Pairing Wine with Beer

*This was originally a guest post on www.israeli-wine.org blog*

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Dalton wines, waiting for the perfect time to be uncorked…

Every time my wife and I make our bi-annual trip back home to Israel, we especially look forward to visiting our relatives in the north for the usual great conversations, delicious dinners and amazing wine in the cool Golan breeze.

Our last such dinner included several Hatzilim (eggplant) dishes, various spicy spreads, a Greek salad and fried red mullet fillets accompanied by Dalton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc… and of course enlightening conversation about the very wine we were drinking.

“Wine making takes a lot of patience, there is a huge amount of waiting,” started Binyamin “Beni” Sorkin, the famous viticulturalist (partly of Yarden, Galil Mountain brands fame) and Israeli wine industry consultant, our host and my uncle in-law. “It takes at least a case of beer to make a bottle of good wine,” he continued swirling the newly minted Dalton Rose… A wine coincidentally made by Naama Mualem, Beni’s oldest daughter.

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Beni Sorkin in his wine cellar with the Dalton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

I’m not sure people outside the industry have ever measured good wine in the amount of beer it takes to create it… Sure, some folks are aware of the role of water in the manufacturing of wine (if taking glass and other industrial manufacturing processes into account), but the beer insight is new and more delicious.

Figuring this would be a perfect theme to explore for this gracious guest blog post from Avi, my wife and I jumped in our rented car and headed to Dalton Winery to discuss it further with those entrenched in the process. Without question, the phrase seems to resonate with industry professionals but needs to be put in perspective. I asked Naama and Beni what exactly they are waiting for… in a world of automated harvest machinery and bottling process, hasn’t the process been sped up and not slowed down?

“As the winemaker, I wait for everybody and for everything, including myself. From the perfect time to harvest, to the actual time that harvest gets in the gates to the winery from the vineyard, mashing and filtering, the bottling process, and of course the barrel aging” Naama notes. And because the harvest times are different for each varietal, each one of them goes through the process alone and you usually can’t combine bottling of a Sauvignon Blanc while mashing of Merlot is going on. “So the beer comes into play between stages of winemaking and every time the process has started.” She summed up, confirming her father’s assertion.

Just like wine is often paired with a good cheese, a cold beer is always matched well with a game of Shesh besh (or backgammon). Naama made a point to mention that there is a lot of Shesh besh playing in between work. “In fact this year we launched a Shesh besh tournament. We are the first ever wine business in Israel to open such a league,” she boasts. While the league is currently open to Dalton employees only, Naama dreams of a country wide competition between wineries.

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Naama Mualem, Chief Wine Maker at Dalton and backgammon enthusiast

Gaining this insight, we proceeded to the tasting, which as usual I can only describe as hedonistic given our familial leverage, tasting all thirteen 2008 bottles and with regional artesian cheeses, breads and spreads. This brings me back to the Dalton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose we had on our first night in the Golan… it was very refreshing, served somewhat cool but not cold. It embraced the spices in the spreads and home made olive oil, and yet the delicacy of the red mullet; it was the right wine at the right place and definitely at the right time. I recommend it immensely.

Waiting can also be savoring, taking the time to enjoy something; it can also be looked at as anticipation… and here is where US consumers can relate. Because of Shmita rules (biblical agriculture laws mandating a break from harvest on the 7th year), Dalton will not be exporting the 2008 wines, so you may be sipping beer between now and when the 2009 vintages make it stateside. Good things come to those who wait, and the waiting time can be easily passed by drinking Goldstar or Guinness while playing a fierce game of Shesh besh.

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