The winner of the Regional Trophy in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards was a surprise. Firstly it was Israeli, which is always good news, but the name of the winery will be unknown to many. The winning wine was Special Cuvee from a winery called Trio.
Other Israeli winners of this prestigious award over the years include Clos de Gat, Carmel, Adir, Golan Heights and Recanati.
Incidentally, to date, only Carmel Winery with its Kayoumi Vineyard Shiraz has succeeded in going the whole way, managing to win the International Trophy against all comers. However, Trio has joined a very distinguished group of Israeli wineries.
The fact that it is Decanter’s competition commands immediate respect. Decanter is the quality wine magazine of the United Kingdom, and its annual competition is without doubt one of the most prestigious in the world. So an award in this forum carries far more credibility than many of the other competitions that exist.
Trio is a winery founded in 2006 by three of the younger generation of the Shaked family – Tal, Oran and Koby. They grew up as part of Israel’s No. 1 wine retailer and one of Israel’s leading distributors of fine wines.
The young Shakeds thought that if you are already working in importing, distributing and retailing, why not go the extra stage and learn about production? They decided to make wine for educational purposes.
Simply, to learn more. It was one of the few things in wine they had not done, and it was something they could create of their own.
So they initially sought help from the late Ronnie James of Tzora Vineyards, a legendary figure in Israeli wine who is much missed.
They produced 4,000 bottles in the first year.
The Shakeds created a winery logo that featured themselves as foxes. Three foxes.
Like the foxes depicted on the labels, they are alert, swift, streetwise and shrewd. Each of them contributes by offering something different to the partnership. Tal is the quieter, more cerebral type. The thinker. He looks after the marketing. Oran is the hands-on perfectionist, who is most interested in the production side. Koby is the hyperactive creative one, impatient, thinking out of the box, always onto the next deal. The three of them make a team of contrasting abilities, which are, in fact, totally complementary.
They made their first wines and steadily grew the business. Their entry level wines are labeled “Spirit.” These wines celebrate regionality. The region from where the grapes come is considered more important than the variety or blend. There is a Spirit of Jerusalem wine, a Spirit of Galilee and a Spirit of Alona Valley.
The next level is their reserve wines, called Secret. These are blends of different regions. Finally there is the Special Cuvee, which is a prestige blend.
Recently they decided to anchor the business by making some smart decisions.
Firstly, they moved production to the Ramot Naftali Winery in the Kadesh Valley of the Upper Galilee. There, they have their own space and equipment.
Then they appointed Yotam Sharon as winemaker. He is one of the quiet, knowledgeable types. I am not a great fan of winemakers who start to tell you what they have done and how good they are. Sharon is the antithesis of this type of winemaker, but he is someone who really does know. He studied in Montpelier, France, and worked at Chateau Mouton Rothschild and in Roussillon before joining Barkan in 1999.
There, he was primarily responsible for the winery’s move to Hulda and for the top-level wines, such as the successful Assemblage label. He has great experience and would be an asset in any winery. To choose the combination of Yotam Sharon and Ramat Naftali reflects on the seriousness and professionalism of the three foxes.
The younger Shakeds were not born into wine, but as teenagers they were thrust into this new world as a result of their parents.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Shaked family decided to switch to wine. They became distributors of the Golan Heights Winery and became an important part of the success in building that brand.
In 1993, the Shakeds changed wine retailing in Israel forever by opening the Derech Hayayin wine store on Hashmonaim Street in Tel Aviv. Fast forward 20 years, and there are now 10 stores, and they have just opened the biggest of them all at 9 Derech Hashalom in Tel Aviv. Well worth a visit.
They then went into importing and distributing wine for their own stores and for distribution to restaurants. The first big success was the Gato Negro brand from Chile, which for a time became one of the biggest-selling wines in Israel. They now import a full range of wines: some of the finest wines in the world for private collectors, famous brands for their retail business and quality, value wines for the wholesale business.
The success of the family in wine was due to the two patriarchal figures, Uri and Eli Shaked, who are brothers. But it is the children who have managed to take it all to the next stage by conversing easily and knowledgeably with the wine world outside of Israel. Oran and Tal are the children of Uri, and Koby is the son of Eli.
After army service, whereas the usual path of young Israelis is to travel to exotic places like India or South America, the young Shakeds traveled to Bordeaux and other wine regions. They wanted to immerse themselves in wine to gain expertise and take the family business further. This they have succeeded to do.
But, despite the importance of Derech Hayayin and the Shaked “family of brands,” the importing and distribution arm, it is the small family winery owned by the next generation that has now put this distinguished wine family on the world map.
The following are my favorite wines produced by Trio Winery, available at Derech Hayayin, of course:
Trio Spirit of Galilee Rose 2013:
The ultimate summer wine.Quite full in color, light red, as opposed to delicate pink. It has beautiful red berry fruit, with some lifted aromatic notes, a piercing refreshing acidity and a clean, refreshing finish.
Trio Spirit of Alona Valley 2011:
My favorite. This is a well-focused Carignan, made from old vines from a vineyard not far from Zichron Ya’acov.
The wine has a nose of blueberry, plum with a hint of Mediterranean herbs, a touch of sweet vanilla and a full-flavored finish.
Trio Secret 2011:
This is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Syrah. A third of the wine was matured in new oak barrels.
The wine has aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant and ripe plum. Soft and velvety in texture. Despite the oak aging, it is more elegant than the Spirit wines.
Trio Special Cuvee 2011:
This is the prize-winning wine. It is made from Cabernet Sauvignon from the Jerusalem Hills and Syrah from
the Galilee. The wine is understated, elegant, with good black fruit aromas and a certain smokiness. It has a soft intriguing mouth feel and a long, wellbalanced finish.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in international and Israeli publications. firstname.lastname@example.org