Friday, December 5, 2008

Never, Never, Never Give In!

I just came across an interesting story about Stags' Leap Winery's oldest estate vines (pdf), a retro mixed block, which they use to make the majority-PS Ne Cede Malis ("Never Give In To Misfortune/Evil") Field Blend (CellarTracker). It makes for an interesting read, and really helped Dr. Carole Meredith to identify the genetic differences between some various clones of PS. I'd really love to read that research some day. I love field blends, especially those with a big fat dose of PS, so hopefully I'll get to try this one soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I've posted my tasting/rating methodology, which I demostrated on a 2001 Napa Valley PS from Blockheadia Ringnosii, over at Apairitif.

As for the wine, it was tasty stuff. But click on over read all about it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pardon the Dust

The last 6 weeks have been a PShitstorm of epic proportions, between work, getting sick, and the back-end reconfigurations (we're now at and front-end design (slick new with matching business cards, both thanks to Octocat herself!) changes.

I have a few posts in the works that I really need to get off my butt and post. Here's a preview:
  • URSA Vineyards '04 Wines (Sierra Foothills and Paso RobleS), plus their '05 Paso Robles. This one is a lesson on PS being a bit cranky.
  • How I rate wines (both formally and informally), which will be cross-PoSted both here and at Apairitif, Octocat's blog.
  • A super-comPrehenSive (though not exhaustive) survey of terroir and PS, from Appellation America, including wine reviews
  • More news and tidbits on PS, many from Jo Diaz

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Dark & Delicious February 20, 2009: The Rock Wall Wine Company, Alameda, California
Participating Wineries:
  • Alger Vineyards
  • August Briggs Winery
  • Berryessa Gap
  • Ballentine Vineyards
  • Bogle Vineyards & Winery
  • Clayhouse
  • Concannon Vineyard
  • David Fulton Winery
  • EOS Estate & Winery
  • F. Teldeschi Winery
  • Field Stone Winery
  • Foppiano Vineyards
  • Harney Lane Winery
  • Heringer
  • Huntington Wine Cellars
  • JC Cellars
  • Judd's Hill
  • Lava Cap Winery
  • Marr Cellars
  • Michael~David Winery
  • Mounts Family Winery
  • Moss Creek
  • Parducci Winery
  • Rock Wall Wine Company
  • Robert Biale Vineyards
  • Rosenblum Cellars
  • Rutherford Grove Winery & Vineyards
  • Silkwood Wines
  • Stanton Vineyards
  • Trentadue Winery, Miro Cellars
  • Twisted Oak (and his rubber chickens)
  • Ursa Vineyards
  • Vina Robles
  • Wilson Farms
I bought my ticket. I hope to see you there!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Israel is looking for a signature red. PS can answer the call!

In discussing the history of grape varieties in Israel, the end of the article ponders a signature Israeli grape for new world table wine, as Shiraz is to Australia, Sauv Blanc to New Zealand, Tannat to Uruguay, Malbec to Argentina, Cabernet to Napa/Sonoma, and the Pinots to Oregon. One option for Israel is carignan(e), due to the Mediterranean climate. But the second red grape mentioned? You guessed it!
The next candidate is Petite Sirah, which has not been here for so many years (introduced in the 1970’s) and compared to Carignan, is a relatively new immigrant. Also this variety enjoys Israel’s hot Mediterranean climate. In contrast to Carignan, which is heavily planted in France & Spain, it is present in California and Australia, but is not heavily planted anywhere. Although its origin is France, it has almost vanished from there. However in Israel some old vine, low yield vineyards are now producing some very good wines. The Appellation Petite Sirah Old Vines, produced by Carmel Winery, from the Judean Hills, is a good example. [Vitkin's PS and Sea Horse's Munch are other examples; blends include some other wines from Sea Horse and Margalit's Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve]
Another article by the same author has additional details on PS's history and use in Israel.
However there are two much abused varieties – Carignan and Petite Sirah, which maybe do fit the bill to be considered as the potential national varieties of Israel. Both are undergoing a quality revival and creating a great deal of interest amongst wine lovers and connoisseurs. . . . Petite Sirah wines, on the other hand, will be an almost-black blockbuster, with intense tannins and an enticing aroma of black fruit and violets.
. . .

