Dalton Reserve Merlot 2007

For me, the Yarden series from the Ramat HaGolan winery is the Linn Sondek LP12 of wine ranges from Israel. I judge every new wine I try against this winery's excellent Yarden and Gamla range of Pinot Noir, Yarden Merlot and Yarden Chardonnay.

Compared to these excellent wines, wine from other Israeli wineries come up short with very few exceptions. I have already raved about the Har Odem winery in my previous blog but now I am delighted to say that I must be on a roll (unlike poor Arsenal FC, first Man U and then Blackburn!) and have discovered yet another winery which (at least if the one wine I tried is anything to go by) holds its own against the giddy heights (excuse the pun) of the Golan winery.

The winery in question is called Dalton, situated in the upper Galil. The wine we tried was their Dalton Reserve Merlot 2007.

Dalton winery is the other side of the Kinnerret from Ramat HaGolan and Har Odem wineries but enjoys the same northerly high volcanic climate, being only a few miles from Israel’s Western Lebanese border.

The vineyard overlooks the Hulla valley, sight of the famous Yom Kippur tank battle, near Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra. Established in 1993 by a British family by the name of Haruni, they originally ran a successful London based Jewellery business. The winery has been kosher from the very beginning. Today it produces just under a million bottles a year so I think I can safely say that they have outgrown their “boutique” label.

Dalton winery’s website seems to have been having trouble over the last few days. www.dalton-winery.com/ but when it is up, it contains a wealth of information, not just about the winery itself but also about wine making in general. The owner, Alex Haruni has a blog post there but it doesn’t seem to have been updated for some time. Shame! He writes that he encourages visitors to the winery and that tours are available for novices as well as the more advanced. I just might take the family there during Chol HaMoed Sukkos this year.
According to the blurb on their Internet site:


The Merlot grapes are sourced from the vineyards of Kerem Ben Zimra, was selectively harvested in late September and early October. After a warm fermentation and traditional cap wetting methods the wine was pressed out and racked into new French oak barrels. After the completion of malolactic fermentation the wine was stored in the barrel for just over one year.


The Merlot is a dark, rich wine, with sweet fruit and soft tannins, showing the classic varietal qualities of plums, stewed fruit and cherry jam, combined with the subtle spicy shades of toffee vanilla and cloves from the barrels.


We opened the Dalton Reserve Merlot 2007 for Friday night Kiddush. Having been absolutely delighted with the Har Odem Merlot 2009 the week before, this would be a tough act to follow. I am simply thrilled to tell you all that the Dalton succeeded in impressing us in every way.

I saw this bottle in the wine shop in Geula (Jerusalem), (next to the Har Odem Merlot). The shop owner, Avi informed me that it had very soft tannins and that if I liked the Har Odem Merlot, I would like this one as well. Based on his recommendation I decided to give it a try (NIS 99 in Geula. I've seen it in another shop at NIS 120!).

I have to say that I just love the encredibly impressive label. It has a real "British" understated style to it in its simplicity of design which enthuses confidence. Makes a change to the many Israeli wineries who think that the more "kishkushim" you put on the label, the more impressive it looks. In my opnion, it's exactly the opposite! Kol HaKavod Dalton.

I find this problem with simcha halls here in Israel as well. Many Israelis overdo the decorations. Sometimes (as is proven in the HIFI world time and time again), less is more. I know I'm biased but I really do think that British understatement in design is so much more impressive. It's invariably the case that the flashiness of the whisky bottle is inversely proportional to the quality of the whisky.

Now to my own notes:

Putting the glass to my nose, there was the expected deep rich berry sweetness and slight woody notes one might expect from a Merlot but all this was acompanied by a surprising but very definite warm smoky aroma as well. This smoky sweetness reminded me so much of my favourite dram, Caol Ila single malt, but (you'll be pleased to know), without the brine.

Tasting totally fulfilled my high expectations of this wine after the initial smelling. Ripe sweet rich chewy berries, raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries and smoky sweet single malt whisky. I know that from my description, you would think that this Merlot was heavy but it really wasn’t at all. How does it manage this trick? Swirl this beauty in your mouth and chew it. Aftertaste was long and smooth, leaving a very satisfied smoky sweetness in the mouth. Tannins were noticeable but certainly did not distract in any way from the enjoyment, despite drinking on an empty stomach. Everybody around the table went “Uuuuummmmmmhhhh…lovely”! Straight after HaMotzi we quickly finished the bottle wanting more.

I would certainly like to try others in their Dalton Reserve range as well as purchase another bottle of this one. Looking at the Internet site it shows that they do do a Chardonnay but alas, not a Pinot Noir. Maybe soon perhaps.

If you are looking for the perfect wine to start your Rosh Hashana off, this could be the one. Personally I think I'll open a Har Odem Merlot 2007 (review to follow, beli neder) for the first night and this Dalton Reserve 2007 for the second night. For Shabbos Friday night I'm planning to open a Ramat HaGolan Yarden Pinot Noir 2003. A very good year for wine. Shana Tova and a very good and sweet year to all of you reading.


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