Tucked away in the Judean Hills off a dirt road rests the small winery of Flam. If you’re familiar with the pristine and manicured views of Napa or the lush landscapes of Sonoma, the short bumpy road leading directly up to the winery may deter you a bit at first. But once inside, your palate will more than enjoy the journey of tasting splendid wine.
My visit to Flam was somewhat spontaneous. Camera in tote, I detoured from visiting family and instead headed on a day trip so my lens could capture pastoral views and the Biblical landscape of Israel. My friend, who was also graciously serving as our chauffeur, decided to start our day near Beit Shemesh at Tavlin, a spice store at the foothills of the Eshtaol Forest. It was a serendipitous moment when I spotted the sign for Flam Winery which just so happens to share the same nook as Tavlin, along the hillside.
The doors to the winery were initially locked, but I was determined to visit. I was elated when Israel Flam, a patriarchal figure, happened to walk by the main gate, greeted me and ushered me in. Little did I realize at that moment that this visit would far exceed my expectations. Both the opportunity to taste the wine at the source, and to do so with one of Israel’s pioneer winemakers turned into a memorable experience.
Flam Winery, a family-run boutique business was started by Golan, Flam’s winemaker, and his brother Gilad along with their mother Kami while tapping into Israel’s expertise. During my visit as he poured wine, Israel Flam shared bits of his absolutely impressive career which began back in the early 1970s. Influenced by Prof. Cornelius Ough, a well-known professor of viticulture and oenology at the University of California at Davis, Israel went on to study oenology and in fact completed his studies at U.C. Davis in the United States. He returned however to his roots in Israel and embarked on a thirty-five year career evolving into a renowned winemaker.
As my ears indulged in tidbits of Flam history, my palate indulged in simply elegant wine. I gazed at the color of each, inhaled the beautiful bouquets and let the taste linger. Each wine impressed me. The wine has impressed many, garnering international accolades including those extended by Robert Parker.
The first wine we enjoyed was a crisp and vibrant Flam Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay. From there Flam Classico, a rustic Merlot and Cabernet blend, onto a rich Flam Superiore Syrah. We ended with an elegant and smooth Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.
Just as I wrapped up my last sip of wine, Golan visited the tasting room to greet an executive chef from a top Tel Aviv restaurant. The chef was enjoying a bicycle ride on his day off in the Judean Hills and ventured over to Flam. It was delightful to watch Golan share the wine and paint a picture of enjoying their aromatic Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay for example on a warm afternoon. Soon he and the chef were whetting our appetites crafting menus and pairing the wine with delectable dishes. Superb cuisine deserves superb wine, and Flam delivers with grace.
Before your visit to Flam Winery, be sure to call ahead for an appointment. As with all of the country, you can trip over layers of history, be struck by breathtaking views and stumble into beauty, the Judean Hills are no exception and worth a visit. A helpful resource for planning your trip: Vineyards and Wineries between Jerusalem and the Northern Negev. Flam wine can also be found at Israeli Wine Direct.
Interesting articles and more about Flam:
Flam Winery: A Family Affair
The Elegant Wines of Flam
Tasting in the Judean Hills
Israel Flam: from Mass Market to Boutique
Flam Winery – The venerable European-styled family boutique winery, that is now kosher
Israel’s Winemaking Revolution