This article first appeared in the Wine Talk column in the Weekend Supplement of the Jerusalem Post
The winner of the Regional Trophy in this year's Decanter World Wine Awards was a surprise. Firstly it was Israeli, which is always good news, but the name of the winery will be un-known to many. The winning wine was 'Special Cuvee' from a winery called Trio.
Other Israeli winners of this prestigious award over the years', include wineries such as Clos de Gat, Carmel, Adir, Golan Heights and Recanati. Incidentally to date, only Carmel Winery with their Kayoumi Vineyard Shiraz has succeeded to go the whole way, managing to win the International Trophy against all comers. However Trio has joined a very distinguished group of
The fact it is Decanter's competition demands immediate respect. Decanter is the quality wine magazine of the United Kingdom and their annual competition is without doubt one of the most prestigious in the world. So an award in this forum carries far more credibility than many of the other competitions there are.
Trio is a winery founded in 2006 by three of the younger generation of the Shaked family, Tal, Oran and Koby. They grew up as part of Israel's number one wine retailer and one of Israel's leading distributors of fine wines. The young
Shakeds thought, that if you are already working in importing, distributing and retailing, why not go the extra stage and learn about production. They decided make wine for educational purposes. Simply, to learn more. It was one of the few things in wine they had not done and it was something they could create of their own.
So they initially sort help from Ronnie James, z"l, of Tzora Vineyards, a legendary figure in Israeli wine who is much missed. They produced 4,000 bottles in the first year.
The Shakeds created a winery logo which featured themselves as foxes. Three foxes. Like the foxes depicted on the labels, they are alert, swift, streetwise and shrewd. Each of them manages to contribute by offering something different to the partnership. Tal Shaked, 38, is the quieter, more cerebral type. The thinker. He looks after the marketing. Oran Shaked, 35 years old, is the hands on perfectionist, who is most interested in the production side. Koby Shaked, 38, is the hyperactive creative one, impatient, thinking out of the box, always onto the next deal. The three of them make a team of contrasting abilities, which are in fact totally complimentary.
They made their first wines and steadily grew the business. Their entry level wines are labelled 'Spirit'. These wines celebrate regionality. The region from where the grapes come, is considered more important than the variety or blend. There is a Spirit of Jerusalem wine, a Spirit of Galilee and a Spirit of Alona Valley.
The next level is their reserve wines, are called 'Secret'. These are blends of different regions. Finally there is the Special Cuvee, which is a prestige blend.
Recently they decided to anchor the business by making some smart decisions. Firstly they moved production to the Ramot Naftaly Winery in the Kedesh Valley of the Upper Galilee. There they have their own space & equipment.
Then they appointed Yotam Sharon as winemaker. He is one of quiet, knowledgeable types. I am not a great fan of winemakers who start to tell you what they have done and how good they are. Sharon is the antithesis of this type of winemaker, but he is someone who really does know. He studied in Montpelier France, and worked at Chateau Mouton Rothschild and in Roussillon, before joining Barkan in 1999.
There he was primarily responsible for the winery move to Hulda and for the top level wines, like the successful Assemblage label. He has great experience and would be an asset in any winery. To choose the combination of Yotam Sharon and Ramat Naftaly reflects on the seriousness & professionalism of the three foxes.
The younger Shakeds were not born into wine, but as teenagers, they were thrust into this new world as a result of their parents. Nearly thirty years ago, the Shaked family decided to switch to wine. They became distributors of the Golan Heights Winery and became an important part of the success in building that brand.
In 1993, the Shakeds changed wine retailing in Israel for ever by opening the Derech Ha'Yayin wine store, in Hashmonaim Street, Tel Aviv. Fast forward twenty years and there are now ten stores and they have just opened the biggest monster of them all at Derech Hashalom 9, Tel Aviv. Well worth a visit
They then went into importing & distributing wine both for their own stores and for distribution to restaurants. The first big success was the Gato Negro brand from Chile which for a time became one of the biggest selling wines in Israel. They now import a full range of wines from some of the finest wines in the world for private collectors, famous brands for their retail business and quality, value wines for the wholesale business.
The success of the family in wine was due to the two patriarchal figures, Uri & Eli Shaked, who are brothers. Yet it is the children that have managed to take it all to the next stage by conversing at ease & with knowledge with the wine world outside the island of Israel. Oran & Tal are the children of Uri, and Koby is the son of Eli.
After army service, whereas the usual path of young Israeli is to travel to exotic places like India or South America, the young Shakeds travelled to Bordeaux and other wine regions. They wanted to absorb themselves in wine to gain expertise and take the family business further. This they have succeeded to do, but despite the importance of Derech Hayayin and the Shaked 'family of brands', the importing & distribution arm, it is the small family winery owned by the next generation which has now put this distinguished wine family on the world map.
My favorite wines produced by Trio Winery, available in Derech Hayayin of course, are:
Trio 'Spirit of Galilee' Rose 2013
The ultimate summer wine. Quite full in color, light red, as opposed to delicate pink. It has beautiful red berry fruit, with some lifted aromatic notes, a piercing refreshing acidity and a clean, refreshing finish.
Trio 'Spirit of Alona Valley' 2011
My favorite. This is a well-focussed Carignan, made from old vines from a vineyard not far from Zichron Ya'acov. The wine has a nose of blueberry, plum with a hint of Mediterranean herbs, a touch of sweet vanilla and a full flavoured finish.
Trio Secret 2011
This is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Syrah. A third of the wine was matured in new oak barrels. The wine has aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, and ripe plum. Soft and velvety in texture. Despite the oak aging, it is more elegant than the Spirit wines.
Trio Special Cuvee 2011
This is the prize winning wine. It is made from Cabernet Sauvignon from the Jerusalem Hills and Syrah from the Galilee. The wine is understated, elegant, with good black fruit aromas and a certain smokiness. It has a soft intriguing mouth feel and a long well balanced finish.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery & regularly writes about wine in international & Israeli publications.