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)