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Petite Sirah: French Reject Excels in California

2012 February 21

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“Dark & Delicious” annual Petite Sirah tasting event

Petite Sirah is, along with Zinfandel, one of California’s heritage and most distinctive grapes. It can produce wonderfully complex, rich, black fruited wines, often with floral, blueberry, tar, licorice and peppery dimensions.

With several years of bottle age, the wine’s huge tannins start to soften and additional savory characteristics start to show. I have had wonderful examples with 20 years or more of age.

Mature Petite Sirahs

Mature Petite Sirahs

Petite Sirah has been grown in California since the 1880s. Its true origins, however, weren’t finally established until 1998.

Turns out that over 90% of what’s been identified as Petite Sirah in this state was originally the result of a cross between Syrah and Peloursin, an obscure French grape with resistance to powdery mildew. This crossing happened in southern French vineyards tended by Dr. Francois Durif, a botanist at the University of Montpellier in the 1870s. Dr. Durif gave the resulting vine his own name, Durif, and marketed it starting in 1880 as a mildew resistant alternative to Syrah, a condition that plagues Syrah in many parts of France.

Unfortunately, the grape also inherited from its Peloursin parent thin skins and a tendency to bunch very tightly. These characteristics made it highly prone to grey rot when grown in the relatively humid conditions of most French vineyards. As a result, farmers there quickly quit using it and it became virtually extinct in France.

Fortunately for those of us who love the big, bold flavors of the wine and its tendency to age well, the grape also made its way to California in the 1880s. Here it was typically planted along with other black grapes, like Syrah and Zinfandel, in field blends. Some growers called it “Petite Sirah,” which was a name by which it was known in France, because the grapes were smaller than Syrah grapes. Eventually, in the Italian winegrowing families in which very old vines of the grape became a legacy, the name contracted to something like “pettasera.”

While it was suspected among grape experts that many old vines identified as Petite Sirah might be Durif, due to their appearance, a definitive answer wasn’t available until U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith published her 1998 DNA study showing that over 90% of the old vines known as Petite Sirah in California were actually Durif. Those that aren’t Durif are misidentified vines of Syrah, Peloursin or a crossing of Peloursin and Durif.

U.C. Davis Professor Emeritus Carole Meredith

U.C. Davis Professor Emeritus Carole Meredith

California’s relatively warm, dry winegrowing climates allow Durif to ripen with relatively little of the grey rot that derailed the grape in France. The grape likewise does well in Australia’s warm Rutherglen region, where it has been grown since the early 1900s.

Because of its dark color, high tannins and strong black fruit flavors, it was historically used as a blending grape. A small percent helps to make more structured and ageworthy Zinfandels. Ridge and Rosenblum are among the producers that have long included it in many of their Zins. It was also added to Cabernets and Pinots in years when those grapes lacked color or needed a shot of tannin.

Livermore Valley’s Concannon was the very first producer to bottle wine from the grape under the label Petite Sirah, in 1964, after prodding by a Pasadena grocery store buyer who promised to take the whole production. Now there are dozens of Petite Sirah producers in California, and it’s become a very popular grape among many winemakers.

Petite Sirahs

Petite Sirahs

A Petite Sirah advocacy organization, PS I Love You, was formed in 2002 after a symposium devoted to the grape was held at Foppiano Vineyards. This past Friday, over 55 producers of Petite Sirah participated in the fifth annual public event devoted to the grape—an event called Dark & Delicious—at Rock Wall Winery in Alameda.

This was my second time attending this fun and friendly event. There I got to check in on a lot of producers whose wines I’ve enjoyed over the years, as well as to learn about a couple of new ones whose wines were quite good.

The food at this event, offered as potential pairings for Petite Sirah, is amazing. This year there were over 35 food purveyors, offering samples to show how well Petite Sirah/Durif pairs with a variety of food, from barbecue, pulled pork and meaty pastas to dark chocolate.

A few of the proposed pairings were too spicy to work with Petites, or any, wine, but most are delicious, savory and full of umami. There are also lots of chocolates and sweets, but I tried hard to resist those this year. Who can say no, though, to peanut brickle with bacon bits?

