On Wednesday morning, 23 February 2011, I made my way to the Dalton Winery, there to do a major tasting.
Founded by the Haruni family in 1993, 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. New vineyards in the Upper Galilee are also being developed. Australian and Californian-trained winemaker Na’ama Mualem is currently producing wines in seven series, the age-worthy Single Vineyard, Reserve, Safsufa Vineyards and Dalton Estate wines, as well as the Alma, Dalton and Canaan series, those of similar varieties but which are intended for early drinking. With the 2006 vintage, a wine under the Matatia label was released, that destined to become the winery’s flagship wine and to be released only in vintage years deemed appropriate by the winemaker.
Grapes under cultivation include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Barbera, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat. First production was 50,000 bottles and current production is about 850,000 bottles annually. Dalton has earned a consistently good name for high-quality wines, providing excellent value for money. Aong major developments in recent years has been the expansion of the Alma series, now containing a white blend, a Bordeaux blend and a Rhone blend.
My thanks to Na'ama Mualem for a fine tasting as well as to owner Alex Haruni and CEO Moshe Haviv for their courtesies during my visit.
Dalton, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Light, refined and polished, with a nose rich in hints of freshly cut hay and warm grass. Opens to show a tempting array of citrus, ripe pear and apple blossoms all lingering nicely on a generous and refreshing finish. Drink from release. Score 89. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Fume Blanc, Oak Aged, 2010 (BarrelTasting): With 2/3 of the wine developed in barriques and 1/3 in stainless steel and with fermentation taking place in 500 liter barrels by spontaneous fermentation. Light gold in color, medium-bodied, offering notes of pears and citrus on the nose, those complemented by a light note of smoke. On the palate an almost oily texture that coats the tongue comfortably and showing aromas and flavors of white peaches, ripe yellow apples and citrus, those backed up by light herbal notes. Lively, with just enough complexity to grab the attention. Drink from release-2013. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Alma, White, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): A blend of 66% Viognier and 34% Chardonnay, half developed in barriques and half in stainless steel. Fresh and generous, smooth and round, with fine acidity set off by a light creamy note. On the nose and palate spicy pears, pineapple and a hint of cloves and, from mid-palate on to the generous finish a hint of litchi. At its best with fish and seafood dishes in lightly spicy cream sauces. Drink from release-2013. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Viognier, Reserve, 2009: Bright gold with an orange tint, medium-bodied, opens with a floral and peach nose, goes on to show pears, white peaches, litchis and notes of white pepper. Oak aged for just 4 months, crisply dry with lively acidity and despite its dryness a tantalizing hint of sweetness (perhaps from the wood). Give this one a bit of time and it will show a hint of sweet cream as well. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Rosé, 2010: A departure from earlier Dalton rosé wines, those having been made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This cuvee, a blend of 38% Barbera, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Zinfandel shows bubble gum pink in color but don't let that put you off for bubble gum flavors are as far as you will get from this delightful wine. Light- to medium-bodied, barely off-dry, with fine acidity to keep the wine lively, shows notes of raspberries, strawberries, cassis and citrus peel. A fine summertime quaffer and a good choice with Mediterranean mezes or Spanish tapas. Drink now. Score 88. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Merlot, Estate, 2009: Developed for 10 months in older barriques, showing medium-bodied, with just a kiss of the wood and soft tannins. Ruby towards garnet, with a blueberry and currant nose, opens in the glass to show aromas and flavors of blackberries, black cherries and bittersweet chocolate. Lingers nicely. Drink now-2014. Score 89. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Shiraz, Estate, 2009: Dark garnet, medium-bodied, with gentle oak influences and silky tannins, opens to reveal generous blackberries, purple plums and notes of bitter citrus peel, all on a lightly spicy background. As this one develops somewhat look as well for notes of vanilla, tobacco and saddle leather. Drink now-2014. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, 2009: Dark ruby towards garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins. On the nose and palate traditional Cabernet blackberries and blackcurrants, those complemented by notes of currant jam and pepper. A generous and mouthwatering finish. Drink now-2014. Score 89. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Petite Sirah, Estate, 2009: The winery's first varietal release of Petite Sirah and by heaven Petite Sirah as Petite Sirah should be. Dark garnet with a purple robe, generously fragrant, medium- to full-bodied with notes of black pepper, licorice and blackberries on the nose, those yielding on the palate to ripe, near-jammy huckleberry and blackberry fruits on a background of vanilla tinged spicy notes and, on the long finish a hint of black olives. Generous and well focused. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2012-2016, perhaps longer. Score 90. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Zinfandel, 2009: Blended with 13% Petite Sirah, medium- to full-bodied (leaning to the full), a deeply aromatic wine showing a nose rich with mahagony and smoke and (dare one say it) a note of bacon. Fine deep tannins here parting to reveal generous black fruits, sweet tobacco and notes of spicy oak all lingering nicely. Drink now-2015. Score 90. