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PETITE SIRAH

March 11, 2002 • WestAmerica Bank

Don't you just love David & Goliath stories? Especially when it comes to an inexpensive David wine that kno¢ks off the expen$ive Goliath$? Now and then it happens and this was one of those times. Of late, we've noticed many of the bargains to be found in red wine often have a Rhône connection. Just what is the connection of this Petite Sirah grape, anyway, that is only made by California wineries? Could be Durif, so we tasted one of these -- from Australia -- as well; and it fared well, too. Apparently the origin and true identity of this "varietal" is not an issue (see Petite Sirah varietal profile) that concerns the BATF regulators, nor does their label approval division seem to have a preferred spelling ... Que Sirah, Syrah? Be mindful that controversy divided the panelists along love/hate sides in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant. Wines that lacked any herbaceous or vegetal elements, or those most subtly incorporating them, survived the battle.

Brand Varietal / "Type"
Vintage,
Appellation, Vineyard

TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish. Alcohol. Varietal composition
(if known). Summary. ($ paid)

Wines are considered Equal Quality
Within Categories of Recommendation
(Listed Alphabetically by Brand)

consensus terms appear in bold
(possible flaws? are in brackets)
* indicates a second or third party
WEBSITE

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Bogle Petite Sirah label.Bogle Petite Sirah
2000
California

Dark plum purple; lots of young, bright, ripe black cherry and berry fruit aromas with honeysuckle, prune, and traces of oak, butter, vanilla, and cedar; clean, pleasant, gentle, fresh and jammy-roasted fruit flavors of plum and prune with some black pepper spice (rubber?); medium body, fleshy, round, good mouth feel; good balance, slightly low acid; fairly long and pleasant finish, faintly bitter, but without intense tannin. 13.5% alc. This is a very well made wine that maintains exemplary varietal character, while crafted in a clean, simple, easy-drinking style and offered at a reasonable price ... stock up! ($9) BEST BUY WEBSITE

Stanton & Killeen Durif label.Stanton & Killeen Durif
"Moodemere Red" 1997
Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia

Dark purple with brick edge; complex, somewhat earthy, leesy (slightly off-putting to some tasters), black pepper, coffee bean, muted fruit, developing later into very fragrant violet and herbaceous aromas, with some oak, cedar and faint volatile acidity; appealing, but light flavors of sweet blackberry and cherry fruit with prune, a slight bit of smoke, and some oxidation; medium body; very good balance, slightly tart, astringent; light tannins, in a long, pleasant finish. 14.4% alc. Aged 18 months in American and German oak puncheons. There may be some controversy to the appeal of the complex "old style" nose of this wine, but it's hard not to like the flavors that lean way over in the direction of drink-now deliciousness. ($24) * WEBSITE

RECOMMENDED

David Bruce Petite Syrah label.David Bruce
Petite Syrah
1999
Central Coast

Dark plum purple; complex, effusive aromas mingle cedar, wood, eucalyptus, herbs, asparagus, flowers, mild berries, smoke, meat and butter; clean, deep, mildly grapey, peppery, delicious, straightforward, but slightly vegetal and low on varietal fruit (unripe?), flavors; medium to full body, slightly rich; well-balanced (flat?); quite tannic, with a little bite in the long, very dry finish. 13.5% alc. Grapes from Paso Robles and southern Monterey. There is a certain, but out-of-context, unexpected elegance to this wine, as Bob described it: "a lady amongst brutes." ($16) WEBSITE

Trentadue Petite Sirah label.Trentadue
Petite Sirah 1998
Alexander Valley ESTATE

Medium-dark garnet-edged purple; pleasant, complex aroma has distinct blackberry varietal fruit, honeysuckle, caramel, green olive, some spicy American oak and cedar, with alcohol, slightly leesy, and earthy smells; big, ripe fruit, jam, brown sugar and cedar flavors; medium body; good balance (slightly flabby?); finishes short, but with hard tannins, faintly tarry and bitter. 14.1% alc. Blended with a small percentage of Zinfandel. Some bottle age will probably take off the edges and reveal a very nice, easy-drinking wine. ($18) WEBSITE

Turley Petite Syrah 1999 Napa Valley, Rattlesnake Acres

Turley Petite Syrah label.Turley Petite Syrah bottle.Very dark-inky plum purple; "new wine" nose, young, but weak fruit, with only hints of plums, black cherries, licorice, pencil shavings, smoke, bell pepper, alcohol, in the mostly oaky aroma; clean, fat, simple, youthful, uncomplicated flavors suggest jam, horehound candy; medium to full body; uneven balance with very big, firm, slightly rough tannins; long finish is dry, hot, oaky, and slightly bitter. 14.5% alc. We may get accused, by this wine's fans and collectors, of infanticide for tasting this wine so young; it is no doubt the prime candidate here for a few more years of cellar rest to become calm and collected. ($40) WEBSITE

TASTED

JC Cellars Petite Syrah label.J.C. Cellars
Petite Syrah
1998
Napa Valley,
Frediani Vineyard

Inky plum purple; some varietal fruit mingles with honey, allspice,herbs, toast, oak, flint, a slight stink, some volatile acidity, and medicinal elements in the aromas (cough syrup, spray starch?); odd, sour cherry flavor with hints of tar and chocolate; medium to full body; slightly rich, but off-balance, sour, acetic, and acidic; quite tannic, dry, woody, uneven, not flavorful finish. 14.2% alc. Only 125 cases were produced from 80 to 100-year-old vines. Our previous experiences with red "Rhône" varietals under this brand have been liked much better; quite disappointing. ($31) WEBSITE

Markham Petite Sirah label.Markham
Petite Sirah
1998
Napa Valley

Very dark plum purple; clean, floral, candy-like sweetness in muted, low-fruit aromas with hints of prune, spice, asparagus, dill, smoke, and barely noticeable mustiness in the background; seems young, flavors are asparagus, dill, smoke, brown sugar, appealing, but lacking fruit, seems hollow in the middle; body; balance; hard, astringent tannins, somewhat rough, uneven, slightly hot finish. 13.5% alc. A charred steak and some bitter greens would probably quickly tame this wine's snappy nature; a couple of years in the cellar might calm it down, too. ($25) WEBSITE

Mirassou Petite Sirah label.Mirassou Petite Sirah 1997 Monterey County, "Harvest Reserve"

Dark garnet-purple; initial petrol and manure stink (hydrogen sulfide?), turns later to alfalfa, cooked asparagus, raw beet juice, raisin, and weak fruit aromas with underlying traces of anise, tobacco, herbs; weak fruit, brash, slightly spicy flavors with alfalfa, anise, spearmint, and oak (medicinal, rubber band?); medium body; balance off, tart, sour; medium long, very dry, slightly astringent, but not very tannic finish. 13.5% alc. This wine exhibits under ripe fruit, exuberant pressing; seems tired and holds little promise of waking up. ($16) WEBSITE


This Panel included Regulars Deanna, Glenn, Bob, Jon, Ray, Tammy, Jim, and Betsy and Guest Steve
About Petite Sirah

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