Nothing "petite" about this trio
Petite Sirah is a grape that absolutely fascinates me. Popularity-wise, it’s a bit of a fringe player in the wine world. Often it’s blended in with other grapes, most commonly Zinfandel. While there are quite a number of them out there, a look at most wine or liquor store shelves won’t often reveal more than a handful of Petite Sirah selections. So at times, it can be hit or miss to find exactly what you’re looking for. Yet there are cult bottlings of this grape and a group, PS I love you, dedicated to advocating its greatness.
There are a few things that really get my attention when it comes to Petite Sirah. First, it’s often so dark, brooding and massively intense in flavor. Second, these wines -- at almost any price point -- seem to age in an interesting manner. Frequently they become earthier and mellower with a decade or more in the bottle. Petite Sirah is also, more often than not, an excellent value. I’m going to look at three different Petite Sirahs in varying price categories.
First up is the Parducci Wine Company’s 2005 Petite Sirah. Parducci is a Mendocino, winery that uses sustainable winemaking practices. They’re amongst a small handful of the first producers to bottle Petite Sirah as a stand-alone varietal. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99.
This 2005 offering has cherry and earth aromas that are underscored by subtle vanilla that wafts through the nose. When you take the first sip, dark fleshy plum comes out prominently, and is accompanied by more cherry characteristics. As this wine winds it way through your senses, dark chocolate notes, as well as hints of coffee and earth, come out and leave a lasting impression in the finish.
What I like about this offering from Parducci is that it’s well balanced. It has both a solid core of fruit flavors and good acidity that make it a natural to pair with food. A little lighter in style than most Petite Sirah’s, this one will match nicely with a classic Italian Sunday dinner. They also make a Petite Sirah called True Grit, that I reviewed on my blog a while back.
The second wine I’m looking at comes from Pedroncelli. They’re a long-standing family winery located in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. I have been drinking their wines for more than 15 years and find that they consistently provide a lot of bang for the buck.
The 2005 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah is 85 percent Petite Sirah, with the balance being Zinfandel. This wine spent 23 months in American oak. Production was limited and the suggested retail price is $14.50.
The 2005 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah is a young wine right now, and decanting this selection is strongly recommended. A couple of hours will do wonders to help this wine open up. Once it’s had a chance to breathe, you’ll find classic Dry Creek aromas of earth and rich, dark berry fruit. From the first sip, the Zinfandel that’s blended in makes its presence known by way of black pepper notes that linger through this wine’s palate. Dry, brambly, earthy berry fruit dominates the mid-palate of this wine, while dried blueberries, fig and spice notes make up the fairly lengthy finish. This wine is full of fruit, but balanced by a terrific acidity. As with the other Pedroncelli wines I’ve had over the years, this Petite Sirah was built to accompany food. I’d recommend strong cheeses and grilled red meats as perfect foils for this one.
After this wine had been open for a full 24 hours, I went back to see how it was holding up. Not only had it not lost a thing, it’s safe to say it had improved in that time span. Layers of complexity that were not evident the day before came to the forefront. Pedroncelli suggests that this wine will drink well for 15 years. Honestly, that might be conservative. In any case, this is a classic example of Petite Sirah and an absolute steal at its price point.
The third wine I’m looking at comes from Two Angels. They’re a Napa Valley producer that sources fruit from all over the state. The label they use is from artwork created in 1591, giving it a classic look.
The Two Angels 2006 Petite Sirah is 100 percent varietal. The grapes for this selection are from California’s Shannon Ridge Vineyards (a fine winery in its own right) in High Valley, which is north of Napa in Lake County. About 8,900 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $26.99.
When you pour this wine and lift the glass the aromas explode out of it. Plum, dark berry and violets are all present. As you start to sip it, your senses are hit with an absolute avalanche of dark berry fruit flavors throughout the palate. Blackberry, raspberry and boysenberry are a few of the rich fruit flavors accompanied by an undercurrent of clove and nutmeg spice elements. As you get to the finish of this wine, the rich fruit gives way to earth and chicory notes. Pair this wine with big, bold foods such as pulled pork, or a juicy burger loaded with bacon and blue cheese.
What I like best about the Two Angels Petite Sirah is that for such a big, rich, bruiser of a wine it’s actually impressively smooth and silky going down.
All three of these Petite Sirahs deliver a tremendous amount of pleasure and offer above-average value in their price ranges. However, the two Angels is the most impressive overall effort and the Pedroncelli is the best overall value. Tasted side by side, they would be a fascinating way to quickly get a feel for the different faces of Petite Sirah.