Petite Sirah, otherwise known in France as Durif, is another variety to be revived. It is a sometimes spelt Petite Syrah in America. It made aliyah to Israel in the 1970’s and was used for inexpensive wines. In the early 1990’s there were those who tried to mislead by marketing their Petite Sirah wines as Shiraz, which was derided because it was thought the Petite Sirah had nothing in common with Syrah. It was only in 1998, that the University of California confirmed that Durif was the result of a cross pollination between an old French grape Peloursin and Syrah. So they were related after all! In any event, Petite Sirah certainly makes distinctive wines – mainly in California , Australia and in Israel.

The first time Petite Sirah was seen as a quality variety was when Yair Margalit insisted it was an essential part of the Margalit Special Reserves. He considered the 5% to 15% of Petite Sirah as an important ingredient to the success of his flagship wine. Wineries like Yiftachel, Vitkin amongst the boutique wineries and Carmel and Recanati amongst the commercial wineries have also specialized in the variety. Recanati have won awards for their Petite Sirah-Zinfandel blend and Carmel’s Appellation Petite Sirah from old vines in the Judean Hills has also gained plaudits as one of the most interesting, characterful wines available.

Whatever happens to these varieties in the future will determine if they may, in future, be regarded as the national variety of Israel. The mission to revive Carignan and Petite Sirah should be supported by growers, wineries and consumers. It provides much needed variety, quality and the curious wine lover has an alternative to the all conquering Cabernet and Merlot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Tickets for Dark & Delicious 2009, to be held on February 20th at the Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda California, go on sale in just ONE WEEK FROM TODAY!

(can you tell that I'm a bit excited?)

Monday, October 6, 2008

**BREAKING NEWS** PSychos and Pet-Heads ZAP the Zinfidels

Per PSentinel Jo Diaz, we PSychos will now have our own *consumer* advocacy group, just as the zinfidels do with ZAP. (N.B., PS I Love You is a group for the producers -- as it self-describes, "sole function and focus is to support a marketing/public relations effort for Petite Sirah.")
[S]ix years later, there’s an evolutionary shift in the making, because [PS I Love You has] accomplished our original mission.

Our next step…

The Board of Directors and I have long discussed a membership level that would include consumers. Fans of PS are constantly asking, “When and where’s your next event.” PSILY hosts anything, and people come… Not in droves, because it’s not a mainstream variety, but with a passion that’s downright exciting and infections. It reminds me of the initial Grateful Dead days, when people would go anywhere and do anything just to get into one more concert.

Couple that with the old-timers’ name for Petite Sirah, “Pet,” and you’ve got your “Pet Heads.”

Details for membership are being finalized and will be launched on the PSILY Website, once the t-shirts have arrived, later this month.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Titus Maximus

This week's first Wine.woot offering was the Titus 2004 Lot 1 (Napa Valley), a blend of 65% Petite Sirah (of course), 30% Petit Verdot, 5% Zinfandel. It was aged 22 months, 60% new barrels, 50% French and 50% American oak. It is 14.5% alcohol. Wine.woot was the last place you can get this, and in addition to the "labrat" sample bottle I got, I have 3 on the way. The winery produces this as a limited allocation for its wine club/mailing list and it is now completely sold out. Sorry to tease you, folks!

This wine should easily last for 15 years; I don't expect it to have the typical PS dumb period, due to the extensive blending, and the vinting (see below). However, if you were lucky enough to buy it, hold onto it for at least another year before opening -- and don't be afraid to use your decanter.
Petite Sirah has inherently powerful tannins and is more acidic than other red varietals. It can only benefit from extended aging because of this. Depending on the winemaking style and/or growing season this may be the necessary amount of time needed to have the tannins and acid come into balance with all the other parts of the wine. Because the tannins are so massive, Eric and Phillip [Titus] have slightly departed from perhaps the traditional way of making Petite Sirah by removing the juice from the skins earlier than "normal," before fermentation is complete. It's kind of a less is more approach so that the fruit can shine through more and the finish gets some extra length and complexity. It's the Titus version of finessing this varietal.
I had this wine with my friend Chris last night, and we were both very, very impressed. While Wine.woot offers a serious discount from retail and often even wine club prices, and subsidized shipping, this was still a pricy bottle at

45 mins in decanter. Nose: predominantly black raspberry liqueur, with white flowers, hints of molasses, vanilla, and nutmeg, and some sort of underlying meatyness. Very dense and extracted. No heat. AMAZINGLY dense color -- more impenetrable than the Ursa. Incredibly structured, initiall hint of confectionary, then some smoky meat.

