“I have a big playground of amazing vineyards in some of the most interesting terroirs in the area,” Dalton Winery winemaker Guy Eshel explained to me on a recent visit to Israel. “This year we yielded more than 1,000 tons of estate grapes.”
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. Eshel studied viticulture and enology at the University of California-Davis.
One of Israel’s finest wine appellations is the Upper Galilee — a mountainous area in the north of forests, plunging peaks, stony ridges, and superb quality, high altitude, cooler climate vineyards. It is Israel’s most beautiful vineyard region. The soils — including volcanic, limestone, gravel and terra rossa — are heavy, but well drained.
The Upper Galilee’s lush landscape, meandering streams and magnificent mountain views make it one of Israel’s most attractive winegrowing regions. And this combination of natural beauty and quality wine has made the Upper Galilee a premier wine tourism destination. The Dalton Winery is clearly one of Israel’s top producers.
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 million bottle estate wine operation in a compact state-of-the-art modern facility overlooking the Hula Valley. 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.
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, nearly none of the wines I tasted with Eshel are available yet in the United States. 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 some sweet dark berry fruit and spice notes, some nice 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): This is big, luscious, textured and jammy, with dark fruit (cherry, black cherry, blueberry), black pepper, sweet spices, a little tobacco, and some lovely chocolaty and eucalyptus notes. With lovely velvety tannins, a full-mouth feel, and a pleasing and absorbing finish. This is a wonderful, hugely enjoyable wine. L’chaim!