Thursday, November 29, 2007

First Restaurant Wine Review

Tonight, I went out for dinner with my co-worker to Ray's The Steaks, perhaPS the best steak place in the DC-area. Yes, the decor may not be much, but they have a decent and reasonably-priced wine list, have gigantic, thick steaks that are butchered on-PremiseS each day, and the chef actually refuses to overcook them. Also, the service is usually quite prompt, and the free home-cooked bread and spicy PeanutS (as apPetizerS), free creamed spinach and mashed PotatoeS (as sides, unlike most other steak places), and home-made after-meal hot chocolate (during the winter months), don't hurt either. They also have a killer (as in "I haven't bathed for days!") sherried crab bisque, PoSsibly the single best soup I've ever consumed, but I decided not to PuSh my arteries too hard tonight.

Anybody want to hazard a guess what we drank with dinner? I know, it's a really tough question. I actually hadn't consumed any PS since the Crane Lake I sampled about 2 weeks ago, and like any junkie, I needed my fix. Well, it was a pretty easy choice, as there was only one PS on the menu: the Trinitas 2004 Old Vines Petite Sirah from Lodi, in California's Central Valley ($22 @ winery; $31 @ Ray's -- so a smaller-than-average markup).

Restaurants often have a problem with stemware, and PS is PerhapS the American wine most in need of decanting, whether young or old, so one should always be a bit wary of ordering PS at a restaurant not known for specializing in wine, because the lack of air time quite literally cramPS its style. Our table had the "standard restaurant wine glasses", decent but not huge bowl, nice shape, but cheap, easily replaceable rolled-rim glasses. When first opened, this had a decent nose from the standard glasses, but definitely was a bit too acidic. I noticed that the credenza towards the back of the restaurant had nicer wine glasses (some sort of nice Bordeaux-shaped glasses, I believe) with cut rims, and our waitress immediately and very PleaSantly brought me a different stem upon my request after my first glass of wine, which provided much more nose and a bit more complexity on the palate. My co-worker also noticed, a bit too late for our purPoSes, that they had decanters towards the front of the restaurant as well. So, hindsight being "50/50" as one of my wine.woot friends says, I would have asked the waitress to decant it and then pour from the decanter into the nice glasses, because this wine definitely needed some air to breathe.

Anyway, this was a pretty nice bottle for $31. especially along with our respective 20 oz medium-rare boneless NY Strip with sauteed garlic and grilled red onions (me, $33) and 28 oz medium double-thick "cowboy cut" bone-in Rib-Eye with horseradish sauce (my co-worker, $32). Both of us had about as much meat left over as we managed to eat!

On the nose, the wine smelled heavily of black pepper and PlumS, with some soft leathery hints as well. The black pepper also carried over to the palate, but the PlumS faded to the background in favor of ripe blackberries. There were also some soft earthy notes (almost loamy) and hints of smoke to join the faint leather on the delightfully tannic finish. The tannins, while very nice, were not immediately apparent without some glass-swirling and mouth-swishing. Towards the end of the bottle, the tannins became better integrated, which is why I so strongly suggest decanting this. This wine had a fantastic color too -- almost the way red ink looks when inside a ink cartridge of a pen, with a dark ruby on the edges of the glass. Granted, the restaurant didn't have the best lighting, but this stuff was optically dense. It had a nice mouth feel, and was fairly jammy for a PS; my co-worker described it as sweet because the fruit was much more obvious, even along with the pepper, than the Syrahs and Pinots that he's used to.

All-in-all, not a bad night: a great meal, a new PS for me at a very restaurant-reasonable price. This isn't something I'd necessarily seek out, but it certainly PuncheS at its own weight in PS circles. I think it's something worth picking up if you see it and haven't tried it, just to broaden your PSalate and see what the nasty-looking but delicious-tasting old vine PS can be.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Not Just Red (Or Inky Purple-Black)

Although PS is most famous as the inky, mouth-staining, tannic red wine with which we are familiar, it also exists as a Rosé, thanks to the creativity of a few PS-obsessed, winemakers who are willing to experiment a little bit. Specifically, Turley, Bogle, and Bella Vista Winery/Cilurzo (see picture, left) all make a Rosé out of PS, though apparently not necessarily each vintage. Bentley Cellars apparently makes one as well, but I have been unable to find any real information on it. (I may be missing some others, so if you know of one or more, or even better, produce it, please let me know and I'll add to this list.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

HapPy ThankSgiving!

