A Small Winery With a Big Reputation

When the Dalton Winery released its first 50,000 bottles from its 1993 vintage, few would have predicted that this still small winery was about to make a major mark on the Israeli wine scene. Today, the winery produces some 880,000 bottles annually.

Quite a few may recall the photographs of the Dalton Winery's petite winemaker, Naama Mualem, visiting her vineyards on the Lebanese border in a flak jacket and helmet while missiles and rockets rained down. Those photos were great for public relations, but missed the point that these are talented winemakers whose wines prove to be of increasing interest every year. No less important, they often represent excellent value for money regardless of whether one is a beginner oenophile or a veteran aficionado.

Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2006: Showing much the same as at an earlier tasting. Super-dark in color, firmly tannic but with fine balance and structure between wood, tannins and fruit that bode well for the future. A full-bodied, rich and concentrated wine, with dense blackberry and black currant fruits, notes of freshly roasted coffee and gentle layers of currants, spices, green olives and cedarwood. Drink now-2013.NIS 125. Score 92. K

Dalton, Viognier, Reserve, 2007: Fermented partly with wild yeasts, developing in barriques for four months on its lees, showing intense, vibrant and complex with spice, floral, fig and melon aromas and flavors. Deeply aromatic and rich with a long, broad finish. Drink now-2011. NIS 75. Score 91. K

Dalton Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Just complex enough to be attention-grabbing, showing ripe and distinctive flavors of cherry, blackberry, blueberry and herbal aromas and flavors framed by gentle notes of sweet-and-spicy oak. Medium-bodied, with soft tannins, lingering nicely on the palate. Drink now-2011. NIS 64. Score 90. K

Dalton Estate, Shiraz, 2007: Made entirely from Shiraz grapes, a distinctly New World wine, fruit forward, medium- to full-bodied, with generous but not-at-all overpowering oak and soft, near-sweet tannins in fine balance with fruits. At first sip a virtual attack of berry and plum fruits, which yield on the palate to blackberries and peaches (yes, peaches!) and an array of spices. Long and generous. Drink now-2012. NIS 64. Score 90. K

Dalton, Alma, 2007: Almost impenetrably dark garnet in color, a full-bodied blend of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 22 percent Merlot and 13 percent 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, on a background of chocolate and sweet chewing tobacco. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2014. NIS 85. Score 90. K

Dalton, Zinfandel, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Deep, almost impenetrable garnet in color, developed in new American oak and blended with about seven percent Merlot. Generously aromatic, with gently gripping tannins and not at all imposing oak notes, in fine balance with black and red fruit, including red currants, blackberries, blueberries and huckleberries, all on a generously spicy background. Although the wine boasts a 15.5 percent alcohol content it manages to keep nicely in balance and shows elegance. Score 90. K

Dalton, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2008: An unoaked white, developed on its lees in stainless steel tanks. The color of damp straw, light- to medium-bodied, showing crisp and refreshing with its grapefruit, pineapple and gooseberry fruits complemented nicely by notes of stony minerals and freshly cut grass. Drink now-2010. NIS 55. Score 88. K

Dalton Estate, Fume Blanc, 2008: Medium-bodied, with the addition of nine percent Viognier to add body, reflecting its four months in oak with light hints of spices and a tantalizing smoky note. On the nose and palate citrus fruits, nectarines and what at one moment seems like papaya and another like mango. Round and generous. Drink now-2010. NIS 47. Score 88. K

Dalton, Chardonnay, Reserve, 2007: Developed in French barriques for four months, showing light gold in color, with a tantalizing note of toasty oak to highlight crisp citrus, apple and quince fruits and, blossoming on the finish to show hints of cantaloupe. A fine food wine, lingering nicely on the palate. Drink now. NIS 75. Score 88. K

Dalton Estate, Merlot, 2007: Lightly gripping tannins on a medium- to full-bodied frame, showing fine balance and reflecting its 10 months in oak with generous but gentle sweet cedar. Opens to show generous wild berry, black currant and spices, all lingering nicely. Drink now-2011. NIS 64. Score 88. K

Dalton Estate, Barbera, 2007: Dark ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and a bright and lively set of cherry, berry and citrus peel aromas and a background of light spicy oak. Aged in used French oak for 10 months, showing generous fresh fruit on a medium finish. Drink now. NIS 64. Score 87. K

Dalton, Rose, 2008: As has become traditional at Dalton, made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with very short skin contact. Peach-blossom pink, with wild berry and black currant matched by an appealing hint of grapefruit peel. Off-dry and lively, fine on its own or a good match to fish, seafood and chicken salads. Drink now. NIS 44. Score 87. K

Dalton, Canaan, Merlot, 2008: Deep ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, reflecting its four months in used oak with light notes of spicy wood, soft tannins and generous plums and blackberries, all on an appealingly spicy background. Drink now-2011. NIS 45. Score 86. K

Dalton, Canaan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: Dark purple in color, medium-bodied, with gently caressing tannins and a bare hint of spicy wood, showing black currant, raspberries and red plums, those opening to show notes of green olives and mint. An appealing Mediterranean wine. Drink now-2011. NIS 45. Score 85. K

Dalton, Canaan, Red, 2008: Dark purple, medium-bodied, softly tannic, a blend of 64 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 24 percent Merlot, the rest Petite Sirah and Shiraz. Light tannins and good acidity in fine balance with spicy purple plum and blackberry fruits. Drink now. NIS 42. Score 85. K

Dalton, Canaan, White, 2008: A floral blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a bit of Muscat tossed in. Off-dry, with its sweetness set off by natural acidity and showing pleasant citrus and mango flavors and aromas. Drink now. NIS 38. Score 84. K