January 15, 2013


I have an excellent dilemma. I'm very fortunate to be travelling around at the moment, living in new places, absorbing  new cultures, tasting new wines. Each day I have a choice between writing about what's just happened (for an unknown audience, although Google stats is somewhat encouraging) or heading out and doing more stuff. What would you do? The answer's obvious, hence the one month gap since my last story.
Now that the mea culpa is out of the way, I'm here, primarily to continue the euphoria about Israeli wines and to share some travel stories. (Photos at the end of this post).
And the title - Wonderful?

Tabor Winery

So far I've visited or tasted wines from about 30 wineries in Israel, but one of the most surprisingly delicious wines I've tasted is a dry, 5.5% alcohol, sparkling pomegranate wine from Tabor Winery, a gift from the winemaker.
Amir Sarig - one of Tabor's winemakers

I'm not generally a fan of wines made from anything other than grapes, but this is a beautiful summer sipping kind of wine. I realize that this might be a cruel thing to read in Ottawa in January but, never fear,  summer will come around again. The wine, named after a species of pomegranate called Wonderful, is deliciously refreshing, with subtle fruit, not "in your face" pomegranate. The winery uses an interesting closure format for its sparkling wines, comprising a metal strip around the cork, which can be opened with a spoon.
With current production levels close to 2M bottles per annum, Tabor is a well respected winery and the sixth largest in Israel. It's located in the Lower Galilee, with local vineyards, as well as others in Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights.
The charming and knowledgeable Zoe led us through a tasting of some of Tabor's wines. We started with a couple of sparklers from the Pearls collection - a semi sweet Gewurztraminer Viognier blend, followed by a dry Barbera. While the former appeals more to local tastes, I preferred the Barbera - refreshing, with a nice mineral character and gentle raspberries on the nose and palate. Well priced at about $12.
A Chablis style chardonnay from the Har (Mountain) collection at about $10 was a recent "best value" award winner - and rightly so! Likewise, a Merlot from the same collection was very decent.
The 2009 Adama Merlot from basalt soil, was surprisingly light, fruity and crisp for a 14.1% wine that had spent a year in barrel and a year in bottle. At about $15, this was another great value wine. I note that there is a 2009 Tabor Merlot, available in the LCBO for about $18. This could be the same one or it could be the Har Merlot. Hard to say until I see the bottle. As I mentioned in a previous post, Israeli wines go largely unnoticed on the shelves. Such a shame, as there are over 50 Israeli wines on the LCBO books, and many of them are worth a sip or two.
The Adama II restaurant collection has numerous varietal and blended wines from Syrah, Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petite Sirah. The 2008 Syrah, although at a whopping 15.4% ABV, was nicely balanced, with a big rich, spicy, mineral nose, lots of black fruit, great acidity, more spice and long finish. About $20 and fabulous.
Among other things, we bought a bottle of the beautifully packaged, Limited Edition (19,000 bottles) 2007 Cab Sauv, made from the best grapes, best vineyards, aged in the best oak. I think that it was about $29, and we have high expectations after trying the still young 2009 version. One of the issues with not writing things up immediately is trying to decipher Hebrew receipts, which are largely incomprehensible to me, not to mention apparently upside down and backwards. So $29 could in fact be the price of some random grocery item.
As we are leaving Israel in a  couple of weeks and heading to South Africa, and are ever conscious of expanding luggage, the plan is to enjoy the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon on Friday January 25th, probably without haggis, to celebrate a special Scottish birthday. We should be quaffing Scotch, of course, for Robert Burns' birthday, but we're down to the last dribbles of the  Dalmore 15 year old (very smooth, easy drinking Scotch by the way) and it'll be gone by the 25th.
Courtesy of Dalmore website

Some Israel and Jordan photos

Before I move on to some other wineries, here's a brief pictorial journey through some of Israel and Jordan.

Hula Agamon Lake in Galilee

500 million birds migrate annually
Hula Agamon bird sanctuary

Petra, Jordan


Path to Petra

Petra - 300 BC, stunningly preserved


Camel riding instruction at Petra

Made it!

Petra - built by the Nabateans

Petra transportation system

Petra - impressive

Rock formations in Petra

Rock formations in Petra

Bedouin camel

Eilat on Red Sea, Jordanian mountains behind     

Mishpe Ramon Crater
en route to Masada

Check back soon!