Sorry, but I’ve been chortling all week about The Grapes of Galilee (little trademark sign), a line of wines produced in Israel’s Galilee galilee_group1.JPG region and intended for the Christian audience, though I would bet that Christians haven’t exactly been waiting around all this time to drink wine for a product that will provide “a physical connection with their spiritual homeland.” (Quoting an email press release that a thoughtful reader passed on to me.) Well, at least not the Roman Catholics and Episcopals and a few Presbyterians. And let’s not forget that at least two other major world religions claim (violently) the geography of Israel as a spiritual homeland.

The Grapes of Galilee (little trademark sign) wines are available in chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot and cost about $14.

The press release goes on: “It was at a wedding in Galilee where, 2,000 years ago, Jesus is said to have turned water into wine.” Is said to? One would think that people either believe that yes, Jesus definitely turned water into wine at the vinously-challenged Wedding at Cana or else the whole thing is urban legend. It’s not as if people are walking around Galilee today saying, “You know, my grandmother said that over there is where Jesus is said to have turned water into wine.” “Getoutahere!”

And it’s not that I’m opposed to exploiting Jesus of Nazareth to market Israeli wine to American Christians (an interesting global concept itself since most wine made in Israel is kosher and is aimed at the American Jewish market.) What is one to say of religion at all when 150 years after Nietzsche declared god dead Morgan Freeman has a franchise playing him in Hollywood movies? No, I’m a firm believer in that bumper sticker you see so frequently: “WWJD.” I mean, “What Would Jesus Drink” is a subject far too rarely addressed in the popular media.

(BTW, for reactions to using the image and idea of Jesus to sell wine, see this page on www.luxist.com, where the posts range from sanctimonious to daffy to downright scary.)

Really, then, what I object to in this press release is lousy history and manipulative language used in bad faith. The email says: “Grown by the Sea of Galilee and watered by the Jordan River, the Grapes of Galilee wines are ideal for celebrations such as wedding receptions and communions, or any festive occasions where Christians seek a physical connection with their spiritual homeland.” The implication is clear: Grapes of Galilee (little trademark sign) wines are special not because they’re particularly good — and they may be sensational for all I know — but because they originate near the sea where Jesus performed miracles and are irrigated by the river whose waters John used to baptize the prophet, according to the New Testament. The owners of the label, the American Adam Haroz and his father Pini H. Haroz, seem specifically to deprecate the truest and best use of wine, at dinner with family and friends in favor of using it only for occasions that carry religious intentions or overtones. Perhaps the garish label is too embarrassing for the domestic dinner table.

Haroz pere et fils take the concept of terroir to zany heights in this incoherent, if not hysteria-tinged, paragraph about The Grapes of Galilee (little trademark sign) from their website (www.haroz.com):

“This series of wines awakens the senses, taking you on a sensual journey from the Sea of Galilee to the slopes of Mount Tabor, characterized by the rare close proximity to chalk, volcanic and Terra Rosa soils and bubbling natural springs form the Jordan River, that supply water to the vineyard. Grown in soil deemed most-suited, each variety of grape milks the land for the best it has to offer, ripening into a dream vintage. Each sip bestows upon the palate a taste of the morning dew, the basalt firmness, the element of chalk, and the red tinted soil, creating a unique ‘taste of Israel’ mosaic of flavors.”

Please, let me taste your morning dew and basalt firmness, as the bride said on the night after her Christian wedding ceremony and joyous reception, lubricated, no doubt, by bottles of The Grapes of Galilee (little trademark sign).

AND, what fries me in addition to this meretricious nonsense, is the way that various print and online media outlets in this country blithely and blandly reproduce the release from which I have quoted and perhaps add a cute comment as if it is their responsibility merely to announce this line of wines without investigating the implications or looking beneath the surface. Business as usual in the wine press. Only Michael Y. Park, on epicurious.com mentions The Grapes of Galilee (blah blah) with a slight smirk: “Double points for anyone who can come up with a joke involving the Grapes of Galilee back office, Jesus Christ, and a garden hose dripping with tap water.” Thanks for that refreshing touch of skepticism, Michael.