Thursday, November 15, 2007

First, Do No Harm (Part 1 in a Series)

As you can probably tell from this whole blog, I think that Petite Sirah is usually a pretty damn good wine to drink. It has the tannins and the fruit to go well with food, and it ages inordinately better than one would expect. In fact, it's hard to go wrong with Petite Sirah, but there are certainly wines to avoid.

I'm going to start off by describing some of those wines, so you can learn from my mistakes and avoid these like you would avoid Chardonnay.

I've long had a fascination with Israel, so when I saw a bottle of the Gedeon 2004 Petite Sirah (Kosher) at WineLibrary last spring, I had to buy it. The only things better than Petite Sirah and Israel, or I thought, would be something that combines Petite Sirah and Israel. There is certainly some mindblowingly amazing Petite Sirah made in Israel, but the Gedeon was not it. It wasn't even plonk. It was just not really anything remotely close to wine. On the first day, it tasted like sour, bitter (yet not tannic!) prune juice. It was not just unstructured, but seemed to have an anti-structure. On the second day, it "improved" to sour plum juice, and got about a sPlinter'S worth of additional structure.

Maybe part of the problem is that Gedeon is made by Hevron Heights winery, which is one of the largest Kosher wineries in Israel. Hevron Heights also makes many of their wines mevushal, and while one would think if any grape could handle the flash-PaSteurization, it's the sturdy Petite Sirah, this was not the case. However, there might be another explanation: although the genius Dr. Carole Meredith determined that most of the PS in California is "Durif" (as opposed to "Grosse Syrah", PelourSin, Carignane, or Zin), this quite obviously does not apply halfway around the world, in a place with a much different viticultural history. The "PS" used by Hevron Heights might in fact be something else, though it could also be a misbegotten clone or a bizarre cross left over from Israel's pre-genetic ID "jug wine days", wretched terroir, or cranio-rectally ignorant management of this truly noble (though PerhapS Bar Sinister) grape.

Regardless of the problem, if you see this label, head for the hills, and bring plenty of the good stuff with you to ride out the storm!


RougeAndBlanc said...

First time reading your blog.

sour, bitter (yet not tannic!) prune juice - Sounds like kadeem. No offense, we used to steer clear of Kosher wines. With so many wines out there, why choose a religious path?

Loweeel said...

Hey, thanks for reading and commenting! I picked it because it was an Israeli Petite Sirah. I actually picked it up at the same time that I picked up an Aussie Durif (what they call PS). With the overwhelming majority of the varietally-labeled PS that's available in the US being from California, I wanted to see different terroir. WineLibrary just happened to have the Gedeon sitting there on the shelf, and it was the only PS they had from Israel. It didn't hurt that it was also under $10 (but some Israeli wines at that price are solid). As I found out, there are some FANTASTIC Israeli PS -- Sea Horse, Vitkin, and even Carmel, regardless of price. And the price for the Sea Horse (post forthcoming at some point) reflects that it needs a few years in the bottle to settle down -- it's $25, which is a steal.

And it's not that there aren't some Kosher wines that are GREAT -- especially these days. Castel (from Israel), Hagafen (Napa), Covenant (Napa, though GV disagreed), Goose Bay (NZ) are all competitive on a QPR basis with non-kosher wines of the same styles and from the same region. No offense taken :)

amechad said...

I don't think the problem is that it's kosher or even mevushal. The problem, rather, is simply that it's Hevron Heights and they make really bad wine and the Noah label is worse (I bought some Noah Petit Syrah a few months ago, let's just say that after the first glass, the bottle got dumped down the sink).

And rouge - as loweel said, the problem isn't that it's kosher - there are plenty of great kosher wines (I just had a Covenant Sea Horse on Monday -- truly amazing stuff) but simply that Hevron Heights is bad wine. If you are interested in other Israeli wines (my own reviews tend to be kosher but I also discuss non-kosher wineries, as there is no difference in the winemaking process) check out my blog @

We have plenty of great wines to offer -- Hevron Heights just isn't one of them!