We all root for the underdog at one point or another. I find myself doing that every time I visit Somek Estate Winery in Zichron Ya’akov as part of our Carmel Region Wine tour. The owner, Barak Dahan is a 5th generation vintner.
His great – great grandfather arrived in Zichron Yaakov in 1882. Barak, along with his wife Hila, who studied wine making in Adelaide Australia, have opened a small “Old World” style winery. Somek winery uses a traditional basket press along with buckets and no pumps in an effort to preserve as much color and flavor as possible from the grapes. This effort which has been going on for 10 years now is paying off. Somek produces some of the best wines in Israel.
I am certainly not alone in making this rather large claim. Chef Alon Gonen [Head Chef of the Crown Plaza Hotel Group] recently conducted a blind tasting of Carignan wine. He claims that the Somek 2006 Carignan is the best to have ever been produced in Israel. This is the same Carignan our guests taste when visiting Somek. Other chefs agree with Chef Gonen, Meir Adoni [Head Chef of Katit & Mizlala- both prominent Tel Aviv restaurants] Have been buying wines directly from the winery for over a year.
Only a couple other restaurants in Israel carry Somek’s wine (Tapeo and Unami, again, best of breed restaurants in the Tel Aviv area).The reason so few carry Somek’s wine, is there is simply not enough of it to go around. It would be unjust not to mention in this post that in our opinion, Somek produces one of the best Chardonnays in Israel [currently sold out and only about 800 bottles coming out in the next batch]. Somek only produces 10K bottles a year and is not looking to grow. That is certainly rare for the Israeli wine industry.
The only reason I view this winery as an underdog is its neighboring wineries. Both Carmel and Tishbi, are within a 5 minute drive from Somek. Carmel produces 20 Million bottles a year and both buy grapes from the Dahan Vineyards on an annual basis. The sheer magnitude in which Carmel operates is intimidating to most wineries in Israel. This is not the case with Somek. Barak once told me that he wakes up at 4 O’clock in the morning each day. With a work ethic such as his and the level of wines he and his wife produce, there is no other way but to root for them.