There have only been a few tastings with my group in which every wine tasted was passionately and enthusiastically lauded by every person present. Our recent Netofa tasting was certainly one such instance, but this was again the case with our recent tasting of six wines from Tura Estate Winery, a family-run winery in the Judean Hills, Samaria/Shomron, arguably one of Israel’s lushest winemaking regions. The winery’s premium grapes are grown at an 850-degree altitude, literally touching the clouds; that, combined with the mountain terrain, provides a truly optimal climate for growing superb wine grapes. The wines are imported by Red Garden Inc.
At Kosherfest this past November, I had the pleasure of meeting Vered Ben Sa’adon, who runs the winery along with her husband, Erez, the winemaker. Even if the Ben Sa’adons were not charming, effusive, kind, frum yidden working the land of Eretz Yisrael in line with the mitzvah, the taste of the wines would essentially tell us this for themselves. The wines are beautifully constructed, pleasing to the palate, robust and at the same time restrained, with only the slightest touch of that “fruit bomb” quality in certain wines that we hate to love, but love nonetheless. All in all, we found Tura wines to be luscious and well-balanced and we recommend them all with equanimity.
Tura wines are presented at three levels, titled Vista, Heights and Peak. However, these are all on the high end in terms of affordability; Vista, the “lowest” price point, starts at around $25. The Vista wine labels bear charming ink renderings, illustrating ways in which one can physically view the region, such as with binoculars, telescopes and opera glasses. “We invite people to see with their own eyes where we are in Samaria, where we are located and why it’s important to live here,” Ben Sa’adon told me. “A lot of people don’t know anything about Samaria, and we want them to know more. When they visit, we can show them,” she said.
Heights, Tura’s premium level, includes wines made with old vines; they mix these wines in premium oak barrels, age them for 10 to 22 months. Along with a memorable blend, Vista wines also include single-varietal wines, including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and a port-style wine. “For this level we use motifs representing the heights we attain with these wines, particularly airplanes, representing the high altitude of 850 feet.” Peak, Tura’s flagship wine, is represented by a peak on the bottle. “The peak is representing the best we have,” Ben Sa’adon said.
We tried two white wines: The Tura Mountain Vista Snow 2016 and the Tura Mountain Vista Chardonnay 2016.
Snow was extremely refreshing—light and crisp. A blend of viognier, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, this dry, slightly buttery white has citrus aromas and mineral notes. The wine is sparkling and the color is almost clear. The nose was sweet but light, very summery. The finish was short with a hint of minerality; perfect with fruit or fruit desserts or as an aperitif. We can’t wait to include Snow in a Shavuot tasting. “The sauvignon blanc provides crispness, but the viognier mellows it out. It gives the wine a more complex, intriguing quality,” said Chana.
The Chardonnay 2016 was made with 100% chardonnay grapes grown in Judea and Samaria, and was different from Snow in many ways. It was golden-colored, quite a bit more buttery than Snow and had some fun tropical notes on the nose and midpalate, like pineapple. It had some nice restrained acidity and a clean finish. It clearly benefited from careful winemaking skill: It was aged in French oak for 10 months and the wine underwent batonnage (stirring of the lees in a barrel) once a week.
The first red we tried was the Tura Mountain Heights Shiraz 2016. The bottle label states that the grapes were manually and selectively picked on September 14, 2016, and barrel-aged for 22 months. This beautifully colored wine was easy going down, with a nose of vanilla. It’s a rich, fruity wine, but also restrained and medium-bodied. “This was lighter to me than a regular red table wine. It would go well with tomato-based chicken dishes,” said Brooke. This was one of my personal favorites.
Tura Mountain Vista Heartland 2017, however, was by far the favorite of the tasting. Chana led the enthusiastic lobby for this wine, and was supported by Ari, Bracha, Brooke and Shoshana, who all agreed with Chana that the wine’s name should immediately be changed to “Luscious” from “Heartland.” The wine was sensual and fruity, with some very light, restrained tannins. This Bordeaux-style wine comprising 36% cabernet sauvignon, 55% merlot and 9% petit verdot is also mevushal and perfect for a special wine to drink on a cold winter evening. “This is my kind of wine, round and velvety,” said Bracha.
It was our sense that the generous percentage of merlot provided the warmth in the wine, while the small touch of petit verdot added depth to the cabernet. Aging for 10 months in new American oak barrels added viscosity and gravitas. This was a wine we agreed could continue to age in the bottle and be enjoyed for many years to come. “Stock up on this one,” urged Chana.
The Tura Mountain Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 was aged for 22 months in new French oak barrels. Aromas of vanilla, plum and tobacco were noted on the nose, with a nice full body and long finish. We greatly enjoyed this wine and would have no qualms serving it every week of the year for Shabbat. This was also one of my personal faves.
The Tura Mountain Peak 2014, a mevushal wine that comes in a beautiful commemorative box, is not just another Israeli Bordeaux-blend wine to be given as a gift or enjoyed on a truly special occasion, though it is both those things as well. This is Tura Winery’s flagship export, and it shows in every part of the tasting experience. This blend of 58% cabernet sauvignon, 23% merlot, 10% petit verdot and 9% cabernet franc was beautifully balanced, neither too dry nor too fruity, and goes down like a poem. The long finish reminded some in the group of whiskey notes, and we all savored the finish. This wine won a silver medal at the Mediterenean International Wines and Spirits Challenge in 2017, and we hope this is just one of many awards for this wonderful, incredibly enjoyable wine.
All in all, we greatly enjoyed tasting Tura wines. We thank the Ben Sa’adons for the work they do, and we urge you to seek out these excellent wines.
By Elizabeth Kratz