As I wrote late last night, it's busy times. Rewarding visits today to three wineries in the Jerusalem Hills, the third of which was the Tzuba winery, and here I sat, well after midnight still formalizing my tasting notes. To my amusement, I fell asleep while working only to wake at 3 a.m. with a seriously stiff neck and aching back and then to make my way to bed. No fear though….slept well and now refreshed as I finish off my tasting notes.
Set on Kibbutz Tzuba in the Jerusalem Hills, Tzuba'sfirst releases from the 2005 vintage were of 30,000 bottles. South African–born and trained winemaker Paul Dubb currently issues wines in two series: the top-of-the-line HaMetsuda that to be produced only in selected years and Tel Tzuba of varietal wines. The winery also produces a red dessert wine. The winery’s grapes all come from the kibbutz’s own vineyards, those containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Malbec, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir grapes as well as white grapes Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Current annual production is about 40,000 bottles and plans are to increase to about 50,000.
My thanks to Paul Dubb and to winery manager Eiton Green for a fine tasting and their good company.
Tzuba, Chardonnay, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Developing sur lie in French oak, bright lively gold in color, medium-bodied with fresh citrus, peach and mango fruits complemented nicely by stony minerals. Drink from release-2013. Tentative Score 87-89. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, HaMetzuda 2008: A very different blend than at a barrel tasting a year ago. Deep, dark garnet, a full-bodied blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Oak aged for 16 months in new and used barriques, showing fine balance between soft tannins, sweet cedar wood and fruits. On first attack black currants and spices, those parting to make way for red berries and notes of Mediterranean herbs. Long, round and generous. The best to date from Tzuba. Approachable now but best from mid-2011-2016. Score 92. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, HaMetzuda, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): A blend this year of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Dark, almost impenetrable garnet in color, full-bodied, with generous notes of spicy oak but those in fine balance with gently caressing tannins and fruits. Blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry fruits complemented by notes of earthy minerals and, on the long finish a hint of bittersweet chocolate. Best from 2012-2016. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Merlot, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet, almost black in color, full-bodied still firmly tannic and concentrated, needing only time for the wine to come into its own. On the nose and palate blackcurrants and wild berries, those on background of earthy minerals, the fruits going to hints of raspberries as the wine lingers on the palate. Long and generous with a hint of red licorice on the finish. Best from 2012-2016. Tentative Score 89-91 K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Shiraz, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet with notes of royal purple, medium- to full bodied (leaning to the full), with still firm tannins just starting to integrate with notes of spicy oak. On the nose and palate plums, wild berries and cassis, those matched nicely by hints of saddle leather, all leading to a long, bittersweet chocolate-rich finish. Best from 2012. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Deep royal purple, with a nose rich in red fruits and cocoa. On first attack raspberries, wild berries and spices, those followed by notes of cassis and an appealing earthy-herbal overlay. Best from 2012-2016, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Sangiovese, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Deep garnet towards royal purple, with fresh, fruity aromatics. Mediium- to full-bodied, a round wine with soft tannins and just the right notes of spicy wood. Opens to show blackberries, blackcurrants on a background of minted chocolate. Leads to a long, juicy finish. Drink from release-2014, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Pinot Noir, 2009 (Barrel Tasting) : Opens with appealing earthy and red fruit aromatics, medium- to full-bodied, with gently caressing tannins, a soft, round red showing blackberries, red berries, cassis and orange peel. From mid-palate one, notes of dried berries and sage. Destined to be a lithe and polished wine with a long finish. Best from 2012-2018. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Merlot, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Super-dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied (leaning towards the full), with crisp acidity. On the nose and palate red and black berries with overlays of tobacco, cloves and freshly turned damp earth. Tannins are still gripping now but those will settle down in time. Best from release-2016. Tentative Score 86-88. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Dark, almost impenetrable garnet in color, with soft tannins and gentle notes of spicy wood. A generous wine, with red fruits on the first attack yielding in the glass to blackberries and currants, those on a background that hints of cherries, sassafras and dried herbs. Stylish and tempting. Best from 2012-2017. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
Tzuba, Cabernet Franc, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Made from grapes in a high-density, low yield vineyard, opens with notes of freshly hung tobacco leaves, those parting to make way for notes of currants, black cherries, briar and mineral notes. On the long finish a clean note of dried herbs. A fine effort that will remind many of a Bordeaux red. Best from 2012 or 2013. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)
At the end of our tasting a pleasant surprise in the way of what might be thought of as the winemaker's playful experimentation.
Tzuba, Blend (Tentative Name), 2009 (Barrel Tasting): A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Sangiovese (20%, 30%, 15% and 35% respectively) winemaker Paul Dubb likes to think of this one as a Super-Judean Hills wine. Garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied and softly tannic showing generous red fruits, on a background of chocolate and saddle leather. On the finish an appealing hint of grilled meat. A mini-cuvee, perhaps to be released, perhaps just to be shared with friends and, because of the winemaker's insistence on hands-on contact with the wine, not kosher.
Best from release. Tentative Score 89-91. (Tasted 24 Nov 2010)