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Volume 34, Issue 9: July 2010

Petite Sirah

In a slow but continuing climb back to full grace in California, this year’s versions of Petite Sirah edge closer to what might be called “brawny accessibility”. It matters not that massively tannic Petite Sirah can age for a couple of decades or more (a thesis we will test one of these days with wine from our cellars going all the way back to the early 70s). What matters is that this muscular wine, when not littered with unmannerly astringency, has a center of fruit that cuts through its mass and muscle as a mealtime mate to sturdy hunks of savory beef, lamb and venison. With wines of that ilk on the increase, Petite Sirah is likely to continue to gain popularity.



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78
JUDD'S HILL
Old Vine
Petite Sirah
 Lodi 2006
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Even without its off-putting infusion of stewed vegetation, this heavy, poorly constructed wine is at the same time so fat and so tough that it would be hard to like even with age. It is one that is easy to leave on the shelf.
Reviewed: July 2010
81
LANGE TWINS
Petite Sirah
 California 2008
$18.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink NowLamb
One of its Lodi-area neighbors has made a good go with this unusual blend, but the Lange Twins have not. The wine is odd in smell with a bit of cooked meat melded with wet wool and green spices in the nose and follows with wan, burnt wood flavors of little charm.
Reviewed: July 2010
81
HERINGER
Holland Landing
Petite Sirah
 Clarksburg 2005
$21.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Although its peculiar mix of dried herbs, old leather, earth and souring berries might be charitably called complex, this murky take on Petite is both too tart and too tannic, and it misses any reasonable varietal mark.
Reviewed: July 2010
82
GUENOC
Petite Sirah
 Lake County 2007
$15.00
Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
If faintly herbal and hinting at blackberries in the nose, this sere, acid-edged wine is wholly without fruit out in the mouth, and its combination of mouth-drying tannin and wiry tartness makes for an unpleasant finish.
Reviewed: July 2010
82
SEVEN ARTISANS
Clayton Road Ranches
Petite Sirah
 Suisun Valley 2007
$18.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
If possessing all of the toughness and very high tannins of Petite Sirah, this brushy, vaguely earthy, chocolate-tinged offering has virtually no compensating fruit at its heart, and its harsh, out-of-bounds astringency makes a second sip all but impossible.
Reviewed: July 2010
83
PEDRONCELLI
Petite Sirah
 Dry Creek Valley 2006
$15.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
A bit tense and nervy on the nose with a sparse smattering of woody spice, this oddly hollow, decidedly crude customer lacks clear fruity direction right from the start and fails to find it as sere, tannin-induced dryness becomes its most lasting trait.
Reviewed: July 2010
83
ROSENBLUM
Pickett Road
Petite Sirah
 Napa Valley 2007
$35.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Over the top pruniness and a sour edge drops this wine from any serious consideration, and even those who like bold Petite Sirah will still wonder what happened with this one. Its fleshy, soft and thick palatal impressions are followed by massive tannins that are its only varietal trait.
Reviewed: July 2010
83
LAVA CAP
Reserve
Petite Sirah
 El Dorado 2007
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink NowBeef/Lamb
There was a time when Lava Cap was one of our favorite visits in the Sierra Foothillls, but the winery has been seen far less success of late, and wines like this one are now as likely to be seen as its more likeable mate above. "Reserve" or not, this one is lighter in cast with its cranberry, blackberry fruit looking for greater depth and for more specific varietal definition. It is soft, woodsy, close to empty on the palate.
Reviewed: July 2010
83
CONCANNON
Conservancy
Petite Sirah
 Livermore Valley 2007
$14.00
Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
Although its dusty, lightly spicy, loosely defined nose conveys a scant note of berries, this wine proves to be thin and withered at its heart, and its sere, acid-pushed tannins are never matched by nearly enough fruit to suggest that time will prove to be an ally in any meaningful way.
Reviewed: July 2010
83
CONCANNON
Petite Sirah
 Central Coast 2007
$10.00
Generally AvailableDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
From its odd, half-candied aromas to its undercurrent of souring acid, this cheap-tasting wine does little to please, and it is entirely lacking the strength, spice and dark fruit that, in the end, are the defining traits of Petite Sirah.
Reviewed: July 2010
84
CUPCAKE
Petite Sirah
 Central Coast 2007
$14.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
If, on the one hand, this relatively firm, medium-full-bodied effort offers up a pleasant bit of raspberry-like fruit, it does not deliver expressive Petite Sirah character. It sits at the lighter end of the varietal spectrum with regard to tannin and shows an angular edge of tangy acidity as its fruit pulls up short at the finish. It may reward a few years of keeping, but it possesses very clear limits now or later.
Reviewed: July 2010
84
CANIS MAJOR
Petite Sirah
 Dry Creek Valley 2007
$25.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
To its credit, this very dense and highly ripened Petite Sirah is wholly on point with respect to varietal sinew and strength, but it is undermined by a marked streak of sourness, and its combination of stiffening acids and hard-edged tannins leaves it well short of success.
Reviewed: July 2010
84
RETRO
Old Vine
Petite Sirah
 Howell Mountain 2006
$45.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
While it may not claim high alcohol, this fat and very full-bodied wine is in all ways fixed on ripeness, and its meager glimmers of dried-berry fruit are simply overwhelmed by dark chocolate and fierce, tongue-numbing tannins. It may be varietal, but it lacks a sense of balance and control, and it cannot but grow ever drier and drier with time.
Reviewed: July 2010
84
URSA
Naggiar Vineyards
Petite Sirah
 Sierra Foothills 2006
$22.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
The softest and ripest of the four Ursa offerings, this bottling starts out with a solidly spicy Petite Sirah nose, but its comes up heavy and flat on the palate with nominal tannins and a bit of heat surpassing its fleeting fruit.
Reviewed: July 2010
84
VICTOR HUGO
Petite Sirah
 Paso Robles 2007
$22.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeLamb
Moderately fruit and sweetly oaked at first sniff, then revealing itself to be somewhat less than fully ripened in its fruit, this wine is medium-full in the mouth and somewhat stiff in texture. Initial flavors of blackberries give ground to green acidity by mid-palate and offer limited hope for the future.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
ROCK WALL
Petite Sirah
 Mendocino County 2007
$28.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
