On our way home from visiting family and delivering Mishloah Manot in the north, Dina & I stopped in Zikron Ya’akov to visit the Somek winery, a new one for us. Somek is owned and run by Barak Dahan and his wife Hila.
Barak is a fifth generation grape grower and Hila studied agriculture and winemaking (in Australia). Talk about husband and wife complementing each other.
Barak showed us around (Hila was taking care of their baby) and explained to us their uncompromising philosophy of winemaking. No cutting corners. No hurrying. No selling wine before they decide it’s ready to drink. All the wine is aged in new and used French oak barrels for upwards of a year and a half (some up to 2-1/2 years) before bottling. Then it is left in the bottles for another year or so before being offered for sale.
Since Barak grows all the grapes for Somek’s wines, he and Hila can control essentially all of the factors (except the weather) that will affect the quality of the wine. Whatever they do, the results are excellent. We tasted a 2004 Carignan that was light and refreshing, and just right to go with medium spicy fish or not too strong cheesy dishes. This is only the third Israeli Carignan I’ve tried I really like, the other two being S’de Boker and Vitkin. When I mentioned that to Barak he wholeheartedly agreed.
Next we tried Somek’s 2004 Bik’at-Hanadiv, named after the area on the east side of the road between Binyamina and Zikhron, where Barak grows the grapes for this blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Sirah. I liked this one a lot. Full rounded body, lots of flavors, and very soft tannins. One day I’ll learn to identify and name the flavors so I can report more accurately.
The last wine we tasted was the 2004 Bik’at-Hanadiv Reserve. We were rather surprised when Barak opened this for us considering that we were his only visitors and the reserve is Somek’s priciest wine. The flavor was similar to the “regular” Bik’at-Hanadiv with a little something extra. Barak explained that the reserve was the result of a “what if” experiment that was expected to be a flop. It was “what if we add some Carignan to the Bik’at-Hanadiv blend.” This is quite an unusual blend, and I for one have never come across one before. The result is something special indeed, and Dina insisted that we take a bottle. Who was I to argue.
Somek also makes a Merlot and a Chardonnay, but three wines was our limit for one visit. The others will have to wait for another time.
While we thoroughly enjoyed Somek’s wines, I must say that the best part of this visit was meeting Barak. Not only is he passionate about his wines, he was such a wonderful host that we hardly noticed the time pass. By the time we left we were amazed to discover that we had been there for over 2-1/2 hours!
If you’re in the area and you have some time, I strongly recommend a visit. Call first just to make sure it’s convenient. Phone numbers are on the Somek website.