This wine frakking COATS THE GLASS. Legs nicer than Tricia Helfer's. I don't know if I've ever seen legs like this in a wine before.

The tannins are very noticeable, but they're very integrated and chewy, not stand-alone liquid sandpaper. This is very elegant and well structured, with particularly distinct transitions between attack, mid-palate, and finish.

65 mins: the nose is jammier, more liqueur, more blackberry than raspberry at this point. White pepper and black pepper on the finish balancing the nutmeg and molasses, with hints of baking spice. This is getting more complex and continuing to open up.

90 mins: The finish turns to black cherry; on the nose and front-end, that 5% zin is really punching above its weight and making itself known, at least for a bit.

105 mins: Here come the tannins -- it took them a while to wake up, but they're making their presence felt.

This is a massive, elegant, integrated wine. It will pair wonderfully with things with a hint of sweetness like bbq ribs or burgers or brisket. I would give this at least 2 more years; it isn't quite ready yet. Though it got very well integrated, and is excellent, it will only get better.

Friday, September 19, 2008

SamPleS from Twisted Oak

Ok, I've been completely derelict in my duties, due in large part to work commitments and a tight deadline.

So, just under 2 weeks ago, I received 2 sample bottles from Twisted Oak Winery, courtesy of Jeff "El Jefe" Stai.

I received these on a Thursday and consumed them on a Saturday evening, so it's quite possible that they suffered from some travel shock. Ordinarily, I'd have let them sit for a while longer, but reviewing free wine is a different schedule than drinking for pleasure. I let both wines breath in-bottle through the neck for about 5 hours before the first taste, and went back and forth between them. They were accompanied by cheese and crackers.

TWISTED OAK 2006 River of Skulls Mourvedre (90% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah) Twisted Oak Geek Sheet Ordering Info

First Taste: Color: dark ruby, transparent edges, translucent depth. Nose of tobacco and spice, like a dark-leaf cigar wrapper, wrapped around black cherry pie filling with a dash of liquid smoke, maybe raspberry reduction, some hints of vanilla bean ice cream. With some swirling, the fruit came more to the forefront, tobacco towards the back. In the mouth, thin but not unpleasantly so. Great acidity, very soft tannings, very food friendly, feels almost too young. Strawberries on the 15-20 sec finish. At the moment (bottom of first glass) not enough fruit to carry the acidity and alcohol, but opens up after 20 mins of sitting, sipping, and swirling. Some of the heat blows off, cherry fruit rollup notes as well. But also something bitter in the midpalate, almost like cherry pit, but not unpleasant. It works.

One hour later: fruitier and drier, smokier and creemier. The finish is longer and much more integrated.

Another 20 mins later: very nice, bright cherry fruit really towards the forefront.

I think this wine had some bottle shock and is very, very, very young. Let it sit for a while after getting it, and I think it has a few years to age as well.

TWISTED OAK 2005 Petite Sirah Calaveras County
Geek Sheet Ordering Info

First taste: Light reddish blueberry juice in color, but less depth of color than most PS I am used to. some heat on the nose, blueberry, and creamy oak. Not as extracted as most PS I am used to. Thinner in the mouth as well, but perhaps would pair better with lighter foods -- some plums, a bit of blackberry, baking spices on the background. Softer tannins than I expected and than I prefer; high acidity and fruit for a PS.

One hour later: Same on the attack and midpalate, but finish still has not quite come together yet. Still a bit sour/bitter.

30 mins later: Finally integrated, still soft on the tannins.

I thought both wines were pretty good for the price. Having never had either wine before, I had trouble separating out the winemaker's style from the effects of travel shock, with which I am familiar. I enjoyed both bottles but found them to be leaner, more acidic, and less full-bodied than I expected from the nose and my familiarity with the varieties. I'd definitely try and even buy both again (I've bought more Twisted Oak since this tasting), but I'd give them some more time in the cellar.

Thursday, September 18, 2008



Next year's PStravaganza is on Friday, 2/20. Tickets are on sale for us consumers on 10/22. Contrary to initial indications, it is *NOT* at Concannon's newly-renovated $25M tasting room. Instead, it will be in Alameda, CA, at the Rock Wall Wine Company. Per Jo Diaz, Concannon's license doesn't allow for pure awesomeness like D&D, due to grumpy neighbors who probably only drink Chard-oh-no!.

