Alex Haruni is a British Israeli. He made aliyah in 1991 and now heads his family's Dalton Winery. Dalton is one of the best-known Israeli wineries exporting to 22 countries. The Haruni family story and the Dalton Winery story are both compelling.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Finchley in North London.
How old are you?
I am now 55.
What did you study in school?
At university I studied Economics and Econometrics and once I moved to Israel, I did a Masters degree in Management.
When and why did you move to Israel?
I moved here just after the Gulf War. Business in Europe was a bit slack so I had some free time, I intended to come for a few months to learn the language, but I was drawn to the good weather, the lifestyle and the Jewish feel of the country which is something that I never had growing up in the UK. Also, many of my friends moved here at the same time which made the transition a little easier.
Your family history is fascinating. Tell us a bit about your grandfather and how the family came to Britain.
My grandfather came from the far east of Persia, the city of Mashhad, and was in the carpet business. He moved to Bombay on his own and then moved his family there. Unfortunately, I never met my grandfather, he died very young while living in India. This forced my grandmother and her young family to move to Israel where my father grew up. He (my father) then moved to the UK in his late teens to recuperate from an illness where he was looked after by his eldest brother, my late Uncle Eli, who was taking care of the whole family at the time. My Father joined Eli in business, now the gem business, in the UK. He met my Mum there and we grew up in the UK.
Tell us about your family today.
I have been married for ten years to my love, Billy Hasidim. We have one son, Nadav. My brother, Richard lives in London and my brother Josh lives in Jerusalem. My parents both live now in Herzliya.
Your father and you decided to invest in the Israeli wine business. When and why?
Growing up, my parents were very involved in the JIA in England. My Dad felt it was preferable to encourage his donors to invest in Israel rather than make one-time donations and that was his approach when raising money: asking people to invest not "donate". He was also deeply passionate about the Galilee which at the time was a forgotten corner of Israel that no one wanted to visit.
In 1993, when my parents arrived in Israel we began looking for investment opportunities in the Galilee, following my father's philosophy about investment. We didn't know it at the time but our goals effectively meant we would invest in Agritourism. With the help of the Jewish Agency, we met farmers from the village of Kerem Ben-Zimra who were also trying to make wine and from that association the Dalton Winery was born.
In building the Dalton Winery we were able to contribute to, if not spark, the transformation of the Galilee and fortunes of the region; through our direct and indirect employment and investment but also, following us, the development of tourism and industry. The number of wineries has multiplied and we have brought a good name to the area. I believe firmly that the wine business is the best ambassador any region can have.
Where is Dalton Winery located?
We are a few kilometers north of Zefat, in Merom Hagalil at an elevation of some 870 meters. On a clear day we can see Hezbollah waving to us from the nearby hills.
Your winemaker, Guy Eshel, and your vineyard manager, Nahum Nave, are well regarded here and abroad. Tell us about them.
Guy was a fresh graduate from UC Davis when we hired him. I saw in him a lot of potential when we first met and I did not want to miss the opportunity to have him work with us. He has proven worthy of the trust I put in him. Together we have refined the wine styles and developed new wines and we are constantly moving forward.
Nahum, was voted this year as viticulturist of the year by the Israeli Wine Competition Eshkol Hazahav. He has been with us for many years and it is due, in part, to his hard work that we are where we are today. Nahum manages about 80 hectares of vineyard for the winery. We believe that in order to make great wines we need a personal relationship with our vineyards and Nahum manages this relationship for us with care and expertise. We are grateful to have him on our team.
How many different wines do you make at Dalton?
We produce a wide variety of wines to please a wide variety of wine lovers.
Can you describe the Dalton "style" or personality in wine?
We produce wines for enjoyment, to enhance meals and make life more pleasurable. Over the years our style has evolved and today we focus on balance, flavor and what for lack of a better word I would call "drinkability".
Are all of the wines certified kosher?
Yes, and vegan too!
You selected Alma Red 2019 for this interview? Tell us about the wine and why you selected it.
The Alma series is my current favorite among our ranges. It is a series of elegant blends; the packaging is upbeat and optimistic. We want our Alma range to encourage sharing, relaxation, friendship and love.
Alma means "soul" in Spanish.What else does the name mean?
The name Alma was taken from one of the moshavim near the winery. It is a happy coincidence that it also means soul.
The label is very beautiful and so well finished. Who designed it?
The wines were all illustrated by a young artist, Hagar Bareket. She also illustrated the Levantina bottle in our Asufa series.
Unfortunately, Hagar passed away from cancer shortly after completing the Alma project. But we are all comforted knowing that her last project will keep her memory and her "alma" alive with us and in the world.
For the illustration itself, I wanted an image that would communicate optimism and pleasure. The flower theme runs through the series. And the record player, the French horn with flowers and the recorder playing flowers is quirky, fantastical and fun.
What food or dish would you recommend serving with Alma Red?
The wine is primarily a blend of Shiraz and Grenache with a touch of Carignan which adds "grip" and "pep". The meaty nature of the Shiraz lends itself naturally to meat dishes smoked or grilled, but the wine is very flexible and will go equally well with cold cuts or pasta and cheeses.
Where can we find Alma Red 2019 and other Dalton wines in Israel? And what is the usual price per bottle?
Our wines are widely available throughout Israel in most wine stores and in many fine food stores and grocery stores. The price of Alma Red is around NIS 85 per bottle. The wines are also available on our website and at our winery. We have a beautiful visitor center at the winery with a warm and welcoming staff.
Thank you, Alex!
Author's tasting note:
Dalton Alma Red "Galilee" 2019
This red wine is absolutely delicious! Blended from "Rhone" varieties, Syrah (50%), Grenache (40%) and Carignan (10%), the wine recalls a fine Chateauneuf-du-Pape.However, better to think of it and drink it on its own terms as a great Israeli Galilee expression of these varietals. Drink this lovely wine with anything you cook on a charcoal grill including fish. At lunchtime, if temperatures outside are high, place the bottle in an ice bucket for a half-hour or so. This red wants to be enjoyed.