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Zinfandel, 2008: Showing bigger than at early tastings but no less tempting despite its 15% alcohol content. A big wine, dark garnet toward royal purple, blended with 12% of Petite Sirah, oak-aged in new American oak for 12 months, showing fine balance between wood, soft tannins and fruits. On the nose and palate ripe wild berry, blackberry and boysenberry fruits. Elegant and polished, generously mouth-filling without ever feeling heavy. Drink now–2014. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Alma, 2005: Garnet toward purple, medium- to full-bodied, this blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot spent 16 months in French oak. Firm tannins integrating nicely with light notes of spicy oak. On the nose and palate blackberries, purple plums and a teasing hint of bitter oranges, the fruits backed up nicely by Oriental spices. Still-firm tannins, hint of bitterness, spicy oak and acidity all in fine balance. Drinking well but showing first signs of sliding past its peak and thus not for further cellaring. Drink up. Score 89. K
Dalton, Alma, 2006: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (56%, 25% and 19% respectively), showing soft tannins and a black fruit nose. Opens to reveal wild berries, purple plums and notes of chocolate and vanilla along with a hint of jammy sweetness on the medium-long finish. Drink now–2012. Score 89. K
Dalton, Alma, 2007: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Almost impenetrably dark garnet in color, a full-bodied blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc. Developed in French barriques for 14 months, showing gently mouth-coating tannins and light notes of sweet cedarwood, opens with ripe black and purple fruits, those on a background of chocolate and sweet chewing tobacco. Drink now–2014. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Alma, 2008: A full-bodied blend of 47% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with 6% Cabernet Franc. Deep and dark, with gently caressing tannins and moderate notes of spicy cedarwood, opens to reveal an array of wild berries, currants and citrus peel, those hinting of roasted herbs and espresso coffee. Drink from release–2015. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Alma, Bordeaux Blend, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Garnet towards royal purple, a full-bodied blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon 27% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc. A deep black fruit and chocolate nose parts to reveal a soft, round wine with a generous array of blackberries, plums, coffee and Mediterranean herbs. Rich tannins here but those caressing gently. A round and tempting wine. Best from 2013-2017. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Alma, Rhone Blend, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): L A blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Viognier (79%, 15% and 6% respectively). Deep garnet in color, full-bodied and round, with notes of tobacco and black fruits on the nose. On the palate an array of cassis, black cherries, minerals and tobacco and, from mid-palate on notes of white pepper and juniper berries. Drink from release-2015. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Shiraz, Reserve, 2008: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Dark garnet, blended and fermented together with 6% Viognier, the blend developed for 14 months in 60% of new French oak, with soft, near-sweet tannins, showing forward blackberry, currant and purple plums, those matched by a generous note of black licorice. Long, concentrated and, given time, will show elegance. Drink now–2014, perhaps longer. Score 91. K
Dalton, Shiraz, Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Blended with 2% Viognier, deep garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins. On the nose black fruits and cigar tobacco and on the palate crushed blackberries and notes of roasted herbs. Medium- to full-bodied an easy to drink but not overly complex wine. Drink from release-2014. Tentative Score 87-89. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2008: Super-dark garnet in color, with a floral and plum-rich nose. Full-bodied, with silky near-sweet tannins and gentle notes of spicy sweet cedarwood part to reveal traditional currant, crushed blackberry, herbal and spicy notes. Round and generous. Drink from release–2015. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2009 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet with red fruits and cigar box on the nose. Opens in the glass to reveal appealing black and red berries, those matched nicely by notes of minted dark chocolate. Medium- to full-bodied, soft and round, a good effort for the vintage. Drink from release-2014. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Matatia, 2006: Living up to its early promise in every way. A Bordeaux blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Developed in new French oak, showing deep and dark but not at all mysterious. On first attack aromas of mint, tar and a hint of iodine, those remarkably and perhaps surprisingly pleasing. Yields in the glass to reveal generous blackberry, blackcurrant and bitter-orange-peel notes, and finally, on the long finish, hints of espresso coffee. With fine balance between wood, acidity, tannins and fruits, a thought-provoking and delicious wine. Produced in a limited edition of 6,000 bottles. If I had to find a single word to describe the wine, that word would be “scrumptious.” Drink now–2014. Score 93. K (Re-tasted 23 Feb 2011)
Dalton, Matatia, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): A full-bodied blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Generously mouth-filling and concentrated, keeps its muscles nicely in check in order to show its elegance. On the nose and palate blackberries, espresso and licorice notes and, from mid-palate on notes of tobacco and graphite, all of the elements coming together as a coherent and generous whole. "Classy". Best 2012-2016, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 92-94. K (Tasted 23 Feb 2011)