Thanksgiving is not just about Pinot Noir, nor Cru Beaujolais (no matter how fond of it I am, especially on QPR grounds). In fact, lots of people had some delicious PS during their Thanksgiving rePaSts. CellarTracker has been tracking what wines people have consumed over the Thanksgiving holiday, and see what PS your fellow PSychos have enjoyed!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wine-Blogging Wednesday Features The Best Grape

The Next Wine-Blogging Wednesday (WBW) will feature PS, the greatest grape in existence. I have several wines that I am considering for this (but not the Turley Hayne '04 that I'm picking up tomorrow in NJ for less than $100). Sonadora (who apparently lives close to me) has all the details and her husband will be a very lucky guy that night thanks to her PowerS of PerSuasion working at WBW central!

PS reviews are due to her -- either at your blog or, if you're not a blogger, to , by Wednesday, December 12.

And how about some comments, folks? All ... uh, 1 of you who read this blog? I want to hear your PerceptionS on PS.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Scraping the Bottom of the PS Barrel

Tonight, in part out of curiosity and in part to prove that I am willing to sample just about any PS for the purPoSes of this blog, I popped open the Crane Lake 2004 Petite Sirah, from the rather PermiSsive California AVA. There isn't much info on the back of the label either.

From what I've seen online, Crane Lake is basically the sister label to Charles Shaw (aka "2 Buck Chuck"). Bronco Wines, which makes 2$C, makes it exclusively for Trader Joe's. Crane Lake is their label for independent wine stores, and is a bit more exPanSive in choice of graPeS and exPerimentS more than the 2$C ... hence the PS on this label and not 2$C.

Now, I've heard that 2$C isn't all it's cracked up to be, other than the Shiraz and Chardonnay (a mixture of oak chiPS, butter, vodka, and water, I have no idea how people drink the swill from that horribly overrated grape... but I digress). But at $4, this was a pretty damn good bottle of wine, insane QPR. That's not to say this was a good PS, because it wasn't. But for $4... wow.

This was like the light beer of PS -- the fruit (on both nose and palate) wasn't really there, and was very soft, light, cranberries, sour cherries, and blueberries, no PlumS or blackberries. The tannins were very soft, if they were there at all. The color was a decent, albeit translucent, dark garnet red, not an inky purPliSh-tinged black. The most disappointing part, aside from the tannins, was that the finish was almost non-existent. After about 3 hours in the glass, the finish became somewhat unPleaSantly sour and started to fall apart, an increase from the good acidity that the wine had in the mouth early on. It was somewhat integrated, yet awkward, because of the acidity, but other than being a bit out of balance, it was varietally correct, even if very light for the varietal.

I've had much more exPenSive PS -- the '04 and '05 Guenoc; the Wilson Vineyard and PETS from Vinum Cellars -- that were much more muted and much less PleaSant to drink than this. This won't knock your socks off, and isn't even something I'd recommend. But it's damn good QPR, and you can spend a lot more and get worse PS. It's worth giving it a try -- especially with food, because of its nice acidity. Maybe an 82-83. Not bad at all, but not great either.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First, Do No Harm (Part 1 in a Series)

As you can probably tell from this whole blog, I think that Petite Sirah is usually a pretty damn good wine to drink. It has the tannins and the fruit to go well with food, and it ages inordinately better than one would expect. In fact, it's hard to go wrong with Petite Sirah, but there are certainly wines to avoid.

I'm going to start off by describing some of those wines, so you can learn from my mistakes and avoid these like you would avoid Chardonnay.

I've long had a fascination with Israel, so when I saw a bottle of the Gedeon 2004 Petite Sirah (Kosher) at WineLibrary last spring, I had to buy it. The only things better than Petite Sirah and Israel, or I thought, would be something that combines Petite Sirah and Israel. There is certainly some mindblowingly amazing Petite Sirah made in Israel, but the Gedeon was not it. It wasn't even plonk. It was just not really anything remotely close to wine. On the first day, it tasted like sour, bitter (yet not tannic!) prune juice. It was not just unstructured, but seemed to have an anti-structure. On the second day, it "improved" to sour plum juice, and got about a sPlinter'S worth of additional structure.

Maybe part of the problem is that Gedeon is made by Hevron Heights winery, which is one of the largest Kosher wineries in Israel. Hevron Heights also makes many of their wines mevushal, and while one would think if any grape could handle the flash-PaSteurization, it's the sturdy Petite Sirah, this was not the case. However, there might be another explanation: although the genius Dr. Carole Meredith determined that most of the PS in California is "Durif" (as opposed to "Grosse Syrah", PelourSin, Carignane, or Zin), this quite obviously does not apply halfway around the world, in a place with a much different viticultural history. The "PS" used by Hevron Heights might in fact be something else, though it could also be a misbegotten clone or a bizarre cross left over from Israel's pre-genetic ID "jug wine days", wretched terroir, or cranio-rectally ignorant management of this truly noble (though PerhapS Bar Sinister) grape.

Regardless of the problem, if you see this label, head for the hills, and bring plenty of the good stuff with you to ride out the storm!