#165 – March 3, 2011
Notwithstanding the massive proliferation of new Israeli wineries, the proper evolution seems to be taking place – wineries keep improving in order to keep up with the competition while bad wineries go out of business. Happily more of the former than the latter is occurring and every time I close my eyes another winery seems to have made a giant leap forward in quality, sophistication and interest. This week’s phoenix is Teperberg and they are truly worthy of the Rags to Riches moniker. Founded in 1870 by the Teperberg family (hence the name(s) of the winery) in the Old City of Jerusalem, the winery relocated in 1964 to Motza, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Up until recently, the winery was mostly known for producing overly sweet and heavy Kiddush wines that were of no interest to anyone other than the soldiers looking for a Friday-night Kiddush buzz (it was served every Friday night on bases around the country until recently when the Army apparently decided that serving alcoholic beverages to on-duty teen-agers with machine guns wasn’t the best idea and replaced the wine with grape juice).
In the early 1990s, the winery decided to try its hand at making real table wine but didn’t have much success. All this changed in 2002 when, under the supervision of California-trained winemaker Shiki Rauchberger, the winery starting makes much better wines designed to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. A few years ago Teperberg once again relocated to Kibbutz Tzora and officially changed its name to Teperberg 1870 (which it even more recently changed again to drop the 1870).
The winery produces approximately 4 million bottles annually in three series: Reserve, Silver (which is mevushal and provides some good options in that regard) and Terra. They still produce a number of lower-tiered wines which are primarily mass-market wines and of little interest to most wine aficionados. Teperberg still produces too many undesirable wines (and their consistency year-over-year needs improvement) to be a Safe Bet Winery, but they are on definitely on target for that title and their very fair pricing and increased quality have resulted in them having quite a few YH Best Buys in their portfolio. They make a number of blends as well as single varietal wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz and their most interesting wine – a Malbec. As a side note and a follow up to my newsletter from a few weeks ago, while they are producing very good wines worthy of your lirot, with the exception of the Malbec, none of their offerings has really grabbed my attention with creativity, individualism or long-term aging. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and, with their current and constantly improving track record, I have little doubt that they too, will reach the pinnacle of success. With the addition of Frenchman Olivier Fratty as an assistant wine maker to the team, I look forward to seeing more and more from this team in the coming years.
Teperberg, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: If Teperberg keeps up this level of quality in their Reserve series, I might be able to forgive them for a slight overstepping on pricing since this is a serious and respectable wine (not to mention delicious). Great structure and somewhat still-firm tannins bode well for the continued development of this wine that is approachable now but will get better with some additional cellaring time. Currants, plums, hints of cassis and blackberry jam along with some asphalt, bittersweet chocolate and some soft and bitter notes make up a complex and delicious wine.
Teperberg, Terra, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010: After spending a week down-under where it is summer and all anyone drinks is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I have a hankering for some crisp and cutting wine, notwithstanding the 50-degree differential from yesterday to today for me. Nice body and structure are complemented by crisp acidity and plenty of citrus fruits on both the nose and the palate. Guava, melon and some passion fruit are accompanied by a tinge of muskiness I found pleasurable.
Teperberg, Silver, Merlot, 2009: A soft and gentle wine with a lusher body than I would have expected for this series. Good blackberries, plums and cranberries are kept on edge with some gentle spiciness, green notes, espresso and cigar box. A long finish rounds out this eminently pleasant (but not for long-term cellaring) YH Best Buy.
Teperberg, Silver, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009: Tons of rich black forest fruit on a warm nose and mouth filling palate were another surprise for me as I was expecting less depth. A lingering finish with a pleasant bitterness to it rounds this one out.
Teperberg, Terra, Malbec, 2007: Another YH Best Buy and a nice attempt at a grape that has proven elusive in the kosher quality wine category (Royal and Rothschild co-produce another nice version – the Bodegas Flechas de los Andes, Gran Malbec, 2009). Still going strong with currants, cherries, blackberries, espresso, slightly smoky wood, vanilla and chocolate. This was my last bottle for the vintage and a good thing as it probably has 6-9 months left on it, not more