Very ripe in the nose with glimmers of raisins set against sweet oak, dried flowers and a wisp of dried spice, this uneven wine is both tart and very astringent, and its colliding acids and tannins make things so coarse at the finish that it might still be tough after a generation has passed.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
URSA
Old Vines Reserve. Shell Creek Vineyard.
Petite Sirah
 Paso Robles 2006
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
If rife with dark chocolate and very dense on the palate, this brawny wine comes up short on the fruity essentials. It is full-bodied, fairly tough and a touch thick in feel, and it is too soon blunted by bitter back-end tannins and finishes with a bit of a thud.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
URSA
Vineyard Blend
Petite Sirah
 California 2006
$16.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
But for its slightly outsized tannins, this bottling says little about Petite Sirah. It smacks loosely of cherries and red berries and is trimmed with a spark of acidy brightness. A bit lighter in body than is the varietal norm, it gets a little too puckery for its own good at the finish.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
ESOTERICA
Chavez-Leeds Vineyard
Petite Sirah
 Rutherford. Napa Valley. 2007
$40.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Unusual might be a better way to describe this wine than "esoteric". True, it is the limited ripeness of the wine that takes it far from of the varietal norm, but it offers nothing special or demanding of special knowledge-unless thin, underripe Petite Sirah with a leafy, green streak and hard-to-find varietal expression qualifies.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
BOGLE
Petite Sirah
 California 2007
$11.00
GOOD VALUE
Generally AvailableDrink NowLamb
If you do not mind a little caramel heading to molasses in your medium-bodied Petite Sirah, and you are not one who requires mass and muscle as part of the deal, then this direct, easy-going effort will reward both your palate and your pocketbook.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
BOGLE
Petite Sirah
 California 2006
$11.00
GOOD VALUE
Generally AvailableDrink NowLamb
You have to hand it to Bogle-three solid wines at their stated prices. This one is seemingly a bit stiffer than its 2007 mate above and less dense in its fruit, but it has clean, bright, direct character and decent balance, and if not Petite Sirah in the classic, brawny manner, it is a wholly useful wine for lighter red meat dishes.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
CONCANNON
Nina's Cuvée
Petite Sirah
 Livermore Valley 2006
$30.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
There is a lot to like in the complex and concentrated ripe-berry nose of this very promising wine, but promise is not met on the palate, and the its limited flavors come up surprisingly shallow and lacking in range. If it is slightly lighter in tannin by varietal standards, its truncated finish is dry and puckery owing to the absence of fruit.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
J. RICKARDS
Brown Barn Vineyard
Petite Sirah
 Alexander Valley 2007
$24.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
Despite a bit of help from its complement of slightly sweet oak, this chunky, not-quite-filled wine wants a little more fruit with which to buffer its hard-to-ignore tannins. It has solid varietal credentials but winds up tough and a little washed out at the end, and we do not see how aging alone will fill in its too many spaces.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
CONCANNON
Captain Joe's
Petite Sirah
 Livermore Valley 2006
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
It may be fair to complain that this wine compares a touch too closely with the producer's Nina's Cuvée in that its aromas show more interest that do its flavors, but, in this instance, it is a bit better filled and weathers its formidable finishing astringency without giving up. Beauty, however, is now and will remain well out of its reach, and it is a wine that needs tagging for drinking with rustic fare.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
BERRYESSA GAP
Reserve
Petite Sirah
 Yolo County 2006
$18.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
It would be hard to argue that this wine is especially revealing of classic Petite, but its milder manner and accessible, slightly strawberry-like fruit are far from being liabilities. It slowly gives ground to back-palate tannins and gets a bit gritty and sere at the end, but its fruit never quite fades from view and has a fair chance of surviving the half-dozen or so years of cellaring that seems called for here.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
ARTEZIN
Petite Sirah
 Mendocino County 2007
$25.00
Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
A bit longer on the lightly dusty, somewhat peppery spice of the grape than it is on evident fruit, this tough, tannin-framed working nevertheless flirts here and there with suggestions of dark berries, and its astringency is still within varietal bounds. It will benefit from a half-dozen years of age and is the kind of wine that will want pairing with savory, marinated lamb.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
SILKWOOD
Stanislaus County
Petite Sirah
  2007
$39.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
Out-sized astringency and extreme oak stand out before most everything else in this brash, very ripe, big-bodied effort, and, if a dollop of fruit lurks at the wine's heart, it fails to fully come to the fore. For all of its ripeness and sweet barrel spice, this one is ultimately defined by its twenty-year tannins, and only dyed-in-the-wool optimists need apply.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
ROSENBLUM
Kick Ranch
Petite Sirah
 Sonoma County 2007
$35.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Blunt, blocky, dense, smelling of overripeness but not as full in body as its nose predicts, this wine is a bit of a challenge because it does not have the fruit necessary to bring itself into complete balance. Its tannins will offend some, but aficionados will flock to its power and not mind.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
ROSENBLUM
Heritage Clones
Petite Sirah
 California 2007
$18.00
GOOD VALUE
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Starting off well enough with plump, ripe, dried berry smells and adding in a nice touch of dried spice, this wine drifts away on the palate where its fruit comes up a bit on the short side to counter its wave of crashing latter-palate tannins. At the price, it is going to find plenty of takers who admire its no-holds-barred muscle.
Reviewed: July 2010
87
TRINITAS
Old Vine
Petite Sirah
 Lodi 2006
$22.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink NowSpicy Dishes
A bit of heavy-handedness shows up in this rich wine, but it has enough bacony, ripe blackberry, meaty character at its heart to overcome that minor distraction. It is, instead, full and supple at the front of the palate with a noticeable but not abrasive streak of expected astringency. It could use a few years of cellar aging but does not demand it.
Reviewed: July 2010
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Tasting Note View

