Oh Petite Sirah, So Misunderstood, So Lovely
Is it petite? Is it a Syrah? Mild? Full-bodied? To be sure, Petite Sirah is not a small wine (like the work petite alludes to), it’s a distinct grape variety that is a natural cross between Syrah and Peloursin (nearly extinct and found in the French Alps only). It is often used as a blending grape, especially with Zinfandel.
Petite Sirah grows very well in California, specifically in the inland valley regions such as Livermore, Lodi and Clarksburg. These wines have the same inky opaque color bursting with jammy fruit. Expect aromas of blackberry jam, brambles, black pepper along with notes of vanilla from oak aging. On the palate, rich and bold tannins compliment the sweet berry-like flavors and the acidity is smooth.
Sonoma and the northern coastal areas (including Mendocino) is a little bit cooler than Napa and the inland valleys of California. Petite Sirah from this region tends to come across very deep, with a touch more earthy, espresso notes. Enjoy aromas of fresh blackberry, plum, dark chocolate, menthol and usually a nuance of vanilla or lavender (often from oak aging). You will taste berries, espresso and mocha wrapped in dense tannins.
Full-bodied red wines like Petite Sirah have high tannin (and thus bitterness and astringency) which means you’ll want to match them up with richer more fatty foods. With its bold fruit flavors, Petite Sirah will match up nicely with bold exotic spices or herbs.
If there is one thing to know about pairing Petite Sirah with food, it is that the wine deserves a food as big and as bold as it is.
The Wine Review Council gathered to taste some California Petite Sirahs which were graciously donated by PS I Love you.org, a marketing advocacy group for the grape. While we tasted a few wines, I’ll just talk about the top four wines that we enjoyed.
#1 Wine for the Group was:
Rock Wall, 2012 Le Mur De Roche (Carver Sutro Vineyard- Napa Valley) Retail $60
(Paired with Duck Paté) I loved the tasting notes for this wine (I can’t write it better!)
Dude. OMG. This delectable wine exhibits blackberry liqueur, crème brûlée, coconut cream pie, black tea, orange zest and French vanilla.
The Carver Sutro Vineyard was planted in 1902 and today is farmed by Denis Carver and Anne Sutro. Located in the northern end of Napa Valley, this vineyard sits in a small riparian valley northeast. This exquisite wine is a result of amazing fruit and utmost patience. Because the wine kept getting better and better as it aged, it ended up aging in barrels for 4 years. When it achieved its incredible velvety texture, it was ready to be bottled.
My notes say that this beautiful wine has a sweet finish that lasts and lasts. It paired perfectly with the duck paté
#2 Wine for the Group was:
Parducci, Reserve 2014 Petit Sirah, Mendocino, Retail $20 (Paired with Fruit Salad)
This Petite Sirah has aromas of ripe fruit, white pepper and vanilla, followed by an intense rush of fresh blackberry, dark chocolate, pepper and caramel flavors. This wine is very smooth. Although it’s a bit young, it has won critical acclaim from both Wine & Spirits and Wine Enthusiast. Wine & Spirits feels that it will be best to drink in around 2020. (“Ten years or more in the cellar will refine its gripping structure and bring out the rich, sumptuous texture of well-aged Petite Sirah.”)
Wine Enthusiast said, “Parducci has been making excellent Petite Sirah like this for decades. Rich oak and potent fruit flavors combine for attention in this densely textured, full-bodied wine. It tightly packs in the blackberry and dark chocolate flavors with firm tannins, while keeping good balance despite its size.”
#3 Wine for the Group was (My personal #2):
Merisi Wines: 2014 Diener Vineyard, Lake County Petite Sirah, Retail $35 (Paired with meatloaf and fried green tomatoes)
(Paired with meatloaf and fried green tomatoes and bacon-wrapped dates)
Merisi Wines, named after the Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio, is owned by Mandy and Nick Donovan. Mandy is the winemaker and brings with her a decade of winemaking in Sonoma, New Zealand, Italy and Napa Valley.
The grapes for this powerful wine come from the steep hillsides of Lake County. Hot days and cool nights here make it possible to produce wines of intensity while maintaining a little finesse. Tasting notes speak of aromas of boysenberry liquor and mocha. At first sip, there is a taste and feeling of mouth coating, melted dark chocolate. Flavors of spicy, warm molasses come out on the finish.
I learned from this tasting that there are different expressions from this elusive grape. Different flavors from different regions and styles of wine making. But all had strong flavors of blackberries, chocolate, pepper and caramel.
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