Stay tuned for further info.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal are, as it turns out, big fans of the Big Grape -- Petite Sirah!

Their most recent Tastings article focuses in on the redheaded step-child of California grapes. Not surprisingly, they agree with me :)

What we discussed, time and again, was the crispness of the wines. We don't generally associate crispness with big, red wines, but the fine acidity and tannins of Petite Sirah give these wines a little crackle. The best ones are polished wines, and we mean that almost literally. They seem to have a sheen about them, like bright sun on a shiny wooden dresser. That makes their big, bold, somewhat grapey tastes complex, interesting and unexpected. It means that, in the good ones, the wine never gets boring. We sensed many different smells and tastes in these wines, from black cherries to chocolate, from herbal tea to smoked bacon (although, as it turned out, none of our favorites were heavy on the bacon).

Our favorite, from Jaffurs in Santa Barbara County, was bursting with beautiful fruit. It was a big wine, but so effortlessly fruity that Dottie said, "It seems like the most natural thing in the world -- so easy -- when they get it right." Jaffurs says it made 392 cases of the wine, but we bought it right off a shelf. In fact, when it comes to Petite Sirah, it's a good idea to look for small-production wines, which often have particular intensity and verve that comes from hands-on care and straight-up passion. Aside from some of those in the accompanying index, we also had an excellent Petite recently from Proulx (2004 Paso Robles) that was remarkably refreshing for a huge red wine that was also 15.9% alcohol.

But it's not just the little guys. Our best value was Concannon, which has been one of our go-to Petites for many years. Concannon says it first made Petite Sirah as a varietal wine in the 1961 vintage and, to us, it's amazing that it has remained as consistently good as it has, especially considering that it costs around $14, is available nationally (the winery made 75,000 cases) and that the winery now is owned by the Wine Group, a giant company. We felt we were tasting ultra-ripe grapes that were bursting in our mouths, which gave us some serious joy. Adam Richardson, the winemaker, told us, "Petite Sirah is a big, full-bodied wine, which is what you want, but you want it to be soft and approachable as well. If you get both, you're doing well." When we told him that, when we tasted it, we wrote in our notes that it was like the whole berry was in there, he said: "We try to interfere with those grapes as little as possible. If it tastes like the whole grape is in there, that's because it is. We really respect the grapes."


Petite Sirah is a great cold-weather wine and pairs well with hearty foods. Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs Wine Cellars prefers "big stuff -- barbecue, things with a certain thickness and richness, beef with some fat content. You don't really want lean meat." Short ribs are a great choice, he says. Mr. Richardson of Concannon suggests game or duck breast, "something that's been grilled or roasted rather than stewed -- not a heavy version of the food. As far as vegetables, the richer, darker green vegetables like spinach. Spanakopita goes really well." We swooned at just the thought of that spinach-and-feta-cheese pie with these wines. Yum. And one more idea, for you risk-takers: Try it with a bite of chocolate.

They're huge fans of the Concannon '05 Limited Release, which they call the best value of the tasting. Their favorite, the Jaffurs '05, is another favorite of mine, which is a great deal at $33 (especially because I got my 3 bottles, somehow, on ebay, shipped at $25/ea).

Jaffurs Wine Cellars 'Thompson Vineyard' 2005 (Santa Barbara County). $32.99.
Very Good/Delicious
3 Best of tasting. Yowee! Powerful wine, with lush, ripe-berry fruit, some chocolate and a surprisingly dry, mineral finish.
Concannon Vineyard 'Limited Release' 2005 (Central Coast). $13.99.
Very Good/Delicious
3 Best value. Clean and crisp, with great fruit tastes, like the whole berry is in there. A hint of chocolate, especially on the finish. Totally satisfying. Consistent favorite.

They also enjoyed the Sean Thackrey Sirius '05, from the Eaglepoint Ranch, which I had at the PSychos' Tasting.

Excerpted permalink (PSILoveYou members only, so no Jaffurs) available here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ursa Minor

In addition to the ones from Wine.woot, I had a nice sampling of 2 '04 URSA Vineyards PS last night. I will be transcribing my tasting notes into this post at some point over the next few days...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spivak on Israeli Wines

Mark Spivak has a nice summary of some Israeli wineries, including Vitkin (with their excellent PS from 30-year old vines) and our good friend Ze'ev Dunie of Sea Horse.

