Tzuba Tel Tzuba Merlot 2007 and Chardonnay 2009

Tzuba Tel Tzuba Merlot 2007 Price: NIS 65

Tzuba (Range unstated) Chardonnay 2009 Price: NIS 65

The winery lies between Beit Shemesh and Yerushalayim. From the Number 1 Road, you take the Harel Junction onto road 395 towards Beit Shemesh.

From the website:

“Tzuba Estate Winery is located in the Judean Hills, an area historically recognized as a major wine-producing region since Biblical times.

The local topography of the Tzuba hillside vineyard, Altitude 700 m and climate provide ideal conditions for our dedicated kibbutz staff to cultivate the vineyards and produce a variety of prize-winning boutique wines.

Tzuba grapes are sold to quality wineries – Castel, Har-Odem, Asif, Binyamina, Kfir, Shiloh and other small boutique wineries.”

So this is a winery that produces grapes for other wineries in the area as well as producing a small amount of wines for themselves. It is well within the category of “boutique” as annual output amounts to only 40,000 bottles.

They have three ranges:

Metzuda Their premium range. Price: Around NIS 100

Tel Tzuba: Their Reserve matured quality range. Price Around NIS 70

Maayan: Stainless Steel tanked Table wine. Price: Around NIS 40

I quite like the Tzuba symbol. A “T” surrounded by four red roses or something similar. Straight forward label design, the mandatory gold frame everywhere and the “oldy worldy” black and white photo. The back label of the Merlot is in Hebrew and English yet the Chardonnay is obviously meant for local consumption only as this is in Hebrew only.

I was impressed with the back label of the Merlot. First there is a little paragraph about the winery. Then a another about the wine itself. It avoids the hyperbole and waffle we’ve seen on other labels of wineries in the same region and is quite informative (although not overly so).

Shopping at Machaneh Yehudah.

Both wines were bought in a shop in Machaneh Yehudah but not the one I usually go to. The wine shop I have been using up until now which is situated at the bottom of rechov Agrippas, before Machaneh Yehuda does not stock these wines. After checking the prices in a number of wine stores further up the road (at or past the market shuk), I decided upon the shop with the cheapest prices, at the very top of Rechov Agrippas.

I placed two bottles of Golan Heights Organic Chardonnay and the two bottles of Tzuba on the counter. I happened to have picked up a couple of Tzuba bottles without a price label even though other bottles on the shelf did have them.

The seller, despite wearing a kippah seemed nevertheless to be secular. He wasn’t wearing tzitzit and had on a pair of tight jeans and a t-shirt. This is not so strange as many Sefardi Jews, although not strictly observant, still wear a kippah although it was a bit strange that this guy was wearing a large black kippah, more associated with Ashkenazi Chareidim. He used a desk calculator with a printout to calculate the bill. I noticed that he entered NIS 75 for both bottles. I informed him that he’d made a mistake where upon he started arguing with me, assuring me that this was the correct price. I went to the shelf and brought him three more bottles of Chardonnay with the same price on them. NIS 65! He grudgingly threw away the first printout and tapped in NIS 65 for the Chardonnay but then entered NIS 85 for the Merlot.

I stopped him in his tracks and told him to do the bill again for both wines at NIS 65. Again he insisted that the Merlot was more expensive and again I brought him the bottles of Merlot with a price label showing NIS 65. He threw the second printout away and then showed me that this time he’d entered the correct price there upon he proceeded to type in the price for the two Golan Heights wines and showed me a total amounting to NIS 300. Both Golan Heights were marked at NIS 75 each. A quick calculation on my phone showed that the correct total should have been NIS 280.

I shook my head at the seller and showed him the phone’s readout. The seller started to curse me. I walked out leaving the bottles on the counter and crossed the road where there was another wine shop exactly opposite this one who had the wines in stock but some NIS 15 more expensive. A told the middle aged woman at the counter (who was by her style of dress, also secular) what had happened across the road. She frowned at me and told me that she’d match the price he had the bottles marked up for. I paid her the NIS 280, thanked her and promised to come back again. My advice. Please be careful in Machaneh Yehudah market. Not everyone unfortunately is a mench there.