Brief ViewFull View
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Rating System

THREE STARS:(95-98 points) An exceptional wine. Worth a special search of the market.

TWO STARS:(91-94 points) A highly distinctive wine. Likely to be memorable.

ONE STAR:(87-90 points) Fine example of a type or style of wine. Without notable flaws.

Note: Wines not marked with stars are often delightful wines. Each has unique virtues and any of these wines may be the best wine to serve your needs based on value, availability or for your dining and taste preferences.

95-98 3 Stars
91-94 2 Stars
87-90 1 Star
80-86 Wines of varying quality and value. See tasting notes for details.
70-79 Flawed wines to be avoided.

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Ageworthiness

Drinkable now. Unlikely to improve with further aging.

Drinkable now. Further bottle aging can improve this wine.

Cellar for future drinking. Wine will improve with bottle aging.

Not suitable for drinking.

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Food & Wine Pairings

Soft and fruity wine Quaffable by itself or with light foods.

Crisp white. Medium acid and dry. Fish or delicate flavored foods.

Mellow white. Dry to slightly sweet. Enough acid for white meats.

Full and balanced dry white. Try with rich seafood and fowl dishes.

Light Red and powerhouse White. Fowl, veal and light meats.

Medium Red. Balanced, good depth, medium tannin. Beef and lamb.

Robust Red. Full tannin, intense flavors. For highly spiced meat dishes.

Sweet Dessert wine. Enjoyable by itself or with sweet desserts.

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Availability

Generally available in most markets.

Limited production and/or limited geographic distribution.

Very limited availability.