Thursday, December 31, 2009


As 2009 (Ne Cede Malis) rolls over into 2010, there's a lot to look forward to.

Jo Diaz droPS some tantalizing hints at what's in store for us next year -- not just for D&D 2010, which is just 7 weeks from tomorrow! -- but for the PSymPoSium... and no, folks -- I'm certainly not the keynote speaker! Being a PSycho (or a PSuperfan) I'm wildly underqualified for that sort of thing!

And I also have some reviews by other winos of my new (to me, at least) favorite PS wines from this PaSt year -- Fortress, Carlisle, and Edwards (Victor -- you guys seen any reviews of your wine?).

Following D&D, I'm looking forward to Vincent Arroyo Barrel Sample Day on Saturday and then hanging out with Fulton & Dink Mather at David Fulton on Fulton Lane Winemaker Breakfast on Sunday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


This PoSt is to mark a very PSpecial event today -- the 40th birthday of themostrighteous, the first of my PadawanS. He is an outstanding friend, a PleaSure to spend time with, and a man who apPreciateS his wine and most especially his PS.

Here is to many, many, many more happy returns, hermano, filled with family, friends, and relaxation. May you enjoy your next 40 as much as the 2002 Vincent Arroyo Rattlesnake Acres that we shared :-). With all the tannins that you consume in your PS, I suspect that they'll PreServe you at least as well as they do our favorite libation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2007 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah Port

Oh my gosh, this is a fantastic port. The first sip sets a lightly heated tone where the subsequent sips the alcohol was less pronounced as the palate was acclimated. 17% alcohol. The flavors of the petite sirah are deep and intense. I felt bad opening this so young, but it was my brother in law's and he is impetuous so who was I to say no? Dark fragrant berries and jam, white peppery spices, depth and intensity that made me call it "better than sex in a bottle." Rich and lucious, decadent yet elegant and refined. This is a hugely wonderful wine and has become far better than the barrel samples we tasted in March. 94-95 points.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


In this week's wine.woot comment thread, Larry Schaffer of Tercero, Fess Parker (which also contains Fortress, a PS I found out about at the PSymPoSium and loved -- I hope they make a PS port called Fortification), and Epiphany fame, uPdateS us on the state of Petite Sirah down south in resPonSe to my asking Andrew Murray about his PlanS to grow PS:
I'll pipe in about the potential for PS in our area . . .

There is not a lot planted as of now, but more coming on line. The best in our area is Jaffurs which comes from the Thompson Vineyard - a stellar wine year in and year out and one of the best in the state IMNO.

Epiphany, whom you may have heard of (-:, also produces a great one from Rodney's Vyd, 20 year old PS vines planted on Foxen Canyon Road at the winery. Year in and year out, a great wine . . . and the 07 is off the charts!!! [2005 vintage; 2006 vintage]

I got into the PS game myself, and produced a 100% PS from Rodneys in 07 that I'll release in the Spring and a 50%PS/50% Thompson Syrah blend I call The Climb which I am releasing now . . . exciting stuff!

We grafted some syrah over to Petite Sirah at our Camp 4 Vineyard, taking cuttings both from Rodneys (Palisades clone) and cuttings from the Rockpile AVA (!!!). I got some of the Rockpile fruit this year and all I can say is - WATCH OUT! I think that the climate at Camp 4 is pretty darn great for PS - let's give it a bit of time and see for sure!
I can't wait to try all the new PS that Larry's coming out with... maybe he'll even consider signing up for Dark and Delicious 2010...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


So my good friends at Vincent Arroyo accidentally duplicated my standing order and sent me 2 cases instead of the one case that was 2 bottles of 2006 Winemaker's Reserve, 4 of 2007 Rattlesnake Acres PS, 2 of house PS, 2 of Sangiovese, and 2 of their Chard (yes, one of the few cali chards that I like).

Loving this winery and being a generally honest guy, I called them up and let them know. They initially were going to send a return shipping label (so eating about 45-50 in shipping charges), but I suggested that I instead share the bottles with local wine store owners and sommeliers (like Andrew from Lelabar and Christy at Frankly Wines) who might be interested in PurchaSing, as VA does not use distributors.

Here's hoping that I manage to spur more interest and PaSsion for PS! (or VA does, with me being the middleman).

I'm working with Jo Diaz to hopefully get VA to come to Dark and Delicious 2010. Wouldn't that be a treat?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Visit to Vincent Arroyo 3/3/09

Vincent Arroyo only sells his wine at at his winery. An engineer gone good, he makes some interesting and great wines. All wines estate grown. I went here on a trip in the Spring of 2009 to taste his Pietite Sirahs and also soample their other offerings.

  • 2008 Chardonnay out of the fermenting vat. Sold out of bottle chardonnay. Light and crisp, will be mixed with some oak aged chard later after clarification. Nice. $24, 85 points

  • 2006 Nameless. A Bordeaux blend. 70% CS, 17% M, 13% CF. Nice, needs time. $30. Can’t score this yet to do it justice. Maybe 88 points.