Coming this week: Reviews of Twisted Oak PS and River of Skulls.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Join the Dark Side

Nice mention of PS in a SF gate article on non-cab grapes in Napa

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This week on Wine.woot -- a horizontal of PS from Ursa Vineyards in PaSo Robles. It's about time they offered another PS, though I'm not sure on the short-week/half-week sales numbers as compared to previous full-week offerings. Mad props once again to WineDavid for making me purchase even though I have neither the space nor the money:

2005 Petite Sirah Sierra Foothills

  • Pick date: 9/28/05, 10/21/05
  • pH: 3.52
  • Average brix at time of harvest: 25.1
  • Oak: European, 35% new, 20 months
  • ML: 100%
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • Cases Produced: 200

Petite Sirah Vineyard Blend

  • Blend: 33% Central Coast 33% Sierra Foothills 33% Paso Robles
  • pH: 3.58
  • Average brix at time of harvest: 24.8
  • Oak: Blend of Euro and American, 15% new, 20 months
  • ML: 100%
  • Alcohol: 13.5
  • Cases produced: 425

2005 Petite Sirah Paso Robles

  • Pick date: 10/3/05
  • pH: 3.85
  • Brix at time of harvest: 24.3
  • Oak: French oak, 25% new, 20 months
  • ML: 100%
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Cases Produced: 250
According to the winemakers,
flavor profiles: we choose pets from different appellations in calif for different fruit characteristics. generally, our vineyard blend offers classic dark fruits & spice; the paso has its blueberry fruit from shell creek vineyards; our sierra foothills gives wild blackberry fruits.

tannins: the vineyard blend is our most accessible with the softest tannin; paso is firm & present; and the sierra foothills may be the biggest in the bunch, its tannins somewhat angular.

aging/cellaring: we think they're all drinking well now. the vineyard blrnd is intended to be consumed sooner rather than later; the paso will do well for the next 5 yrs; the sierra foothills, however, has the structure for aging. admittedly, we don't have the history with this vineyard to suggest more than 5 years, but we feel that this wine could go 10. thanks for the query! i also wanted to suggest that the wine will really open up from 10 - 20 min in the glass.

SamPleS on the Way!

Coming in the mail soon from Jeff "El Jefe" Stai of Twisted Oak Winery are samPleS of their 2006 River of Skulls (90% Mourvedre, 10% Gros Syrah) and 2005 Calaveras County Petite Sirah.

I've wanted to try the TOPS for a while now, but haven't managed to get my hands on it. This should arrive just in time for me to introduce one of the other wine.wooters to the glory that is PS.

This is a historic moment, as it is my first actual sample from a winery (as opposed to being labratted for wine.woot, which is truly a special experience in and of itself). I will gladly accept any and all PS or PS-blend samples, but I cannot promise a result, only a review and an appropriate food pairing.

Other things to still write about: (1) my Napa/Sonoma trip, (2) my new PS project, (3) more Israeli PS on the way!, (4) the Wine.Woot PSychos Prelude and Big-Ass Red Wines tastings, both with many PSadawans who came to learn at the PieS (that's not food, it's Spanish for feet) of the PSith Master.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GaryV Tastes Value PS

On Weds, 8/20, GaryV posted his "Tasting of Value Petite Sirah" episode of WLTV, after a 125-episode block that was sadly bereft of any PS (see GV on PS column on the right).

Despite GV's gaffe in calling PS "a member of the durif family" -- no GV, it *IS* durif; they're synonymous -- it's a fun episode. Gary has a blast, and seems to really enjoy the 2006 Rosenblum Heritage Clones PS (available @WL for $15), giving it 90+. Despite my urging, he *still* hasn't tasted the '05 Concannon Limited Release. Unless he has a "Value wines revisited in subsequent vintages" episode, I doubt he'll taste it on the show while it's still in stock

But thanks to Gary for tasting some great wine!

Now... to continue with my other posts and projects in the work. Stay tuned, folks... there's lots of big news on the way.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Petite Sirah: The next big thing?

Pluses: More of them, more availability, sweet sweet vindication
Minuses: More competition, higher prices.

Either way, I win.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First things first: My sincere thanks to The PSychos' Path Master Loweeel, both for inviting me to blog (which he may regret) & to TheMostRighteous for blazing the PSadawan Psycho’s Path in the first place with his previous blog post.