I didn’t get to all the producers, but managed to taste 77 wines from 42 wineries. Favorites as usual for me, with one or more wines scoring 92 points or higher, were Aver Family, David Fulton, Gustafson and Robert Biale. New higher scoring wines for me were Tercero’s ’08 Petite, and a totally new producer to me that I doubt I would have encountered but for this event–Trueheart. This small Sonoma Valley producer is only making Petite, from their two-acre home vineyard. I was very impressed by the result, from only their second vintage.

My top wines of the tasting, with scores of 92 points or higher, were:
2008 Aver Family Blessings – 92+ points
2008 David Fulton – 93 points
2007 Gustafson Family Dry Creek Mountain Vineyard – 92+ points
2009 Gustafson Family East Ridge Vineyard – 93 points
2009 Robert Biale Royal Punishers – 93+ points
2008 Robert Biale Thomann Station – 94 points
2009 Robert Biale Palisades Vineyard – 93+ points
2009 Robert Biale Like Father Like Son – 93+ points
2008 Tercero – 92 points
2009 Trueheart – 93+ points

For my complete tasting notes, and brief summaries on a few of the producers, see below:

Andis

  • 2009 ANDIS Wines Petite Sirah Reserve Goedeck-Liu – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, violet, tart plum nose; floral, violet, tart plum palate; ready now; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 ANDIS Wines Petite Sirah Reserve Goedeck-Liu – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Barrel sample – opaque black red violet color; tar, tart black fruit nose; tar, tart black fruit, sweet herbs, oak palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 88-90 points (88 pts.)

Aratas

  • 2009 Aratas Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; appealing, tart black fruit, tart blackberry, tart boysenberry, dark chocolate nose; tasty, tart black fruit, tart green herbs palate; needs 7 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Aver

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John and Carolyn Aver are the owners here. Their Petite Sirahs have gotten my attention since I first tasted them at the Dark & Delicious event two years ago. They bought their 8.25 acre vineyard in the Uvas Valley, at the southern end of Santa Clara County, in 2005. The southwest facing vineyard had already been planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Syrah, and they have since added Grenache and Mourvèdre. Their winemaker is Kian Tavakoli, whose previous stints were with Clos du Val and Opus One. Blessings is the name the Avers came up with for their Petite, after their vineyard managed to escape the fires that ravaged nearby properties in 2008.

  • 2009 Aver Family Family Album – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Clara Valley
    Pre-release – very dark black red violet color; focused, ripe plum, berry nose; tight, tart black fruit, plum, tart red berry palate with good acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (71% Petite Sirah, 20% Syrah, 9% Carignane) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Aver Family Petite Sirah Blessings – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Clara County
    Opaque black red violet color; violet, tart berry, tart plum nose; tight, tasty, velvety textured, tart black fruit, tart berry palate with good acidity; needs 5-6 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Baldwin

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Berryessa Gap

  • 2009 Berryessa Gap Durif – USA, California, Central Valley, Yolo County
    Pre-release (4/12 release) – opaque black red violet color; tart black fruit, baked black fruit, baked black fig nose; tart black fruit, black fig, herbs palate; needs 4-5 years; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Berryessa Gap Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Valley, Yolo County
    Very dark red violet color; intriguing, tart plum, tart currant nose; tight, tart currant, tart plum palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (75% Petite Sirah, with Zin, Syrah and Peloursin) (87 pts.)

Bogle

  • 2008 Bogle Vineyards Phantom – USA, California
    Dark red violet color; tart black fruit, tart berry nose; tart berry, tart black fruit palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (51% Zin, 47% Petite Sirah, 2% Mourvedre) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah – USA, California
    Very dark purple red violet color; tart black fruit, baked black fruit nose; tart baked black fruit, ripe currant palate; medium-plus finish (85 pts.)
  • 2008 Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah Reserve Old River Vineyard – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg
    Very dark red violet color; VA, tart black fruit, tart berry nose; tart black fruit, tart berry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (30 mos. in barrel) (86 pts.)