  • 2006 Entrada. Nice, needs time. 55% Syrah, 31% CS, 15% PS $65. Can’t score this yet to do it justice. Maybe 88 points. I liked the cheaper Nameless is a better drinker now, but this has potential.

  • 2006 Petite Sirah. Intense, tannic, beautiful. Complex flavors, drinkable but it could lie down. $32, 89 points.

  • 2006 Winemaker’s Reserve Petite Sirah barrel sample. Another year aged in barrel than the last, intense and better. Dark chocolate and tobacco. Deep berry flavors. $45, 91 points.

  • 2007 Rattlesnake Acres Petite Sirah barrel sample. 60 YO vines. Round, supple, fruit forward flavors. Beautiful! $50, 91 points.

  • 2007 Port barrel sample. Petite Sirah based. Spectacular. We had three samples of this! $22 375 ml, 92 points.

This was certainly a wonderful place to visit. They gave us a couple of bottles of wine as it was two of our party members' birthdays after ordering about $400-500 of their not yet bottled wines for shipment in the fall.

Reviewed by Steve Jones

2007 McManis Family Vineyards Petite Sirah

I first encountered this wine in San Francisco. I was out doing consulting work and training in September 2009 for the City of San Francisco and picked up two bottles of McManis Family wines for my hotel room while there. One was the 2007 Petite Sirah, which blew the other one away (2006 Zinfandel). I’ve tried many of the McManis wines, but this is by far the best of the entire line. I did not write up any notes on it back then, but I did note to get some more of this. I picked up another bottle to share with family and friends this past week. Binny’s in Chicago had it for $9.99 a bottle, which is about as good a price as you will find on this.

I opened the wine and a rush of fresh fruit was evident just by popping the cork. I poured a small amount out and was immediate hit with a huge dark fruit and jam nose with some volatile alcohol. There were blackberries and other dark berries and a hunt of cedar, too. The color was a dark reddish purple. A quick sip gave me the same impressions. The flavors were verging on being a fruit bomb, but not quite. It was full and mouth-filling. I let it sit and breathe for awhile.

As I returned to the wine in about a half hour, the volatility was pretty much gone. The flavors were intense and full on the front and mid palates. The flavors lingered for a good long time in my mouth. As I drank this over the course of the next two hours I marveled that this was only a $10 wine. The fullness of the fruit and intensity of flavors belied its’ cost. There is an intensity rarely found in inexpensive wines that this wine had.

I love a good PS but have often been put off with the inexpensive ones. Guenocs’ PS at a similar price point is about the best I’d found prior to this one, but McManis is clearly head an shoulders over that; the Guenoc is not bad but this is very, very good. If I have to give this a score I would have to say it is at least an 88 point wine. I went back and bought a couple more bottles over the weekend. This is sure to become a “go to” every day sort of wine for me at this price. This is clearly one of the top QPR PS’ out there.

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Thousand PardonS

Sorry for the lack of uPdateS. As I alluded to earlier, I just moved from Northern Virginia, where I've been living for 5 years, back to NYC, where I'll be starting a new job in 5 weeks.

So right now, I'm unpacking, trying to get my life (and stemware) in order, and generally catching up on all the things I haven't had the chance to do.

Expect more frequent updates in the coming weeks -- my backlog is pretty big.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I've updated and reorganized the links to the right. If you have or know of any links that I'm missing, PleaSe fill me in!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PSymPoSium RounduPS

Sorry for the lack of PoSting -- I'm in the process of moving from DC to NYC, so between that and finishing up work, I haven't yet had the time to transcribe all the awesomeness that was the PSymPoSium.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I can't really put into words how mindblowingly awesome the PSymPoSium was. [[Full disclosure -- I'm a member of PSILY, and received -- thanks to Jo Diaz and PSILY -- a partial travel/lodging stipend to assist me in coming to this conference from the east coast. I also got to attend the conference gratis]]

Not only were the two tastings (and the lunch!) out-of-this-world, but the information was fascinating and the people were fantastic as well.

I now have about 30 days' worth of content for the blog (and to the extent I exaggerate, it's not by much).

PSpecial Thanks to Jo Diaz for an amazing event and for Jim Concannon for hosting (and for everything else he's done for PS).

As for what else I have in PStore?

Well, tomorrow I'm off to Sevastapol to hang out with the inimitable Clark Smith (ironically from Westfield, NJ -- and yes, it's ironic because of the name of the adjacent town), who told me that he has "G-d's own Petite Sirah" in Barrels.

I'll leave you with this great bon mot from Clark, which demonstrates his clear PerSpective:
"Petite Sirah is, in my view, much better than Syrah."

Monday, August 3, 2009


I'm going to the Petite Sirah SymPoSium tomorrow, so I'm heading out tonight.

Between that and moving to NYC in two and a half weeks, it's been pretty crazy over here (even without work).

But in honor of the PSymPoSium, I leave you with one of Jo Diaz's great PoSts about my favorite winery, Vincent Arroyo.

Adobe Clayhouses: Not Just for HoPiS

(apologies for the strained pun title)

This week on Wine.woot is a three-pack from Clayhouse, featuring their 2006 Estate PS (from PaSo Robles). This wine, $25 MSRP, *WON* the 2006 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition, beating out the 2000 Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne ($139) by a nose.

