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Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 20, Alameda

psiloveyou.jpgI've referred to it in the past as "the beast." Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent winemaking, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine. One of the least-well -known red grape varieties that are commonly grown in California, it does not command legions of rabid followers like Zinfandel or Cabernet or even Syrah, from which it takes its misleading name. In the right hands, however, Petite Sirah can be a stunning wine -- deep, resonant, and rich.

Petite Sirah has been grown in California for a long time, but apart from some limited success in the 1970s at the hands of Carl Doumani and Stags' Leap Winery, wines made exclusively from this grape variety never really earned the respect or attention of mainstream wine lovers in any significant way.

Yet producers all over the state continue, quietly, to make Petite Sirahs, and many have no trouble selling them at all to an equally quiet, but at times rabid following of wine lovers.

And occasionally, these producers, not so quietly serve up their wines with roast meats and chocolate for anyone who dares drink on the dark side, if you'll pardon the expression. The next opportunity you have to sample their wares will be Friday, February 20th, when the society of winegrowers and makers known as P.S. I Love You holds its annual tasting at The Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda.

By then you should be:

a) sufficiently recovered from the Zap Zinfandel festival

b) in the mood for something other than Zinfandel

So go check it out. Who knows, perhaps you'll fall in love too. The wineries that will be pouring at this year's event include:

Alger Vineyards
August Briggs Winery
Berryessa Gap
Ballentine Vineyards
Bogle Vineyards & Winery
Concannon Vineyard
David Fulton Winery
EOS Estate & Winery
F. Teldeschi Winery
Field Stone Winery
Foppiano Vineyards
Harney Lane Winery
Huntington Wine Cellars
JC Cellars
Judd's Hill
Lava Cap Winery
Marr Cellars
Michael~David Winery
Mounts Family Winery
Moss Creek
Parducci Winery
Rock Wall Wine Company
Robert Biale Vineyards
Rosenblum Cellars
Rutherford Grove Winery & Vineyards
Silkwood Wines
Stanton Vineyards
Trentadue Winery, Miro Cellars
Twisted Oak (and his rubber chickens)
Ursa Vineyards
Vina Robles
Wilson Farms

P.S. I Love You Dark and Delicious Tasting
February 20th, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Rock Wall Wine Company
2301 Monarch Street
Alameda, CA 94501 (map)

Tickets are $50 per person and will most likely sell out, as they do every year. If not, then tickets will be available at the door for $60. They should be purchased in advance online.

My usual recommendations for such public tastings apply. Wear dark clothes; arrive well slept and with food in your stomach (or chow down when you first get there); drink lots of water; and SPIT if you want to actually learn anything and enjoy yourself. These are big wines, often high in alcohol.

Comments (10)

02.11.09 at 2:25 AM

When the Aussie $ was going crazy against the US$ in the middle of last year, Fosters decided to start revving up the importing of their sister brands from the US and put on a bit of a show in Sydney with Stags Leap, Etude and some Italian numbers.

The Stags Leap Petit Syrah was awesome. I can't seem to find my notes but it may have been 05. We call it Durif down under but most of ours are a bit bigger and juicier than this, although the tannin structure was quite similar.

Funny though, after all that promotion I hardly ever see the wines around anywhere. Maybe they all went into the on-trade? Anyway, I loved the Stags Leap, end of story.

02.11.09 at 6:30 AM

Will be sure to stop by.

Erika Smith wrote:
02.11.09 at 6:30 AM

A couple of years ago, I fell in love with the '03 San Simeon Petite Sirah. Big but kind. I order two bottles near my birthday every year, (even though August does not always produce the best climate for this often hot wine) and taste past and current vintage, my mini vertical. I have always gravitated towards this grape. If I were a wine, it would definitely be Petite Sirah.

BaroloBoy wrote:
02.11.09 at 9:44 AM

Rosenblum Pickett Lane PS is brilliant most every vintage... and I think it was Markham that impressed me with a nice PS last year. I agree with your summarization... only a few places make a nice PS. But Stags Leap Winery and the two I mention above are my favorites. I haven't opened my Corta RIva PS yet... that one is supposed to be such a monster that I am laying them down for a while.

Loweeel wrote:
02.11.09 at 9:58 AM

Not legions, yet, but give me time! We PSychos are growing in number...

Morton Leslie wrote:
02.11.09 at 11:06 AM

I made varietal labeled Petite Sirah for eleven years from a couple dozen Napa Valley growers. We paid for the grape the same as other "commons" like Grenache, Carignane, Alicante, and Early Burgundy. All of those vineyards are now growing "noble" grape varieties.

I was initially a fan. I made it every which way, low alcohol, high alcohol, short or long fermentations, carbonic mascerated,free run, with press, with French oak, without French oak. One year there was a shortage of red wine in the S.J. valley so a producer sent me Thompson juice and after I took off my free run P.S., I filled the tank back up with white juice and made a second batch of dark red wine which we shipped back to the valley at a profit.

I still have a lot of single vineyard special bottlings in my cellar. I've changed my attitude from a fan to one of mild curiosity. I do admit occasionally I find a tasty one, but not often.

Petite Sirah (Durif) has been around for centuries and has never become mainstream. I'm pretty sure it never will. It has an inherent coarseness and simplicity that some people find attactive, but many don't. The trend is to cover this coarseness up with alcohol (what many call tannin management). Those wines don't appeal to me.

If I had a vineyard of Petite Sirah I would remove a portion and plant a Rhone white variety and some Grenache. The white to soften and brighten the fruit aroma, the Grenache to give it a little zing.

Dylan wrote:
02.11.09 at 4:18 PM

I think there's plenty of room within the world of mainstream wines. As long as the producer has a large enough following to live comfortably and continue their work, there's no reason that certain varietals (like Petite Sirah) or blends should not be embraced for their niche fan-base.

As with most things in life, it's not important that everyone loves it, just as long as you do.

Jo Diaz wrote:
02.11.09 at 8:08 PM

Thanks for the plug, Alder.

PS is a true tortoise and hare story... For the past six years, as I've been marketing the variety through PS I Love You, I've watched 60 growers and producers *combined) grow to over 600! That number astounds me (I've got the data base to prove it).

With only about 7,000 planted acres of PS in the US - this phenomenon continues to astound me.

What I've learned from not only putting on the annual PS Symposium, but also being the PS historian and liaison for the wine industry with this cultivar among UC Davis, the trade, media, and the public is that we've got a cult variety on our hands.

It is so many winemakers/producers' "Pet" project: David Bruce, Carl Doumani, Lou Foppiano, Robert Brittan, Kent Rosenblum, Jeff Cohn, Jim Concannon, Adam Richardson, Paul Draper, Paul Dolan... my list goes ever on (forgive me guys for not listing you all here).

Full list www.psiloveyou.org

Many, many winemakers do what's popular (cash flow) and then do what's passionate (PS).

Dark & Delicious will have 27 food options... Arrive with an appetite! You won't leave hungry for anything except more Petite! Promise

The Crush wrote:
02.16.09 at 10:16 PM

I've chewed through quite a few PS's this year and found two that are worth trying - Bogle (a very good wine) and the Mexican LA Cetto (a good wine) because you absolutely cannot beat the price/quality ratio that these two bring to the table. Enjoy!!

BaroloDude wrote:
07.28.09 at 2:52 PM

The best PS in Napa comes from Elyse. Their Jacob Franklin label Petite Sirah is brilliant. ImHO of course!

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