This morning (Tuesday, 5 Aug 2008) at about 11:00, I attended a tasting of Dalton wines at the Scottish Company in Tel Aviv. No-one will forget the photos of petite winemaker Na'ama Mualem in a helmet and flack jacket inspecting her vineyards in the Northern Galilee as missiles fell during the not-that-long-ago Lebanese war. More important, this still young winemaker and her wines continue to blossom as Dalton continues to show itself as a serious force and continues as well to earn a good name for high quality wines at thoroughly fair prices.
Because the harvest has started quite early in Israel this year, Na'ama was not present at the tasting. I do thank Alex Haruni and Moshe Haviv of the winery and the staff of the Scottish Company for setting up a thoroughly professional tasting and for their courtesies during my visit. I can also gladly report that in addition to two cups of espresso after the tasting I also partook of the sushi and cheeses that were offered.
For those not familiar with the winery, Dalton was founded in 1993 and this fully modern winery, located in the industrial park of Dalton in the Upper Galilee has vineyards in Kerem Ben Zimra and several high altitude sites along the Lebanese border. Australian and Californian-trained winemaker Na’ama Mualem is currently producing wines in six series, the age-worthy Single Vineyard, Reserve, and Dalton Estate wines, and the Alma, Dalton and Canaan series, those of similar varieties but which are intended for early drinking. Grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Barbera, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat. First production was 50,000 bottles, current production is about 800,000 and the target for 2009 is one million bottles. As noted earlier, Dalton has earned a consistently good name for high quality wines, providing excellent value for money.
I had tasted each of the wines in the reserve series earlier and to my pleasure, my tasting notes remain very consistent between tastings. I tasted the 2007 wines in the regular Dalton series for the first time today. I should have prices at hand tomorrow and will post them at that time.
Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2005: Dark garnet with orange and green reflections, medium to full-bodied, with still firm tannins integrating nicely and showing light spicy oak. Opens with currants and plums, goes on to wild berries and hints of black licorice and chocolate. Long, round and generous. Drink now–2010. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Merlot, Reserve, 2005: Soft and round but well focused, opening in the glass to reveal silky tannins and a gentle touch with the wood, those supporting currant, berry, cocoa and light hints of mint and black licorice, all of which linger very nicely on the palate. Drink now–2010. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Syrah, Reserve, 2005: Blended with 10% of Viognier, nearly black in color, but a wine of remarkable elegance. Aromatic, with spicy and floral scents on first attack, those yielding to aromas and flavors of berries and plums, all backed up by hints of white pepper, and on the long finish, surprising but pleasing notes of peaches and apricots. Drink now–2010. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2007: Unoaked, developed on its lees in stainless steel tanks, a crisp, lively and just-complex-enough wine. Lovely fruit here, with grapefruit running through but also showing citrus peel and hints of grassiness and spices on a light mineral background. Drink now. Score 89. K (Re-tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Chardonnay, Reserve, 2007: Light golden in color, fermented partly with wild yeasts showing crisp citus, apple, and quince fruits that open on the long finish to hints of melon. Fresh, lightly oaked and with a gentle hint of bitterness that lingers nicely on the palate. Drink now. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Viognier, Reserve, 2007: Perhaps the Israeli Viognier most loyal to the variety to date. Fermented partly with wild yeasts, developing in barriques on its lees, showing intense, vibrant and complex with spice, floral, fig and melon aromas and flavors. Deep and rich with a long, broad finish. Drink now–2011. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 5 Aug 2008)
The Dalton Estate Wines
Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Not a complex wine but very nice indeed, showing ripe and distinctive for cherry, blackberry, plum and herbal aromas and flavors framed by notes of sweet-and-spicy oak. Medium-bodied, with soft tannins and lingering nicely on the palate. Drink now-2010. Score 90. K (Tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Shiraz, 2007: A distinctly New World wine – fruit forward, medium- to full-bodied, with generous but not-at-all overpowering oak and soft tannins in fine balance. At first sip a virtual attack of berry and plum fruits, those yielding on the palate to blackberries and peaches (yes, peaches!) and an array of spices. Long and generous. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2009-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 5 Aug 2008)
Dalton, Fume Blanc, 2007: With a light not of oak, refreshing acidity and an appealing floral note on both nose and palate. On first attack grapefruit, peach and nectarine fruits, those turning towards papaya and mango. Crisp and refreshing with a rich, smooth texture. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 89. K (Tasted 5 Aug 2008)