Clayhouse

Concannon

  • 2007 Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; smoke, tart black fruit nose; tight, tart black fruit, smoke, tar palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah Reserve Nina’s cuvee – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; oak, tart black fruit, smoke nose; tight, oak, tart black fruit, smoke, baked ham palate with low acidity; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)

David Fulton

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This is a thoroughly delicious and complex Petite that will take several years to fully show the range of flavors that are now rather tightly wound. No wonder–it comes from very old vines. This Napa vineyard was originally planted in 1860, and the owners advertise it as “the oldest, continuously owned and operated family vineyard” in all of California. Their first commercial release in 130 years, however, was with the ’99 vintage. The vineyard and winery is owned and managed today by the husband and wife team of Fulton (4th generation) and Dink Mather. The winemaker and winery consultant is Allen Price. They only make the Petite Sirah, and a mere 400 cases of that.

  • 2008 David Fulton Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
    Opaque black red violet color; appealing, lifted, black fruit, ripe berry, violet nose; ripe berry, blackberry, violet palate; needs 6 years; long finish (93 pts.)

Denier-Handal

  • 2009 Denier-Handal Petite Sirah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; focused, tart berry, tart plum, violet nose; tasty, ripe berry, ripe black fruit, violet palate with soft tannins; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Estrella Creek

  • 2007 Estrella Creek Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque black red violet color; baked berry, plum, baking spice nose; tight, baked plum berry, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Field Stone

  • 2008 Field Stone Petite Sirah Staten Family Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; ripe berry, baked berry nose; baked berry, baked black fruit palate; needs 3-r years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (108 yr old vines) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Field Stone Vintage Port Staten Family Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; ripe berry, ripe black fruit nose; sweet, ripe berry, blackberry, black fruit palate with no acidity; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)

Flying Horse

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  • 2009 Flying Horse Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; rich, effusive, ripe plum, blueberry nose; plush, ripe plum, black fruit, blueberry palate; needs 1 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Flying Horse Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark purple red violet color; lifted, violet, tart berry, blueberry nose; violet, tart berry, lavender palate; needs 1 year; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Foppiano

  • 2009 Foppiano Petite Sirah Lot 96 – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Opaque purple red violet color; tart berry, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit, tart plum palate; medium finish (80% Petite Sirah, with Grenache and Zin) (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Foppiano Petite Sirah Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; tart berry, tart plum nose; narrow, tart plum, tart black fruit palate; medium finish (85 pts.)

Gustafson

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The Gustafson Family vineyard is on the northwestern end of Dry Creek Valley, near Lake Sonoma. It’s an old sheep ranch, with red volcanic soil, at an elevation of 1800 feet. The entire property, purchased by Minnesota-based landscape architect and real estate developer Dan Gustafson in 2002, totals 247 acres. Much of that consists of old groves of madrone, oak, and redwood trees, including a 300-year-old madrone with a trunk diameter of eleven feet that is thought to be the largest madrone tree in Sonoma County. A small portion of the property was planted starting in 2002, and now totals about 20 acres of vineyards that include Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Winemaker Emmett Reed previously worked with winemaker Kerry Damskey, who has also been consulting winemaker to Gustafson. Based on the wines I’ve tried so far, I think the young grapes being grown on this site are excellent material, and that Emmett is seriously talented. Grapes are fermented in open-top bins with a cold soak of several days, manual punch-downs, and extended maceration. The beautifully designed winery and terrific views from their vineyards also make this a great destination for winetasting trips to Sonoma and Dry Creek.

Harney Lane

  • 2009 Harney Lane Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Opaque purple red violet color; tart black fruit, tar nose; tasty, plush, tart black fruit, tar, ripe black fruit palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Line 39

  • 2009 Line 39 Petite Sirah – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Dark purple red violet color; floral, raspberry, tart berry nose; tart berry, black raspberry, floral palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points (87 pts.)

McCay

  • 2008 McCay Cellars Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Opaque purple red violet color; unusual, roasted berry, tart plum, blueberry, baked fig nose; baked fig, black fruit, blueberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 McCay Cellars Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Very dark red violet color; floral, baked berry, violet nose; baked berry, violet palate with soft tannins; medium-plus finish 87+ points (87 pts.)

