Monday, July 13, 2020

This past Tuesday night, my husband, Yeruchum, and I ventured to Crown Heights in anticipation of the U.S. launch of Tabernacle Winery, a family-owned boutique winery from Israel. The launch took place at Meat NYC, a beautifully designed, relative newcomer on the kosher restaurant scene. Raphael Sutton, who does marketing, sales and everything in between for Tabernacle—except the actual winemaking—was our host for the evening. Diners were privileged to enjoy wines from two series offered by the winery, paired with a delicious and interesting meal.

Winery owners Kenny Rozenberg and Daryl Hagler, of Monsey, began this venture because they are passionate about wine, Sutton shared. “But [they are] specifically passionate about wine from Israel. Two years ago they bought a winery facility…brought on a winemaking team and said, ‘Bring the best that’s possible out of Israel.’ And that’s what we’ve been doing for the past two years,” he continued. The winery benefits from the expertise of three respected winemakers who make up its team: Yossi Eizikovitch, formerly of Metzuda Winery; Itai Lahat, consultant and one of the top winemakers in Israel, with 25 years experience; and Ari Tannenbaum, a graduate of Cornell University in viticulture. Tabernacle wines are distributed in the U.S. by Allied Importers, whose representatives Marty Siegmeister and Shai Ghermezian joined the festivities on Tuesday.

The winery is located in Moshav Tzuriel in the Upper Galilee and is situated on land that previously housed a winery facility used by Saslove Winery 15 to 20 years ago. This skeletal springboard allowed the new owners to begin production quickly and yield a large number of bottles right away. They produced 30,000 bottles in 2017, 30,000 bottles in 2018 and are planning to grow to 80,000 bottles from their 2019 harvest. Tabernacle has expanded its operation and upgraded its equipment, according to Sutton, who explained, “We work with newer equipment and are physically expanding capacity to make it suitable for the production we have planned for 2019.”

Tabernacle produces high-quality red wines, which are all mevushal and reflect the winery’s deep connection to the land and respect for the beautiful terrain from which it comes. All the grapes are sourced from Israel’s Upper Galilee and Golan Heights regions.

2017 is the first vintage that has been released to the market. All four wines we tasted were from that year. There was considerable buzz in the room and glasses refilled multiple times as people got a feel for the flavors, texture and character of the wines.

The entry-level Reserve series features the Levite, a 60% merlot, 40% syrah blend, and a cabernet sauvignon, both at $30 a bottle. These wines were aged in French oak barrels for 15 months and for another 10 months in the bottle. The Levite was smooth, well-rounded, very drinkable—and our favorite of the night.

The Betzalel premium-level series showcased a cabernet sauvignon as well as the Ketoret, a cabernet (41%), syrah (33%) and petit verdot (26%) blend. These were aged for 20 months in French oak barrels and then for another 12 months in the bottle. These wines have a deep, rich color and will continue to develop and expand for the next five to six years and beyond, and have a $60 price point.

The winery’s name, Tabernacle, was chosen to emphasize the strong connection the winery has to the land and history of Israel, a connection that is paramount to the Tabernacle team whose goal is to create a product that will highlight the best the country has to offer. During the week-long launch in the U.S., Sutton noted the positive reactions of the many wine industry trade professionals tasting the wine: “To see that excitement for that quality coming from Israel? This is it. We feel connected and proud of this.”

Back in Israel this week, Sutton reflected that Tabernacle “takes great pride in being part of the modern wine-making scene in Israel and is excited to showcase to the world the unique quality of wines grown in Israel. This is what motivates all of us. Our quality is top notch and we want to be a leading player in that sandbox.”

By Michal Rosenberg