Wine Talk: Anglo winemakers

Some of the noteworthy vintners in Israel are from England, Canada, the US and South Africa.

Tzuba Vinyard (photo credit: Courtesey)
Tzuba Vinyard
(photo credit: Courtesey)
When I was in England, I was known for being Jewish. Having come to live in Israel, I instead became known as the “Brit” or “Anglo,” which covers anyone from an English-speaking country. There are some wineries with a strong Anglo influence, with wine-active Anglos from England, Canada, the US and South Africa.
Dalton Winery was founded by Matt Haruni, an Englishman and expert in precious stones. His dream started as a joint venture with the vineyards of Kerem Ben-Zimra in 1993, just as the boutique winery boom was under way.
Since then it has grown to become one of the top 10 wineries in Israel. In 2011, Dalton harvested 1,130 tons of grapes, which will result in just under a million bottles a year.
The winery is today in the hands of Matt’s son, Alex. He manages in a very quiet, modest way; but he is innovative, and everything he does is stylish and well thought out. Dalton’s wines have really improved in recent years, as winemaker Naama Sorkin puts her own imprint on the wines. Alex Haruni is doing a great job.
Barry Saslove is a Canadian who came to Israel in 1967 and never went back. He was a computer expert but became totally absorbed by wine. He gave up everything to become a wine educator and became the best in Israel.
He then started up Saslove Winery at Kibbutz Eyal. Now he has a custom crush facility close to his vineyard in the Upper Galilee, while the barrel aging room and visitors’ center remain at Eyal.
Saslove is in love with wine. I don’t think there is anything about wine that he does not like. Furthermore, he is prepared to convey his passion to all who are willing to listen. He is an innovator, an absolute perfectionist and a communicator par excellence.
Victor Schoenfeld was born in California.
After studying winemaking at the University of California at Davis, he joined the Golan Heights Winery in Katzrin in 1991 and became its chief winemaker in 1992. Since then, he has become the grand master of Israeli winemaking.
He has won numerous winemaking awards at the very highest level for sparkling, white, red and dessert wines, showing his versatility. He has kept Yarden at the forefront for more than 20 years, showing great consistency even as the winery grew in size.
Amichai Lourie made aliya from Pennsylvania when he was four. His interest in wine began as a home winemaker. Then he took a practical winemaking course with Sorek Winery. Following a fortuitous meeting, he became the winemaker of Shiloh Winery in 2005. He is now responsible for producing 80,000 bottles, the amount of a largish boutique winery.
Lourie is a quiet individual, who is not only constantly learning but also always striving to improve. He feels the historical and almost biblical importance of creating a winery at Shiloh. Every stone in that mountainous region connects him with ancient Israel. He feels a personal connection, and this drives him on. Here is a man content with his lot in life.
In the Eshkol Hazahav (Golden Cluster) competition in 2011, Shiloh surprised the Israeli wine world by winning three first places in different red wine categories. It was a performance which ensured that Shiloh wines had to be taken seriously.
Paul Dubb of Tzuba Winery was born in South Africa, not far from Stellenbosch.
His father used to make kiddush wine at home. He made aliya, settled in Kibbutz Tzova and in 1996 became a viticulturist responsible for premium vineyards used for Castel’s wines. In 2007 he fulfilled another dream by becoming the winemaker. Tzuba today produces 70,000 bottles a year. He says it is rare for an Anglo to make aliya and be able to fulfill his dreams in the profession he desires.
Tzuba’s flagship wine is Metzuda, a Bordeaux blend. Dubb believes that wine is made in the vineyard, so he is a firm believer in synergy between vineyard and winery. As an autodidact winemaker and experienced viticulturist, he is following his philosophy.
Canadian Sam Soroka of Mony Winery is one of the most experienced winemakers in Israel, having studied in Australia and worked in Australia, France, Canada and California. He worked for six years at Carmel Winery, playing an important part in that winery’s revolution.
He is now working wonders for the wines of Mony. The recent results in both the Best Value Competition and annual tasting of Wine & Gourmet Magazine show that Mony is one of the most improved wineries in the country.
Soroka is a real artist – sensitive, hardworking and demanding of those that work with him. Mony is a winery with a Canadian winemaker, owned by an Israeli Arab family, situated at Deir Rafat Monastery, and it produces kosher wines! Lately, the wines have turned out to be rather good.
These are some of the main Anglos on the Israeli wine scene. Nice to know that English speakers are also contributing to the Israel wine revolution.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for Israeli and international publications. [email protected]