Miro

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  • 2010 Miro Cellars Petite Sirah Piccetti Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; tart plum, wild berry, tart black fruit nose; tasty, tart black fruit, charcoal, tar, dark chocolate palate; needs 5-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Mounts

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  • 2008 Mounts Family Winery Petite Sirah Estate Grown – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Very dark purple red violet color; focused, tart berry nose; tart berry, black currant, ripe black fruit palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Mounts Family Winery Petite Sirah Estate Grown – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; tart black fruit, green herb nose; tight, ripe black fruit, tar, dark chocolate palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 89+ points (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Mounts Family Winery Petite Sirah Petasera – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark purple red violet color; lifted, tart black fruit, tar nose; intense, tight, tar, tart black fruit palate; needs 5 years; long finish (91 pts.)

Occasio

  • 2009 Occasio Petite Sirah del Arroyo – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; floral, tart berry, ripe black fruit, plum nose; plush, chocolate, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Odonata

  • 2009 Odonata Petite Sirah Machado Creek Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Clara County
    Opaque purple red violet color; tart black fruit, dark chocolate nose; plush, dark chocolate, rich black fruit palate with light tannins; drinkable now; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Page Mill

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  • 2008 Page Mill Winery Petite Sirah Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; unusual, deep, baked berry, baked black fruit, floral nose; focused, tart berry, black fruit, floral, iodine palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (50% new American oak) (90 pts.)

Parducci

  • 2008 Parducci Petite Sirah True Grit – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very dark red violet color; savory, tart roasted meat nose; savory, roasted meat, oak palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (85 pts.)

Ridge

  • 2006 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill York Creek Vineyards – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Very dark red violet color; redolent, tart plum, tart currant, black fruit nose; tasty, poised, tart black fruit, tart plum, currant palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Ridge Petite Sirah Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, tart currant, tart plum nose; tasty, fresh tasting, carbonic maceration, tart plum, tart currant palate with herbal lift; approachable now but could use 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Robert Biale

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The Robert Biale Petites, like their Zinfandels, are always remarkable wines–ripe and powerful, but also complex and balanced. This is truly a benchmark producer of Petite Sirah in California. They source their Petite Sirah grapes from three different vineyards. The Like Father Like Son bottling is a blend of roughly equal amounts of Petite Sirah and Syrah, with a dollop of 7% Zin. The name “Royal Punishers” is an anagram made up of the letters from the names of Petite’s two parents–Syrah and Peloursin. The winemaker is Steve Hall.

  • 2009 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Royal Punishers – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; appealing, tart plum, tart black fruit, tart berry nose with lift; very tasty, tart black fruit, wild berry iodine palate; needs 4-5 years; long finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Thomann Station – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; very appealing, wild berry, tart black fruit, lavender nose; delicious, tart black fruit, lavender, tart berry, tart blackberry palate; approachable now; long finish (94 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Palisades Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
    Opaque black red violet color; focused, deep, tart plum, tart black fruit, berry, tar nose; tasty, rich, deep, tart black fruit, tar, mineral, tart dark chocolate palate; needs 5 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Biale Like Father Like Son – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark black red violet color; appealing, tart black fruit, violet, berry nose; tasty, rich, plush, velvety, berry, blackberry, black fruit, dark chocolate palate; delicious now but could use 2 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points (equal amounts Petite Sirah and Syrah with 7% Zin) (93 pts.)

Rock Wall

  • 2010 Rock Wall Wine Co. Obsidian – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
    Very dark purple red violet color; tart berry, tart plum nose; tart black fruit, tart berry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium finish (50/50 Zin/Petite Sirah blend) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Rock Wall Wine Co. Petite Sirah Ruckers Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, ripe black fruit, plum, floral nose; oak, ripe black fruit, plum, licorice palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Rock Wall Wine Co. Petite Sirah Gamble Ranch – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Opaque purple red violet color; focused, berry, violet nose; tasty, ripe berry, ripe black fruit, violet palate with integrating oak; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Rock Wall Wine Co. Petite Sirah Carver Sutro Palisades – USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
    Very dark red violet color; focused, tart black fruit, tart berry, light green herb nose; very tight, tart black fruit, green herb, tar palate; needs 7-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Rock Wall Wine Co. Petite Sirah Jack’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Pre-release (for 4/28/12 release) – opaque black red violet color; intriguing, baked plum, tar, licorice nose; baked plum, tar, licorice, bake fig palate with a sense of pepper; needs 3-plus years; long finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Rosenblum

Rutherford Grove

Sebastiani

  • 2010 Don Sebastiani & Sons Petite Sirah The Crusher – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg
    Opaque black red violet color; tart black fruit, pepper nose; tart black fruit, herbaceous, tart plum, currant palate with soft tannins; medium finish (86 pts.)

