Flam Winery: All in the Family

Gazing out at the endless rows of lush Tuscan vineyards lined shoulder to shoulder, Golan turned to his younger brother, Gilad, and said, “just like this — this philosophy and this quality.” At the time, Golan was deeply entrenched in a winemaking internship in the area, and his entrepreneurial younger brother had come from Israel to visit him. Although over the years they had considered the idea of starting a winery together, that moment of two brothers dreaming brightly side by side sealed the deal for both them. “When I got off the plane from Italy, Gilad and my mother, who also has a strong business background, were waiting for me eagerly, ready to establish ‘Flam Winery’, Golan excitedly remembered.

Golan grew up amongst the vineyards, always tagging along with his father, Yisrael, who was the first Israeli to study winemaking and later revolutionized the Israeli wine industry as the vintner at Carmel Winery. Golan always enjoyed keeping his father company at work, especially during the harvest season. Though unsure he would follow in his father’s footsteps, Golan’s connection to the rich soil of Israel drove him to study agriculture at Hebrew University. Upon completing his degree, he teamed up with a friend for a celebratory motorbike trip through Western Europe.

Excited to share some of his past experiences with his son, Yisrael arranged for Golan to visit some of his colleagues and former classmates in the classic wine region of Bordeaux, France. Atop the revving engine of his bike, weaving through the estates of Saint-Émilion, Golan’s heart began to fill with an epiphanic sense of purpose and determination. “Like lightning coming down from the heavens, everything became clear,” Golan recalled emotionally, “I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life; be surrounded by vineyards, tasting and making excellent wine.”

“This was never a hobby or a fun project for retirement,” Golan explained purposefully, “from day one, we were all in; we were determined to craft the finest wine in Israel.” Immediately upon returning to Israel, Golan went about traveling the country, looking for the ideal locations to plant and trellis the new vineyards that would serve as the raw materials in achieving his lofty goal. Starting with just two barrels, but expanding production each year, it was not long until Flam Winery was already an Israeli household name. The excitement that Flam Winery has accumulated over the years from both critics and consumers has only caused Golan to be even more determined to improve his product. “Every high rating we earn serves as a catalyst which gives us even more drive to be even better, more precise and outstanding,” he explained.

“It was strange at first,” Golan remembers, comically describing the first time seeing his surname as a commercial product, but it was clear that there was no better word to label this tightly knit family business. When I asked Golan what made Flam wines of the best that Israel has to offer, he thanked me modestly and answered in one word — “family.” Golan explained that the rare dynamic of their family business, which allows each member to be completely confident in his colleagues’ excellence in his own field, offers a rare management style to the winery. “My mother has no interest in marketing, I really don’t enjoy accounting, and Gilad does not want to be a vintner,” Gilad explained matter of factly , “each of us is completely focused on doing his job the best he can, and trusts entirely that the other family member is doing the same.”

This family style business reaches further than just an operational practice; for the Flams, it’s a way of life. Every day, as if in their own dining room, the family sits down at the winery to share lunch together around the long wooden table of the visitor’s center. “On Fridays, I go down to the cellar and bring out a special bottle to open together,” Golan told me, describing another family custom. Not only is the winery a place for the Flams to bond over food and fine wine, but Golan and Gilad’s children also come to the winery to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions. Like their father as a youngster, Golan’s children cannot wait for grape harvest season to begin, joining in on the action and excitement of a new year of family winemaking. As the link between members and generations of the Flam family has become stronger through their joint labor and achievements, the fruits of their guild continue to set the standard of what Israeli wine can be.

Tasting: Syrah Reserve 2013
syrahRes_GENERIC (1)“Syrah is a very Israeli grape,” Golan told me patriotically, “it’s the varietal that best reflects Israel’s soil and climate.” He explained that Israeli Syrah grapes, as opposed to other varietals. such as Merlot, represent a distinct violet Israeli color and flavor that can be easily recognized in comparison to Syrahs produced in other regions around the world. This Syrah does not just echo the Israeli soil and climate in which it was grown, but also the harmony with which the members of the Flam family labored to produce it. Like the Flams, each aspect of this bottle — the fruit, tannins, acid, and alcohol — does its part. Each aspect expresses its strengths while respecting the place and purpose of every other part, creating a perfectly balanced glass of wine. Golan quoted Aristotle with reference to his family saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” There is no doubt that such can be said of this wine as well.

Save this bottle for a special family get together. Channel the Flam family synergy through each sip, while listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Déjà vu” or Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut album. Don’t miss visiting Golan and family at Flam Winery just north of Beit Shemesh in one of the most beautiful and elegant places to drink a glass of wine in the country.

About the Author
Born and raised in Chicago, Uri is now an Israeli farmer, living in Gush Etzion with his wife, Debbie and his daughter, Rakiya. When he is not farming, you can find him tasting wine with good food and even better company. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments you might have at: [email protected]
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