One of Israel’s great wine growing gems is the “Central Mountain Region” of the Shomron (Samaria). It runs roughly from Har Bracha at the southern ridge of Mount Grezim all the way down to Hebron, forming a sort of elevated topographical spine. The combination of high altitude (between 700 to 850 meters above sea level), shallow soils and limestone base have proven an ideal area for growing quality wine grapes, especially Merlot. One of the most representative wineries is the esteemed Tura Estate Winery.
A religious Zionist-driven vineyard-to-glass estate, the Tura winery is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Erez and Vered Ben-Sa’adon.
Erez is a passionate head-in-the-vines kind of wine practitioner, continuously driven to do better than before, with each success serving as the new baseline. Always thinking and planning, continuously tending and tinkering, his approach is more like gardening than farming. The more naturally gregarious Vered serves as “manager of marketing” for the winery, but the more accurate if unofficial role is “ambassador of the Shomron region.” Though led by an entrepreneurial spirit, their entire endeavor is deeply spiritual, imbued with religious missionary-like Zionist love for the land itself (to belabor the point, they print “Wine from the Land of Israel” prominently on the front of every label). As Vered makes abundantly clear in nearly every conversation, and as Tura’s website also makes explicit: “Every stone that [Erez] touches in the vineyard, he feels that he is realizing the vision of Jeremiah, ‘You shall still plant vineyards in the mountains of Samaria.’”
The couple planted their first vines there in 1997 using wedding-gift funds and additional family support. The initial five hectares (a little over 12 acres) investment led to expansion. Eventually they decided to take the plunge and become wine makers as well. Situated in Rechalim, east of Ariel, their winery was founded in 2003.
Their enthusiasm for their wines and for their region continues unabated, and while they continue to sell grapes to other wineries, their own production takes precedence. Tura has three labels: Mountain Vista is its entry-level label for bright, up front wines; Mountain Heights is its reserve label; Mountain Peak is its flagship wine. Here are a few currently available wines to seek out and try:
Tura Estate Winery, Mountain Vista, Chardonnay, 2014/5774 ($30; mevushal): Though fairly fruity (quince, sweet pineapple, citrus and a little melon), the oak gives it a mild buttery texture, which is nicely kept in check by decent acidity and a little minerality. Suitable for light meals, but pleasing on its own too.
Tura Estate Winery, Mountain Vista, Gewurztraminer, 2016 /5776 ($29): Fruity, floral, and pleasingly sweet, with notes of lychee, pineapple, and ripe stone fruits.
Tura Estate Winery, Mountain Vista, Heartland, 2016 /5776 ($35; mevushal): This delicious and surprisingly airy red blend — 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot — is rich, rounded and a little spicy, offering dark and red berry and stone fruits; and while the oak is evident, the overall balance keeps it light and nicely supportive. This is easily quaffed, but rewards a little contemplation too.
Tura Estate Winery, Mountain Heights, Merlot, 2014/5774 ($45): This is lovely, full and rounded, with warm, dark berry fruit, plum, Mediterranean herbs, truffle and vanilla; soft tannins and very good acidity; this is rich and beautiful, with an absorbingly long slightly chocolaty finish.
Tura Estate Winery, Mountain Heights, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014/5774 ($45): The label says this “matured 22 months in new French barrels,” but thankfully this tasty, well-structured, nicely balanced wine seems to have handled the oak beautifully, offering lively, fresh, clean, concentrated and nicely layered flavors of dark berry fruits, cassis and crushed herbs. The finish is long and a little spicy. Very yummy.
Tura Estate Winery, Mountain Peak, 2014/5774 ($80): An intense, complex blend — 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 27 percent Merlot, 9 percent Petit Verdot and 9 percent Cabernet Franc — is a serious, well-structured, heady and full-bodied red wine, with notes of black pepper, dark berries, plums and dark chocolate. This is delicious now but should continue to evolve nicely for years to come. L’Chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].