Shadowbrook

  • 2007 Shadowbrook Petite Sirah – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Contra Costa County
    Opaque purple red violet color; violet, blackberry, berry nose; rich, ripe black fruit, blackberry palate with soft, sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Smoking Loon

  • 2008 Smoking Loon Petite Sirah – USA, California
    Dark black red vioetl color; tart berry, black fruit, oak nose; light-medium bodied, tart black fruit, oak palate with no tannin; medium finish (83 pts.)

Stage Left

Teldeschi

  • 1999 Teldeschi Petite Sirah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Bricking medium dark red violet color; brett, tart currant, tart plum nose; mature, brett, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
  • 2000 Teldeschi Petite Sirah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Bricking medium dark red violet color; mature, tart currant, tart plum nose; mature, tart currant, tart red plum palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2001 Teldeschi Petite Sirah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Bricking medium dark red violet color; tart plum, light baked plum nose; tart plum, tart currant palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Tercero

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Tercero is the label started a few years back by Larry Schaffer, enologist for Fess Parker Winery. Larry is passionate about Rhone varieties, and those are the focus of what he makes for his Tercero label. I first met Larry through the wine boards, and I’ve tasted a number of Larry’s wines going back to the ’06 vintage, so I’ve seen his evolution as a winemaker. The ’08 Petite is his best wine yet, IMHO. Congrats Larry!

  • 2007 Tercero Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark red violet color; redolent, pesto sauce, tart berry, tart plum nose; tight, ripe berry, ripe plum, tart berry, iodine palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Tercero The Climb – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Very dark purple red violet color; appealing, focused, tart berry, black fruit, violet nose; tasty, ripe berry, black fruit, violet palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (50/50 Petite Sirah/Syrah) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Tercero Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; rich, poised, baked berry, ripe black fruit, tar nose; fresh, ripe berry, blackberry, black fruit palate; needs 4-5 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Tercero The Climb – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Very dark red violet color; violet, ripe berry, black fruit nose; focused, tart black fruit, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (2/3s Syrah, 1/3 Petite Sirah) (91 pts.)

Trentadue

  • 2009 Trentadue Winery Petite Sirah La Storia – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; ripe berry, blackberry, ripe black fruit nose; tasty, ripe black fruit, berry, baked plum, tar palate; medium-plus finish (96% Petite Sirah, 4% Syrah) (90 pts.)

Tres Sabores

  • 2009 Tres Sabores Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
    Opaque purple red violet color; tart black fruit, tart berry, grapey nose; plush, velvety, tart black fruit, tar palate; needs 7 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Trueheart

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This was my “find” of the tasting. The flavors are intense and focused, but the wine is balanced and structured. It’s one that should age beautifully.

Patrick Smith and Ligeia Polidora purchased a flat, tree-less piece of land near downtown Sonoma. They got a report from U.S. Davis as to what grapes would do well on the property, and selected one of the four recommendations, Petite Sirah, based on the fact that it was one that they already loved. In 2004, they planted two acres with two-year-old Petite Sirah vines. They decided to head prune, avoiding trellises and wires. They sold off their fruit in ’06 and ’07, but decided to start making their own wine in 2008. The winemaker is Alex Beloz, who served stints at MacRostie Winery and Caldwell Vineyards before becoming a partner in Obsidina Ridge Winery, while still serving as winemaking consultant for a handful of small producers.

  • 2009 Trueheart Vineyard Petite Sirah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Opaque black red violet color; focused, tart black fruit, iodine, tar nose; tasty, tight, tart black fruit, tar, tart black plum palate; needs 6 years; long finish 93+ points (2nd vintage) (93 pts.)

