King of the Israeli Syrah/Shiraz Varietal Wines

That’s perhaps, a bit of a bold statement to use as the title of this report of the Tasting of the 2008 vintage of Odem Mountain Winery’s Syrah Reserve (or, as they call it “Sirah” on the label in the above photograph). And, of course, we haven’t even tasted all the wines that Israel has to offer. But at least this one ranks up there with the better wines of any variety and blend that we have had the pleasure to drink. After our tasting last night AND after deciding on the title of this article, I did a bit of a web search and found that others, too, have lauded the qualities of this wine. This includes Daniel Rogov, of blessed memory, the dean of Israeli writers/critics. In his tasting notes of Odem Winery wines back in 2010, he stated that it was, “Dark garnet towards royal purple, a concentrated and full-bodied wine with its once firm tannins now integrating nicely with notes of vanilla and cinnamon from the barriques in which it aged. On the nose and palate plums, wild berries, cassis and, on the long finish with tannins rising appealing notes of anise and leather. Deep, long and complex.” He awarded it a score of 91 which was the highest of his ratings of their wines in his tasting and equaled only by their 220 shekel Alfasi blend. At that time, he said it cost 90 shekels, however, more recently others have said that it cost them 65 shekels. Six months ago, Gabe Geller, who writes frequently on the WineLovers Discussion Group, called it “one of the best Shiraz thus far” and detailed that, “smoked meat and plums on the nose, and on the palate hints of oak together again with the smoked meat and the plums were there too, followed by red cherries and crushed spices all of that in fine balance with a moderate acidity and a long smooth finish.”


We think that its sojourn in French oak for 18 months was just perfect, allowing it to impart to us a nose of mint chocolate cake with a hint of burnt woody charcoals. In the mouth it is most definitely rich and has a full velvety body and tastes of blueberries, melon, oregano and a long, pleasant, puckery, peppery finish. I don’t remember what we paid for it, but, assuming that it was in the lower range of the above quoted prices, 65 shekels (equivalent to under $10), it was awarded an israelwinetaster grade of A+. I will find what it costs at the winery and write an addendum to this report.

ATTENTION !!! HERE’S THE ADDENDUM There really are two Odem Mountain wines of the same varietal. The first one they call Shiraz Volcani and it costs 90 shekels at the winery. The one about which we are reporting in this article actually sells there for 180 shekels. I am therefore downgrading it to a B+ as I do not think that it should demand such a high price. YES, IT IS GOOD, but that’s almost $50 and in my opinion, overpriced.


Tasting Chardonnay from Odem Mountain Winery

This Chardonnay varietal from the 2010 vintage of the Volcanic Series at Odem Mountain Winery is an outstanding wine. It is aged five months in French oak casks with use of the “sur lie” technique in which the wine is fermented on what is called its lees. This material is the sediment that settles to the bottom of a container and consists of seeds, pulp, stem, and skin fragments from the grapes and dead yeast cells. This contact promotes the second softening malolactic fermentation, adding complexity to the wine’s flavor. It also enhances the structure and texture, or feel of a wine in the mouth, since the polysaccharides released from the dead yeast cells can significantly reduce astringency and increase body. This special processing, also used to make the Castel Winery Chardonnay is reflected in its depth of aroma, body, and finish. All of these aspects are of high quality and enhance the experience of tasting this wonderful wine.The aroma reminded me of fresh mowed hay or of a forest after a summer rain. The tastes burst in the mouth producing sensation of lavender, mixed berries, vanilla, and oak. The finish was long and pleasant.

Naftali Admoni and I drank it cooled from the refrigerator with a delicious Michal Admoni creation, Yemenite soup. This is typically served with fenugreek based hilba mixed in giving it an exquisite taste. The wine was the perfect accompaniment for this light warm weather lunch. It is sold at the winery for 80 shekels (a bit over $21 at the present ex change rate) and if one purchases a case, the price is reduced 20% 64 shekels or $17). It really does deserve an Israelwinetaster Grade of A+ and at the nearest oppurtunity, I will purchase more.

Here’s the Israelwinetaster Grading System for your reference. How would you grade this wine? Let us know. L’Chaim

Israelwinetaster Grading System