Raise your glasses to a very fine wine

In a first last month, Sam Soroka’s vino won the British ‘Decanter’ magazine’s distinguished wine award.

311_Sam Soroka (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_Sam Soroka
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a coup for Israel’s burgeoning wine biz, on September 2, the Carmel Winery in Galilee beat out some of the world’s most renowned producers of Syrah and Shiraz in London at the Decanter World Wine Awards run by Decanter magazine – Britain’s bible of wine. It won the Red Rhone Varietals Over £10 trophy for its Kayoumi Single Vineyard Shiraz 2008.
This is the first time an Israeli winery has taken a prize from under the noses of traditional producers, including names like Cellier des Dauphins, Guigal, Gabriel Meffre, Chene Bleu, and Chapoutier from the Rhone Valley; and Australian labels like Cape Mentelle, E&E, Charles Melton, d’Arenberg and Shaw & Smith.
But the prize comes too late, in a sense, for the Carmel winemaker responsible for the prizewinning vino – Sam Soroka. He moved on in 2009, and has since been performing his oenophile magic at the Mony boutique winery in the Sorek Valley.
The Montreal-born Soroka is an internationally trained winemaker who is considered one of the best and most experienced vintners in Israel. He graduated from Roseworthy College in Adelaide, worked for Wynns in Coonawarra, South Australia, and for BRL Hardy in Western Australia, and in Languedoc in the south of France. In California he worked for Charles Krug, and in Canada for the Henry of Pelham Winery in Niagara.
Soroka moved to Israel in 2003 and joined Carmel Winery, where he was instrumental in producing the awardwinning Kayoumi Shiraz.
Unlike Carmel, the Mony Winery is a boutique winery, meaning it produces fewer than 100,000 bottles per year. Located in an exceptionally picturesque part of the country – incorporating caves hewn by monks – Mony illustrates the variety and complexity of Israeli wine.
The estate winery is situated on land leased from the Deir Rafat Monastery, owned by a Christian Arab family, produces kosher wines from monastery-owned vineyards, and is run by an immigrant winemaker from Canada.
The Artul family, from the mixed Druse, Christian and Muslim village of Maghar in Upper Galilee, leased the vineyards from Deir Rafat in the 1980s and opened a winery in 2000. The 65 hectares of vines include numerous plots, spread over the hills surrounding the monastery. Apart from its estate wines, Mony also produces a very good quality olive oil.
Named after Dr. Mony Artul, the deceased son of Shakib Artul, the family produced its first vintage in 2002. Seeking to improve the quality and make their venture more profitable, the family switched to producing kosher wines in 2005.
In 2009, the winery took another key step by employing Soroka, who is now revitalizing Mony – as he did at Carmel. Under his tutelage, the winery today has three labels, all packaged with redesigned and simplified labels. The leading label is the Reserve wines, mid-range Sunny Hills offers value for money, while Classic denotes the entry-level wines.
My favorite?
Mony Syrah 2009 has a deep purple color, with a nose of forest fruits and a hint of black pepper. It is full flavored, and ready to drink now. It’s a wine that highlights the potential of Mony’s vineyards under the expertise of a really good winemaker.