A number of Israeli wineries are celebrating significant anniversaries in 2010: Carmel, Tishbi, Dalton, Galil Mountain and Recanati are all commemorating their milestones in different ways. Each has their own unique story. They have all given a great deal to the development of the Israel wine industry and each has contributed to the quality revolution of the last 20 years.
Galil Mountain – 10 Years
Galil Mountain is celebrating its tenth year. Situated at Yiron in the Upper Galilee, on the Lebanese border, Galil Mountain is a joint venture between the Golan Heights Winery and Kibbutz Yiron. The new winery represented the Golan Winery’s wish to have a foot in the Upper Galilee as well as on the Golan. The winery building showed a new way in design. The winery was built with aesthetics in mind, situated next to a vineyard and not on an industrial estate. The design was stylish, modern and practical. They produce about a million bottles a year from five Upper Galilee vineyards. Both the winery manager, Ronit Badler, and marketing manager, Carmit Erenreiche, are women. The winemaker is Micha Vaadia, who used to work for the Golan Winery. In 2009, Galil Mountain harvested 1,064 tons of grapes, which made it Israel’s sixth largest winery. The top of the line wines are two blends called Yiron and Meron. The winery is known for excellent value for money wines. The Avivim white and Pinot Noir are of particular interest. The wines are distributed in Israel by the parent company, the Golan Heights Winery.
Recanati Winery – 10 Years
Recanati Winery is also celebrating ten years. Founded in 2000 by Leni Recanati, from the well-known Recanati family, the winery is situated at Hefer Valley, near Hadera in the Sharon Plain. It was one of a number of wineries built at the beginning of the 2000’s, with the immediate goal of becoming a commercial winery. The involvement of Recanati , showed that someone known for success in the world of industry and big business, was prepared to invest in the local wine scene. By 2009, Recanati was harvesting 970 tons of grapes which made it Israel’s 8th largest winery. The winery’s best wines come from Upper Galilee vineyards. The manager of the winery is Noam Yaacobi and the winemaker is Gil Shatzberg (ex Carmel & Amphorae.) The winery is known for a series of very successful results in international and local competitions, particularly for their celebrated Recanati Special Reserve, which is their flagship wine. Of particular interest is their Recanati Petite Sirah Zinfandel blended red. The wines are distributed by Shaked, owners of the Derech Ha’Yayin chain of wine shops, who are also part owners of the winery.
Dalton Winery – 15 Years
Dalton Winery is celebrating fifteen years. Founded in 1995 at Ramat Dalton, with grapes supplied from the adjacent Ben Zimra vineyards, Dalton was the pioneering winery in the Upper Galilee. They began as a small winery in the boutique boom of the nineties and have steadily grown to become one of the largest ten wineries in Israel. In 2009 they harvested 891 tons, which made it Israel’s ninth largest. The winery was started by Mati Haruni, from England. Today, his son, Alex Haruni is the active owner and Na’ama Mualem is the winemaker. She trained in California and Australia. They were one of the first Israeli wineries to use the services of a winemaking consultant from overseas, John Worontshak, an Australian who works from England. It is a very well managed and well marketed winery. Dalton wines are distributed by ‘The Scottish’ wine & spirits importers and distributors. Their leading wine is the strictly allocated, rare and highly regarded Matatia. Of particular interest is their red Zinfandel, unique in Israel, and their wild yeast fermented Viognier.
Tishbi Winery – 25 Years
Tishbi Winery is celebrating twenty five years. Yonatan Tishbi was a grower for Carmel, when he decided to open his own winery in 1985. He was the fourth generation of winegrowers and was the first of many vineyard owners to open a winery. This has become a trend. In the last fifteen years many growers have followed his example. A number of Israel’s most well-known winemakers have worked at Tishbi, including Yair Margalit, Ed Salzberg, Lewis Pasco and Asaf Paz. It remains a genuine family winery. Yonatan is the owner, his son Golan is now the winemaker and Yonatan’s wife, Nili runs the very attractive, informal visitors center. His daughter, Oshra markets Tishbi Fine foods including wine based jams and olive oil. The winery is situated in the Binyamina industrial area between Binyamina and Zichron Ya’acov. Best are their Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve wines. Tishbi’s dry Muscat, French –Riesling whites are of interest , as are their single vineyard Gush Etzion and Sde Boker wines. However, Tishbi’s most famous product may be its Jonathan Tishbi Brandy, produced in a genuine cognac alembic still.
Carmel Winery – 120 Years
Finally, last but not least, Carmel Winery is celebrating its 120th harvest. Though their first vineyards were planted in 1882, it was not until 1890 that the first winery at Rishon Le Zion was built by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The foundation of Carmel represented the founding of a modern Israeli wine industry after 2,000 years. For over one hundred years, Carmel simply was Israel wine, beginning under the Turks, then operating under the British and finally the State of Israel. The winery is owned by SCV des Grandes Caves, known in Hebrew as Agudat Hacormim. Even with all the new wineries, Carmel is still Israel’s largest winery with just under 40% of the market. Carmel has the two largest wineries in Israel at Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Ya’acov and two small, boutique wineries: Kayoumi Winery at Ramat Dalton and Yatir Winery at Tel Arad. In 2009, Carmel harvested 15,118 tons of grapes. The managing director of Carmel is Israel Ivzan and the winemaker is Lior Lacser, who trained in France. The rejuvenation and modernization of Carmel in the last few years somehow underlines the quality revolution by the country as a whole. Carmel’s flagship wines are Carmel Limited Edition, a Bordeaux style blend, and Carmel Mediterranean, a blend of Mediterranean varieties. Of particular interest are the old vine Carignan and old vine Petite Sirah. The revival of these varieties, mirror the revival of Carmel itself.
It is clear each of these wineries will continue to develop, and play a significant part in the local wine scene. Taken together, they represent an example of the variety and quality of Israeli wine.
(This story first appeared on wines-israel.com and is reprinted with permission)