My local favorite wine bar, CasaVino, had a Petite Sirah Tasting recently (7/2/08). A flight of 3 Petite Sirah’s, none of which I have tried before, but was anxious to try.

The First one up was the 2005 Dancing Coyote Petite Sirah from Clarksburg, CA. It is a deep velvet purple, bordering on black, incredibly dark with thick, prominent drip legs legs that its (13.5%) alcohol content demands. It is 99.8% PS, with 0.2% Zinfandel added.

The nose is surprisingly moderated, but not muted, dominated by blackberry & spiciness. The mouth exhibits moderate acidity and the tannins make their presence felt. It had a medium body that is a bit leaner than you expect in a PS. I got blackberry and mocha-cocoa flavors, with some spiciness.

The website also indicates a cherry jam and hint of mint in the flavors, which I didn’t get. Good finish. I give it an 87.

The Second Wine was the 2005 Guenoc PS from Lake County (north of San Francisco).

The color is a dark purple with a dark garnet edge. Dark fruit (black and blue berries) and Plum aromas are a bit restrained on the nose. Gentle tannins in the finish make it a bit on the soft side for PS. A very short finish and it is only 13.5% ABV.

While drinkable, this is not a great PS, in my humble opinion. Out of the three wines, this was a very distant last.

I give it an 85, which is similar to its CellarTracker scores.

The Third Wine was a 2004 X Winery PS from Paso Robles.

Nice dark purple color with very expressive blueberry and plum aromas. Dark fruits on the palate with very nice tannins and very good finish (some cocoa).

100% Paso Robles. Only 571 cases produced.

Seems like a nicely balanced wine that can drink well now or be held for a while. However, 14.5% ABV makes it the highest ABV in the flight. But I didn't get too much alcohol during the tasting. I felt it deserves an 88, so that's what I give it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Rest of Gabe's Tastings

See the rest of Gabe's "12 days of Petite Sirah," which goes from the widely available to the cult, from the beloved to the despised (by me).

Truly a phenomenal series of posts, and one involving a lot of tooth-brushing!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Quick Update

Although real life and laziness have gotten in the way of my updates, Gabe over at Gabe's View is here to provide you with PSManna from Heaven.

Gabe is currently doing "12 days of Petite Sirah," during which time that lucky bastard is reviewing over 20 different bottles of PS.

Monday, April 7, 2008

WineDavid Has Blessed Us

This week on wine.woot... a jaunt along THE PSYCHOS' PATH!!! A 3-pack of 2005 Peltier Station Petite Sirah, from Lodi, for $39.99/3pack + $5 shipping on your order.

This is one to stock up on, especially for those of us on the East Coast who have a much harder time finding this!

See the thread, including pairing advice, and interaction with the winemakers, all right here.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Rogov Gets Vertical with Vitkin PS

Daniel Rogov, the Dean of Israeli wine critics, recently paid a visit to Vitkin Winery, where he had an epic vertical of their PS that included a barrel sample of the '06. In the post on his forum describing his visit, he reviewed the wines and provided a brief overview of the history of PS in the Holy Land (minor formatting changes only):
This late morning (Sunday, 30 Mar 2008) found me at a press tasting of several of the wines of Vitkin Winery. The purpose of the tasting was limited but fascinating, a vertical of each of the releases of the winery's Petite Sirah.

Interesting to note, that for many years Petite Sirah had a particularly bad name in Israel that thanks to the rather primitive wines that appeared under that label for more than 30 years, wines made from vineyards where quantity of output was thought to be far more important than quality. Information about whatever was added to or otherwise done to those wines remains locked in the brains of a few winemakers, those of whom are still alive being far too wise to confess to their earlier sins. At any rate, those wines were pretty awful.

The first boost to returning the Petite Sirah grape to its rightful place within Israel probably came about when Yair Margalit started using old vine, thoroughly untended and unirrigated grapes in his Special Reserve wine. Today with both older and newer vines producing very low yields, Petite Sirah is alive and doing very well thank you and Vitkin is largely responsible for its justifiable return to fashion as a varietal wine.

Vitkin was founded by Doron and Sharona Belogolovsky on Moshav Kfar Vitkin on the central Coastal Plain and released its first wines from the 2002 vintage. Since its inception the winemaker has been the talented Assaf Paz and the winery has been and remains on my list of "rising star" wineries of the country.