Turkovich

  • 2010 Turkovich Family Wines Petite Sirah The Boss – USA, California, Central Valley, Yolo County
    Very dark black red violet color; VA, berry cordial nose; tight, iodine, stewed black fruit palate; short-medium finish (77% Petite Sirah, 19% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot) (78 pts.)

Twisted Oak

  • 2005 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Very dark purple red violet color; brett, tart plum, currant nose; brett, tart plum, currant palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2006 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Very dark black red violet color; tart plum, tart berry nose; tasty, tart plum, tart berry, ripe currant palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Opaque black red violet color; tart black fruit, brett nose; tart berry, tart plum, violet palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah Calaveras County – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Barrel sample – opaque black red violet color; deep berry, violet, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit, violet palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 89-90+ points (90 pts.)

Viña Robles

  • 2007 Viña Robles Petite Sirah Fore Jardine Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque purple red violet color; oak, tart berry, ripe black fruit nose; tight, ripe black fruit, oak, berry palate; needs 8 years; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Viña Robles Petite Sirah Creston Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque black red violet color; tar, tart black fruit, oak nose; tight, tart black fruit, tar palate; needs 8 years; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Viña Robles Petite Sirah Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque black red violet color; tart black fruit, tar, oak nose; tight, tar, tart black fruit, herbs palate; needs 7 years; long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Viña Robles RED4 Huerhuero – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, floral, tart berry, plum, currant nose; tight, tart currant, red plum, tart black fruit palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 88+ points (42% Petite Sirah, 28% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre; doesn’t say Huerhuero Vineyard on ’09 edition) (88 pts.)

Wilson

  • 2008 Wilson Vineyards Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg
    Opaque black red violet color; deep black fruit, oak, vanilla nose; oak, ripe black fruit, tart black currant palate, a little hot; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

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13 Responses leave one →
  1. Jack Everitt permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Hey, I see a bottle of Switchback Ridge in one of the photos, but no text. ???

    • Richard Jennings permalink*
      February 21, 2012

      Jack,
      Switchback wasn’t at D&D. That was a picture from an earlier tasting that I blogged about.

  2. February 22, 2012

    Thanks, Richard, This is very comprehensive reporting. We really appreciate you taking as much time as you did to tell us about so many Petites. I can’t attend the event each year, because I’m there as the bottom line organizer and can’t VISIT. I’m too busy answering questions and solving problems. Reading your story allowed for me to be there vicariously.

    Bravo!

    • Richard Jennings permalink*
      February 22, 2012

      Jo
      Thank you for the kind words on my piece. And thanks for organizing the event! I have some sense of what an intense effort that is, and you and your team did a terrific job of keeping things fun and welcoming. Bravo to you!

  3. February 26, 2012

    Richard, thank you for attending the event; one focus, one wine, one wonderful evening! As a newcomer to this fabulous celebration, I was in heaven to have the opportunity to meet so many PetS fans, peer producers and to discover new favorites of my own all under one roof. Thank you for your support of our treasured ‘American Heritage Varietal’. Cheers! Stephanie Douglas

  4. February 28, 2012

    Richard,

    Thanks very much for your continued enthusiasm for our wines. And thanks to you, many of them are recorded on cellartracker.com. May I respectfully request that you review and record us J.Baldwin Wines. We’ve never been Baldwin Cellars.

    Thanks for all your devoted wine work.

    Jerry Baldwin

  5. February 28, 2012

    Richard,
    Thanks for such a wonderful exploration of many of the petites at Dark & Delicious. I, too, was working the event so didn’t get to enjoy all the wines you wrote about so I greatly appreciate ‘being part’ of your experience that evening.

  6. September 14, 2012

    Good job Rich-very detailed observations and notes. Miro

    • Richard Jennings permalink*
      September 14, 2012

      Miro,
      Thank you for the kind words. It was good to see you again at the event.
      –Richard

  7. January 18, 2014

    Hi Richard

    Amazing job and I feel like I was there at the event. I am going to plant 3 acres of PS in Liguria Italy in a town called Dolceacqua. Who would you recommend would be the best expert to talk to? And yes I am obsessed with ps!

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