding its portfolio into the wine industry. One would think that this acquisition would industrialize the winery and create mass-produced, uninspiring wine. The exact opposite has happened for Tabor; in fact, Tabor has had the luxury of purchasing the highest standard and state-of-the-art equipment without compromising on their family business values.
Exploring what Tabor Winery has accomplished in that short period of time is both fascinating and impressive. In 2017, Tabor produced a whopping 250,000 cases of 15 different grape varieties.
The winemaking process at Tabor is like a smoothly running orchestra, with many different instruments which must be played exactingly to create a beautiful symphony. At the helm is head winemaker Arieh Nesher, who has been with Tabor since 1999 and has been making wine for 46 harvests! In conjunction with assistant winemaker Or Nidbach they are a team to be reckoned with, responsible for producing some of the most flawless and delicious wines coming out of Israel today.
In 2009, Tabor decided it was time to take its winemaking to the next level. What could Tabor possibly add to their already impressive operation that many other wineries did not have the foresight and resources to obtain? The answer to this question is Michal Akerman. Michal is an agronomist and holds the position of head viticulturist. Agronomy is a field of science dedicated to the technology and science of plants which are used for food.
One may wonder what an agronomist would be doing at a winery. The field is in reality far more complex than explained above. Agronomy includes other subcategories and fields which have to do with the production of plants including plant genetics, physiology, and soil science.
Meeting Michal at Tabor is fascinating. Michal’s passion is so tangible that speaking to her about her job at the winery can excite anyone even if they’re not sure what her day may look like.
The viticulturist understands how to grow the best grapes possible based on his or her research of the land and vines. This is a challenge for most wineries since climate, soil and disease can be unpredictable throughout the process of winemaking, from growing the grape vines up until the wine is in the bottle.
It is Michal’s job to choose which type of grapes to grow and the location and type of soil in which they can thrive. This science is so critical to the winemaking process, but there is no reason to sweat it. Tabor Winery has it under control, and their wines speak for themselves as a testimony to Michal’s talent. Michal is not afraid to get her hands dirty – literally! Her passion for her job is contagious as she explains the complexity of the components of the soil unique to Israel, which Tabor uses for its vineyards.
There are so many factors that go into the making of the wines at Tabor, it is no wonder they have become world renowned for their impressive, diverse portfolio. In the last three years, Tabor Winery has been invited to the Wine Spectator Experience, arguably the most prestigious wine show in the world, held yearly in major US cities by Wine Spectator magazine, and has received the critics’ choice award every year! Tabor is the only Israeli winery to have mastered this accomplishment.
In 2012, Tabor introduced a new varietal into Israel. The Roussanne grapes are originally grown in France in the Rhone Valley. The Roussanne was (and still is!) wildly popular, which led Tabor to consider taking their white wine production to the next level. Tabor, always a few steps ahead of the rest of the industry, has decided to take the lead and has set a goal to have half of their wine production comprised of white varietals by 2020. Right now, Tabor has 12 white wine labels and continues to plant and experiment with more varietals.
If your mouth is not watering yet, stay tuned, because we are going to start discussing the offerings of Tabor Winery which are on the market now.
Tabor Mt. Tabor Chardonnay 2017: When I first tasted this wine I could hardly believe it. It is such a great value, quite 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 with 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 last few years. It is quite possible that Tabor pioneered this trend in Israel with their first rosé, all the way back in the mid-2000s! Their current start rosé, which has won awards every year since it was first introduced with the 2013 vintage, is made of 100% Barbera, an Italian varietal which is famous for its natural acidity, as well as 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 chili peppers.
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: A first for the land of Israel and Tabor Winery. Planted by Michal Akerman, this grape – which gained its fame in the Madiran region of France – was never 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 and would pair beautifully with an herb-crusted rack of lamb.
Tabor also makes several mevushal wines which 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 Shabbat!
Tabor Malkiya: The name of this wine actually does do it justice as the queen of red wines produced in Israel. This wine is made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and is fit for the king or the 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 standing rib roast with a coffee rub or smoked French roast. Nothing says Yom Tov like a beautifully complex wine like this.
Tabor has offerings at every price point to satisfy everyone from the newbie to the well-seasoned wine drinker. I like to suggest people start at the Mt Tabor wines and work their way through each series to get a feel for what Tabor is all about. It is also well worth it to visit their brand-new visitors center in Kfar Tabor. For a tour or tasting reservations please call +972-4-6760444. The current series offered by Tabor are Mt Tabor, Adama (a personal favorite), Adama II, Brut 562, Single Vineyard, Limited Edition and Malkiya.