With regard to the vertical tasting, several notes of interest First, each of the wines is proving longer-lived than originally predicted (don't blame me for that, with young wineries it is always especially difficult to predict longevity of a wine). Second, although each of the wines from each vintage is different, all show a definite consistency of style.

Following are today's tasting notes. I shall, by the way be visiting the winery on 13 April to do extensive tastings, re-tastings and barrel tastings. I shall, of course, report back then. [And this Blog will be covering that too!]


  • Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2002: Developed in used French barriques and bottled unfiltered, the tannins of this full-bodied red now integrated beautifully and showing still youthful and lively. Opens to show red plum, wild berry and boysenberry fruits that remain tight and concentrated those on a background of tar and cedar wood. Tannns kick in on the finish nicely. The wine was tasted from a magnum bottle so it is difficult to say that it has outlived the 2002 curse but I will be visiting the winery on 13 April to be donig extensive tastings and will re-taste from a regular format bottle. At any rate, if in magnum bottles, drink now-2010. Score 89. (Re-tasted 30 Mar 2008)

  • Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2003: Medium- to full-bodied, garnet towards royal purple, with still generous tannins now integrated nicely with spicy oak. A bit of confusion here as an earlier winemaker's note says that the Petite Sirah was blended with 10% of Cabernet Franc and his latest note states that it is 100% Petite. Whatever, aged in oak for 14 months, showing aromatic and flavorful, opens in the glass to reveal blackberry, blueberry, purple plum and raisin notes those supported nicely by notes of white pepper. Ripe, deep and long, with notes of red cherries and the solid tannins rising on the finish. Drinking beautifully now-2010, perhaps longer. Score 90. (Re-tasted 30 Mar 2008)

  • Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2004: Dark garnet in color reflecting its 15 months in partly new French oak with fine balance between firm tannins, sweet cedar and spicy oak, all coming together nicely to reveal a broad array of plum, blackberry, meaty and herbal aromas and flavors. Long and complex, with a hints of minerals and bittersweet chocolate rising on the finish. Drinking nicely now but best 2009-2011, perhaps longer. Score 91. (Re-tasted 30 Mar 2008)

  • Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2005: Made from old vine grapes and oak-aged for 16 months. Full-bodied, impenetrably dark purple-black, with deep spicy overlays and firm tannins all coming together beautifully. On the nose and palate blackberry and blueberries, those matched nicely by notes of white pepper, tobacco and cedar and, on the long finish enchanting hints of raspberry jam. Drink now–2012. Score 91. (Re-tasted 30 Mar 2008) [available for purchase from the winery]

  • Vitkin Petite Sirah, 2006 (Advance Tasting): Reflecting its youth with a dark royal purple color medium- to full bodied, with fine extraction and with lively notes of spices, white pepper, tobacco and cedar wood supporting generous blackberry and huckleberry fruits. Chewy tannins rise on the finish along with a hint of grilled beef. Best 2010-2014. Score 90. (Re-tasted 30 Mar 2008)

Monday, March 17, 2008


Oddly, during the last 3 months, my updates have come in a string in the middle of the month. I guess the workload (and my laziness) have been somewhat cyclical lately. I'm still working on those last updates, but I also have a few new ones for you guys, including the massive petite sirah tasting at the 2nd NYC-area Wine.woot gathering (which included a Concannon mini-vertical -- '04 and '05; Bogle '05; Oliverhill '06 from Australia, and Stonehedge '01 Reserve PS)

In other news, Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 hikes on the PSychos' Path and reviews the 2003 Enkidu Petite Sirah

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dark & Delicious 2008 Report

Jo Diaz has a report with some nice PhotoS from Dark & Delicious 2008, every PSycho's dream.

Also in her report is the news that D&D 2009 will be held at Concannon's new $25M cellar/tasting room. If that renovation is half as successful as their 2005 vintage, we'll all be thrilled!

Friday, February 15, 2008


I recently (1/19) drank the Girard 2005 Petite Sirah, from Napa Valley. One of the sales RepS from the winery recently participated (with great customer service) in the Thanksgiving Week Windsor Sonoma offering on wine.woot.

While my own personal preference within PS is for full-bodied PS with massive tannins, lots blueberry-to-blackberry fruit, good acidity and structure with as little sugar as possible, I appreciate all PS for the wonder it is, so long as it meets a pretty low threshold of enjoyability.

