In Israel It’s Pronounced “Dahl-TONN"
Guy Eshel discussing Dalton wines at the Dalton Winery (photo by Joshua London)
Our L’Chaim Columnist Visits the Dalton Winery
Our L’Chaim Columnist Visits the Dalton Winery
The combination of natural beauty and quality wine has made the Upper Galilee a premier wine tourism destination—and the Dalton Winery is one of the area’s top producers.
A mountainous area of forests, plunging peaks, stony ridges, and superb quality high altitude, cooler climate vineyards, the Upper Galilee is Israel’s most beautiful vineyard region. The soils—including volcanic, limestone, gravel, and terra rossa—are heavy but well drained. The region’s lush landscape, meandering streams, and magnificent mountain views make it one of Israel’s most attractive winegrowing regions.
Established in 1995 by the Haruni family as a boutique wine cooperative venture producing around 20,000 bottles in a makeshift facility in Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra, the Dalton winery has since become a 1,000,000-bottle estate wine operation in a compact state-of-the-art modern facility overlooking the Hula Valley.
Dalton winery (Joshua London/JW)
Indeed, Dalton has earned an international reputation for producing a wide range of wines of great value and solid to outstanding quality, including a few red and white mevushal options for the diaspora kosher catering and restaurant scene.
“One of the great things about Dalton,” winemaker Guy Eshel explained to me on a recent visit, “is that we’ve really evolved over the last 20 years from a typical Israeli winery into a true estate grower-producer—I have a big playground of amazing vineyards in some of the most interesting terroirs in the area. This year we yielded more than 1,000 tons of estate grapes.”
A native-born Israeli, Eshel joined Dalton in 2015 as head winemaker after several years abroad gaining winemaking experience in California’s Napa Valley, France’s Northern Rhône, and in Canberra, Australia. Before that, Eshel studied viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis.
The previous head winemaker, Naama Sorkin, had been with Dalton for 12 years and had overseen the winery’s transformation into an estate producer of high quality, high value wines. Rather than move on to another winery, Sorkin has decided to focus on viticulture and manage Dalton’s vineyards in the Golan Heights area.
“We are excited about it and we are making big changes,” enthused Eshel as he poured yet another wine to taste, “our wines have made a real leap in terms of quality, and Dalton has invested a lot of resources in past years in planting our own vineyards” allowing them to fully manage their growth and control for quality.
“We started this process over 10 years ago with Naama [Sorkin] and Nachum [Naveh], our agriculturalist,” he notes, “we are kind of leading the industry in this, and now we are seeing the fruits of these efforts. It’s really amazing, the quality.”
Charming and down-to-earth, Eshel guided me through a remarkable smattering of new wines and new vintages. There is handsome new packaging underway as well, as the labels and some of the wines are undergoing a revamp. Alas, none of the wines I tasted with Guy is available here in the US, so for now those interested should consider these widely available options:
Dalton, D, Pinot Gris, Unoaked, Galilee, Israel, 2014 ($20): medium-bodied with aromas of melon, hay, peaches, and grapefruit and flavors of green apple, stone fruits, mineral, and loads of citrus, it has a lengthy finish that is accented with minerals, lemon and spice. Vibrant and refreshing.
Dalton, Single Vineyard, Elkosh, Semillon, 2013 ($25): grown in one of Dalton’s flagship vineyards, this is a solid and aromatic entry with a floral, kiwi, and slightly briny nose, almost crunchy and full on the palate, with lovely, dry and persistent mineral and fruit notes, with mild yet decently balanced acidity. This has evolved nicely since its initial release and is now rich, complex, mineral-driven, and really rather nice.
Dalton, D, Petite Sirah, Oak Aged, Shimshon, Israel, 2013 ($25): this is an aromatic, rich, and velvety beauty with sweet, dark berry fruit and spice notes, some earthiness, and a lovely finish with additional notes of black pepper, sage, lavender, and French vanilla. With soft tannins and a nice, satisfying, long finish.
Dalton, Alma, Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre (SGM), Galilee, Israel, 2012 ($40): this aromatic, Rhône-style Israeli blend offers appealing mocha and earthy red fruit aromas leading to supple, mildly spicy dark fruit flavors intermingled with anise, vanilla, pepper, and tobacco. Smooth, well-rounded, and delicious.
Dalton, Reserve Shiraz, Galilee, Israel, 2012 ($40): big, luscious, textured, and jammy, with dark fruit (cherry, black cherry, blueberry), black pepper, sweet spices, a little tobacco, and chocolate and eucalyptus notes. With lovely velvety tannins, a full mouthfeel, and a pleasing and absorbing finish, this is a wonderful, hugely enjoyable wine.