Thursday, December 06, 2007

Whatever Will Be, Will Be...Petite Sirah

Our neighbors Jeff and Christine joined us for dinner recently to celebrate Christine's brief return to the neighborhood. She'd been spending some time in (and would be returning to) Texas to help her sister her newborn young'un. The Sweet Partner in Crime and I put together a spread, and as the evening wore on, the wines we'd selected started to run a bit low.

I headed to the rack and pulled a bottle of Petite Sirah I'd picked out on a whim a few days before. I poured us a few glasses. Christine asked what it was. I told them and the two of them simultaneously broke into song:

"Petite Sirah, Sirah…whatever will be, will be…this wine tastes so good to me…Petite Sirah, Sirah…"

We all thought it was pretty daggone funny. Of course, this was our fifth bottle of the evening…

In any case, back to the wine. Petite Sirah (sometimes called Petite Syrah, Petit Sirah, or Durif) is a completely different grape varietal than Syrah. The grape was first cloned in France in the late 1800's by one...wait for it...Dr. Durif. He crossed a syrah grape with a French varietal called Peloursin and voila! This grape found its way to California, where it discovered its main home. It largely grows in the Napa/Sonoma area, France and, somewhat surprisingly, Israel.

When we made our first big wine trip to Sonoma, we experienced petit sirah for the first time at our first tasting at our B&B. This powerfully flavored wine opened our eyes to the notion that there was a heck of a lot we didn't know. The rest is history.

Petite Sirahs are generally big, inky reds that are often intensely fragrant. They're often quite tannic and can age for years. Petite Sirah was considered a "boutique" wine for many years. More and more of them are now finding their way into the general marketplace. Foodwise, they often pair with any kind of roasted meat, game, earthy vegetables and (sweet heaven) they're wonderful wines to have with chocolate. They should be decanted for awhile after opening, in general. They need a little time and some good swirling to open up. But once they do, they can be, in the words of a friend of mine, "total ass kickers."

If you're a fan of Syrah and Zinfandel, it's certainly worth trying a couple of bottles.

Bogle 2005 Petit Sirah -- I've long been a fan of Bogle, even though I haven't reviewed many of them for the column. They're generally solid, dependable reds. They didn't let us down with the Petit Sirah. This one has a big nose of plums and, believe it or not, apple pie. The body is quite big, and the fruit's pretty bold. The finish starts fruity, but then turns quickly dry and hangs on for a good long while. $9-11.

Oak Grove 2005 Petite Sirah Reserve -- This was the wine which caused the spontaneous post-gustatory singing. As I've mentioned, this varietal has a number of different spellings. This apparently caused their label writer to fall victim to synonym trouble. The label states that fruit flavors "explode on the pallet." If this were truly the case, Oak Grove's warehouses must be a mess. The wine itself is fruity, although not as strong as the Bogle. The SPinC thought it was more subtle than many petite sirahs, and I agree. The nose isn't as strong, nor is the fruit as intense, so it's probably more accessible for someone who's not tried a lot of them. The finish is dry and relatively quick. Still, as pointed out above, it is a pretty good tasting entry. For some, good enough to sing for. $7-8.

Guenoc 2005 Lake County Petite Sirah -- I pulled the cork from this bottle to find "Langtry" stamped on the side. Guenoc is Langtry Estates' second label. Their "estate" petite sirah will set you back $40, but you can find this one for about a third of that price. The nose of this wine rushes from the glass with a blast of mint and blueberry. From the other side of the couch, the SPinC said, "I can smell the mint from here." The nose also has a slight yeasty scent. The body is medium, much like a red Burgundy. The finish then turns dry as the tannin takes over, but it's a very pleasant wine. This wine recently took home "Best Petit Sirah" at the California State Fair. Give it a go at $10-12.

1 comment:

ZinZen said...

Great intro, Mike. Thank you!

We love your unbiased and unvarnished winescapades. Please do not conform.

Though not Rosenblum's "favorite son," and only touted by a few ink-buffs (all, though, upon experimental sippage!), we (my cronies and I) have been startled by the deep, highly extracted flavors of the Heritage Clones Petite Sirah. The 2003 and 2004 were in my humble opinion solid 92-93s on the Parker calibration scale.

The 2005 and 2006 are, sadly a bit thinner, but none-the-less hedonism in a bottle.

Take your grandmother's old knife, the one with a broad, round-edged blade and a chipped bakelite handle and...spread this Sirah on some Silvercup whitebread!

At about 30 proof it is almost Port, but balanced and delicious.

When you open your first bottle the kitchen will fill with the smell of dark fruit and become redolent with everything PS is famous for.

Careful though, it will be tough going back to that skinny-boy Bogle or anything else for that matter.

Friends decant for an hour or two (I like that protocol too), but quite by accident I discovered a little chill somehow tightens up this magical potion and blows peoples' minds.

Let me know what you think.


P.S. I just checked and Robert Parker (who knows well the Rhone profile...and the very best) gave the 2005 90/100.