This one was the color of Ocean Spray Cran-Blueberry, which suggested good things to me. As usual, this PS needs to breathe quite a bit, so decanting is highly recommended. The nose, though tight upon opening and pouring, opened up nicely to reveal flavors and scents of blackberries, blueberries, and red currant/cassis, with some minerals and hints of allspice at the back end. The tannins were PleaSantly soft, and the wine had good acidity. In the mouth, it was fairly thick, not jammy or syrupy and very smooth and refined, definitely not on the rustic end of the spectrum.

This was quite enjoyable. Rather than a big "cult PS" (ala Turley, Foley, or Biale), this is the sort of wine to transition those who are used to big, fruity, tannic Cabernet into PS. It would pair better with a steak or buffalo fillet than it would with gamier meats, but depending on your palate, may also be approachable without food.

Pardon the Dust

I've started at least 3 posts over the last 4 weeks, but haven't finished any of them. I'll try to get a few up this weekend. Sorry about the delay, folks!

Here's some of what you have to look forward to: What does a strangely-made PS from 1980 taste like? (Wednesday or Thursday night); Kent Rasmussen's 2002 PS; Chiarello Roux Old Vines PS 2000; and a preview of the *NEW* 2005 Vintage of the Concannon Limited Release PS (and just when you thought the entry level of PS didn't get better than the '04...); Girard 2005 PS; a report on Dark and Delicious '08.

Trust me, it will be worth the wait. I just have to write them up!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Parker Tastes Some Israeli PS

(Yes, I took a winter vacation from blogging, in large part because I, *gasp* wasn't drinking all that much PS over the last 4 weeks).

For those who have an interest in the wines of Israel, the last few weeks have been pretty thrilling. Robert Parker, perhaPS the best-known wine-critic in the world (though not without critics of his own), has, for the first time, tasted a sample of some of Israel's best wines. Israel showed very well, with no fewer than 14 of the 90 or so wines scoring over 90 points.

3 of these wines from the PromiSed Land were labeled as PS, though none were wines that I've sampled, to date.
Vitkin, Petite Syrah, 2004 Score 89 - The 2004 Petite Syrah spent 16 months in oak barrels, only 20% new. It is a beautifully structured wine, with impeccable balance, an elegant mid-palate and moderate tannins. Vibrant and persistent on the finish, its parts meld together quickly and well. It becomes more attractive with air, as the fruit becomes juicier and the wine remains harmonious. This is probably the nicest use of the Petite Sirah varietal I saw for this report. [[N.B. -- Parker did not taste the utterly sublime Sea Horse 2005 Petite Sirah "Munch" by our hero Ze'ev Dunie]]

Carmel, Petite Sirah, Appelation, 2005 Score 88 - The 2005 Petite Sirah opens with a lush, oak-driven texture and flavor. It is charming and frequently tasty, if also a bit simple. The mid-palate is modest in weight, and the structure is modest as well, although there are some light tannins. At age two, it is quite approachable, and not likely to reward much cellaring. There were moments when the alcohol showed a little.

Recanati, Petit Syrah-Zinfandel, Reserve 2005 Score 87 - The 2005 Petite Syrah – Zinfandel Reserve is a blend, 70% Petite Syrah, and the rest Zinfandel. It was aged in American oak, and that distinctive nuance marks the wine. The oak becomes better integrated with air, providing a smooth, lush feel at the outset, that changes into a more balanced wine. It has grip on the finish, and an elegant mid-palate. It is a charming presentation and well structured, although somewhat simple, with too much oak-derived flavor.

UPDATE: 2/4/2008: I spent Shabbat with an Orthodox friend this weekend, and we and some others had this wine along with some delicious, incredibly filling cholent. I agree that it needed to breathe a bit (but that's something I'm going to keep pounding home about PS, because it's the biggest barrier to people enjoying it), as it was delicious after 2 hours in the open bottle. I do happen to have somewhat of a "hole" in my palate when it comes to oak in red wines, as I find it very hard to taste and smell, but I didn't notice anything too bad. It's definitely on the rustic side, but it's a reasonably-priced, enjoyable kosher wine that pairs well with cholent and would go equally well with stews and brisket. The tannins are soft and well-integrated, and it's full of plummy fruit that with a bit of spice thanks to the zin. It's not jammy like many zins, though it is quite viscous, with nice legs in the glass. Again, just because this is kosher does not mean that isn't worth seeking out, especially for the $14-$18 price.