Both wines have the same hechsherim.

OK. Vaad HaKashrut OK, America.

Local Certification, HaRav Yoseph Harel. The Chief Rabbi of Matei Yehuda.

Now to the tasting notes.

First, the Tzuba Tel Tzuba Merlot 2007.

We opened this bottle on Friday night after returning from shul. It was placed on the table and had reached room temperature.

The back label informs us that the wine was produced from 100% Merlot grapes, aged in French Oak barrels for 14 months. The wine we were about to taste had been sitting in the bottle now for around four to five years which should have given any rough tannins sufficient time to calm down.

Colour: The first thing I noticed was that the colour looked less like a Merlot and more like a Cabernet Sauvignon. More dark ruby red than blackcurrant like. This was strange considering the label told us that this wine is 100% Merlot. I have no idea what the technical reasons are for the resultant colour but the fact that almost all Oak matured Merlots come out a black current colour indicates that there is something very different about this one.

Smelling notes: I took a glass which I had filled up only a quarter and took an initial nosing. There were definite but not overpowering wood and dry spice notes with compote of stewed fruit, perhaps a rhubarb compote? Difficult to tell as I last tasted rhubarb some 20 years ago in England but that’s the fruit that first came to mind. More smelling and there was actually no particular individual fruit smell coming out so I’ll just leave it at that. Some kind of lightly stewed fruit mixture. Swirling the wine around the glass did not expose any more information but only emphasised what I could already smell. Nice spicy wood with fruity compote which had been watered down perhaps a touch too much. Overall impression was good although I felt it was lacking a bit of weight.

Taste: Immediately after Kiddush we drank the wine whilst sitting. There were enjoyable spicy wood flavours coming through turning to a slight cough syrup (Palwin No,10 style) taste mixed with that watery forest fruit compote. The wine was surprisingly light and fresh with a refreshing and long lasting fruity aftertaste with absolutely no sign of any rough tannins. But at the same time it seemed to be lacking a bit of body.

Verdict: Nice Kiddush wine for drinking on an empty stomach, very enjoyable but lacking a certain body and character. Overall impression was that it seems to be watered down a bit too much.

Before we talk about this particular Chardonnay, I wanted to share with you an intriguing email I received. Around half an hour before hadlakas neros (candle lighting for Shabbos) last week, I received an email from a friend. I have copy and pasted as is here:

Subject: Fw: A little etymology.

A little etymology.

Believe it or not…

A little etymology, just in time for the holiday season. Makes interesting discussion of at the cocktails parties and holiday dinners. Chardonnay - fascinating-great discovery.

The Chardonnay is a wine that produced from white grapes. Traditionally it's common to think that the Chardonnay species are origin from Burgundy wine region in France. Historical research shows that the name of white wine is from vines in the Jerusalem hills, not only because of the vines which produced the wine grows mainly in limestone and clay soil, like in the Jerusalem region, but mainly because the source of the real name of the wine "Chardonnay".

It turns out that the source of the name of white wine is in the Hebrew language and not in the French language. The first to brought the white wine in to France were the Crusaders from

Israel who were on leave and brought back home with them the wine whose original name in French was "Porte de dieu" which means in English "gate of G-d" and it's a translation from the Hebrew name "sha'har-adonai", which symbolize that they were from the holy city of Jerusalem, that surrounded by gates towards G-d.

When asking a French man to pronounce the name of the wine in Hebrew ("Sha'har-adonai") he actually pronounces it as "Char-donnay".

Vineyard, Jerusalem Hills

Despite the email’s claim of “historical research” I could find no academic reference to this anywhere on the Internet. A few places mention it though. The first is a very badly translated Haaretz article where they write that “There are those who believe that the origin of the name Chardonnay is the words Shaar Adonai”.

