(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.