Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #40: Petite Sirah

Welcome to WBW #40, the monthly online tasting event that Lenndevours thought up over three years ago. This month our tasting theme was set by Sonadora, the Wannabe Wino. She picked Petite Sirah, the misunderstood and variably spelled grape variety whose mysterious origins were only established in 2003 when it was discovered that California's Petite Sirah was actually the French variety Durif--a cross between Pelousin and Syrah that had never really distinguished itself as a stand-alone grape in its home country but was usually used as a mix-in for other red blends.

This grape took very well to California, however, where warmer temperatures led to higher levels of ripeness. In the 1940s Larkmead (now known for its Cabernet Sauvignon) and Louis Martini started bottling "Duriff" wines that were probably made with Petite Sirah. Today more than 60 California producers make wine with this grape, including the folks at Twisted Oak. As soon as this theme was announced, I knew I had to have one of their Petite Sirahs from the Silvaspoons Vineyard in Lodi.

The 2004 Twisted Oak Silvaspoons Vineyard Petite Sirah was a terrific example of this varietal and what it can achieve if it is fully ripe when harvested. ($23.99, WineQ) Juicy aromas of boysenberry, plum, and sweet oak gave way to a palate of plummy richness with notes of fig which were entirely unexpected and added to the complexity of the wine. The finish had just a touch of cracked pepper--one of the hallmarks of this grape--and a nice tannic grip. We did decant this wine for 30 minutes since when I first opened it up it was a bit too mouth-puckering and dry. Petite Sirah is known for its long-term aging potential, so this was not entirely surprising. The 2004 Twisted Oak opened up nicely with just that little bit of extra air, and it continued to bloom and develop over the course of the evening. If you are lucky enough to have a bottle, I would give it another 6-12 months in the bottle, and it will be even better. A little more than I pay for most of my wine, this was complex enough that I felt the price was worth it--very good QPR.

With Petite Sirah, I find I crave something meaty and rustic, like stew or chile. We had it instead with meatloaf made according to the revised Joy of Cooking's recipe that uses oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs, and slathers chili sauce on top instead of the usual ketchup for a bit of extra kick. With it? Mashed potatoes and green beans of course. The Petite Sirah's unpretentious richness went just perfectly with this homey, comfortable, and tasty meal.

If this review makes your mouth water for something a bit twisted, there is a new vintage of this wine out now, so if you can't get your hands on the 04 you may want to set your sights on the 05 instead. Thanks to Sonadora for a great theme, and I will be posting a link to the roundup as soon as it's available.


Sonadora said...

As usual, and excellent choice Dr. Debs! I also went with the TO 2004 PS! I am looking forward to trying the 05 too, maybe it will come to me now that Santa is bringing me a Twisted Few membership.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dr Debs
Great write up, I will have to try this Twisted Oak as well as others since you and Sonadora talk it up quite often. I have to say I have not had any of their wines yet. I know shame on me!!

Anything Wine

Loweeel said...

From a long-time reader, great review! Keep up the good work on this underappreciated cultivar (but don't even try the Guenoc, it's not worth it)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you did it right Deb, with food is definitely the way to go with these powerful petite sirah wines. Meatloaf w/ a chili sauce will stand up to just about anything I think!! :)

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, 'Dora. The TO is not exactly on the shelves at Ralph's, John, but it isn't hard to get in CA, or in a state that can accept wine from CA, so if all else fails order it straight from them. Thanks, Loweel. Somebody tried to sell me the Guenoc, but I passed. And John--meatloaf does stand up to anything. I think lots of people make the mistake of trying to pair PS with steak. Stews/chili/meatloaf--heavier, more rustic foods--is better, I think.

Jeff said...

Is ANYTHING better than meatloaf? And if you add mashed potatoes and green beans, I'm hungry.

Dr. Debs said...

Not with PS, in my opinion, and if there is something better, I haven't found it yet...meatloaf is a sadly under-appreciated foodstuff--except by you and me!

Jeff said...

And what about a cold meatloaf sandwich the next day? I think I have to make meatloaf this week.