More Googling brings up more unsupported claims that the Crusaders in the Middle East returned to France with a wine grape called “Porte de Dieu” which means “Gate of G-d”. Now they claim that this is an obvious reference to Yerushalayim as it was known as the City of G-d and surrounded by gates. Moreover, Chardonnay is a grape which grows in Limestone and this is exactly the type of stone which surrounds Yerushalayim. Now translating “Porte de Dieu” into Hebrew you get “Shaarei Adon-ai” which sounds remarkably like Chardonnay.

A Crusader returns from the Holy Land

On the Wikipedia page for Chardonnay, under history, it states:

“Chardonnay's true origins were further obscured by vineyard owners in Lebanon and Syria, who claimed that the grape's ancestry could be traced to the Middle East, from where it was introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders, though there is little external evidence to support that theory.”

Isn’t that amazing that the Arabs in Lebanon and Syria claim that the origin of this grape comes from the Middle East and it has a Hebrew origin yet the article does not mention Israel or the Jews at all. It’s as if there is black hole between Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where all matter gets sucked up.

The Discussion section of this Wikipedia page brings the whole Hebrew Language origin up but gives no academic source whatsoever and simply points us to other Internet pages which make the same unsubstantiated claim.

A nice story but until I see actual research sources, I’ll take this “une pincĂ©e de sel” – with a pinch of salt.

Now to the tasting notes for the Tzuba Chardonnay 2009.

The front of the label makes no mention that it belongs to any range of wines and it is missing black and white photo that features on the Merlot. Despite being the same price, the label certainly indicated that this Chardonnay is considered a cheaper wine although it could just indicate that they didn’t bother with such a fancy label as this was clearly (as mentioned earlier) meant for local consumption, seeing that the label is entirely in Hebrew.

What follows is a rough translation:

"Tzuba winery is an estate winery located in the heart of Kibbutz Tzuba’s vineyard in the Judean Hills. The vineyard is planted in terra rosa soil between rocks and ancient terraces.

The climate and field conditions create the ideal circumstances for growing grapes and producing a variety of quality wines."
"This dry white wine is made from chardonnay grapes. The wine is aged for 4 months in French oak barrels.  The wine is made in the traditional Burgundy style by soaking in the yeast.

The wine has a rich aroma of lemon peel, Burgundy wood barrels, butter and caramel.   This is a full bodied, fresh wine with a long, impressive finish."

As I stay for a Halachah shiur in shul after tephila, my sons were home first and removed the Chardonnay from the wine cooler (as requested) in order to warm it up slightly before opening. We opened the wine and it sat on table for less than 10 minutes while my kids sorted themselves out and decided who was sitting, (or to be more precise, who was not sitting) next to who.

Colour: Pouring the wine into everyone’s glasses I immediately saw a similarity with the Merlot last night. The colour was all wrong! A Chardonnay should be yellow which is the natural colour of the grape. This Chardonnay was a lemony green, typical of a Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling.

Nose: Slight oak wood notes, very subtle but there but unmistakable fresh lemons rind, ripe pears and pineapple. Very typical of a Sauvignon Blanc.

Swirling around brought out more delightful sweet wholesome tropical fruit flavours.

Tasting: Refreshing, medium good body with slight taste of dry oak wood, tropical fruits and very prominent taste of lemon peels. Finish was of a medium length that left a tangy lemony slightly fruity dry taste in the mouth but certainly not bitter.

Verdict: Colour, nose and taste all combine to make this a typical and very enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc and I am sure that in blind tastings, most if not all would have identified this wine as such.

The only problem is that the label says that this wine is a Chardonnay! Where was the yellow colour? Where was the nose and taste of melon, bananas and pears? What’s with this tropical fruit and lemon rind flavour?

Weird but we liked it.

A Merlot behaving like a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay like a Sauvignon Blanc. Tasty and enjoyable wines but I think Tzuba has some identity issues they need to sort out.


Contact Reb Mordechai (Note: To comment on this article, see Comments section above)


Email *

Message *