That wine is available, along with the 2006 Adobe Road blend (58% Zinfandel, 17% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah, 12% Malbec) and the 2005 Estate Cuvee (54% Syrah, 37% Grenache, and 9 percent PS), for $44.99 per trio, with $7 flat-rate shipping on your order of 1-3 bottles. Act now, because this surPriSe will be gone by 1am EDT on Thursday, if it doesn't sell out before that!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remote Tasting

Last Tuesday, my friend "themostrighteous" and I did a remote tasting of the 2005 Titus PS, drinking and sending notes to each other over gchat. Here's the transcript, with the extraneous bits of conversation and personal stuff removed:

Themostrighteous: yo

Loweeel: hermano!

10:27 PM Themostrighteous: bout to pour myself a glass...

Loweeel: just poured mine
have steak and spinach
candied blackberry
10:28 PM blueberry, boysenberry
little tiny bit of shoepolish :)

Themostrighteous: little bit?!?
10:29 PM it sits pretty but prominently on the nose

Loweeel: yeah

Themostrighteous: i love this nose...

Loweeel: understatement :)
oh, fucking lovely
we nailed the decant [2.5 hours]
a bit flabby on the finish
but the fruit is great
10:30 PM I think it's not all back together yet

Themostrighteous: yes
and yes
flabby & just a bit hot
but the fruit makes up for it

Loweeel: almost like a zin

Themostrighteous: nice all around

Loweeel: this one is adolescent
all elbows and knees
10:31 PM it will probably grow up to be hot but isn't there yet

maybe it will spur you to get a job
10:40 PM Loweeel: wow, the sip of this after the palak paneer was damn right
just cleansed it right out
10:41 PM Themostrighteous: i think i'm going to cry...
10:44 PM this Titus is growing on me
a lot
god i love PS

Loweeel: :)

Themostrighteous: yeah
i will always owe PS to you

Loweeel: it's ok

Themostrighteous: and i won't forget it

Loweeel: when you come visit me in nyc
I'll open up a scholium
10:45 PM my cellar is always open completely to you (other than my last villemaurine)
you're right -- this is getting better -- acidity is more in balance

10:47 PM Themostrighteous: wow
i'm planning on drinking the whole bottle tonight
so i plan on seeing it evolve!

Loweeel: you just can't say no to shoe polish

10:48 PM Themostrighteous: some folks can
i'm not one of them
time to pour glass number 2
one glass
10:49 PM and my tongue
is almost coated

Loweeel: yup
this tastes almost calistoga-y
I think they said their ps vineyards were near but not in calistoga
the shoe polish would confirm that

10:50 PM Themostrighteous: oh this is funny
i just popped over to w[ine].w[oot] for the first time in a week
saw the offering

Loweeel: oh man the nose is even better
Themostrighteous: and thought to myself
that is SO PALE
and then looked at my glass
10:51 PM that is SO DARK!

Loweeel: PS is amazing.

Themostrighteous: yeah nose is definitely dancing now

Loweeel: I can't wait for PSymPoSium

Themostrighteous: should be a blast man!

Loweeel: too bad you can't make it

Themostrighteous: c'est vrai
10:52 PM i'm saving my non-family travel dollars to visit you

Loweeel: are you having food w/ this?
Themostrighteous: no
ate earlier
wish i had a fat juicy steak with me though

11:00 PM Loweeel: getting more plummy

Themostrighteous: yeah
11:04 PM btw
i'm torn between smelling this wine
and drinking it

Loweeel: I know
nose is GREAT

Themostrighteous: the nose is getting to be that good
Loweeel: not '02 rattlesnake great
but not too far away
11:05 PM that's still my best wine ever :)
that one was even crazier on the palate than on the nose
remember our teeth?

Themostrighteous: black
11:06 PM we looked like monks from the dark ages
[wife] says hi
11:07 PM she was laughing at me about our “date”
she asked me if we were having phone sex
i told her that we were having PS

Loweeel: oh yeah, hot rattlesnake acres '02 action

Themostrighteous: so almost like having wine sex
call me a lush
11:08 PM but i'm pouring number 3
(and i'm using my huge ass vinum extreme too!)

Loweeel: i'm about halfway down the decanter
11:09 PM errr.... more
such a nice nose

Themostrighteous: i love the fact that when you pour yourself a glass of a good PS
the bubbles that form on top are almost as dark as the wine itself
11:10 PM only with PS
must be cuz i'm the dark skinned brooding type
what's your excuse?!?

Loweeel: haaha
my freckles are dark and brooding!

11:11 PM Themostrighteous: oooh
the mouth is starting to catch up to the nose
glycerin levels off the charts
end less flabby
more full
(prob could have decanted for an extra hour b4 starting)
11:12 PM black fruit really showing

Loweeel: very nice for $38!

Themostrighteous: no shit

11:13 PM Loweeel: oh yum

Loweeel: 11:24 PM black currant RIPPING MY FACE OFF

Themostrighteous: you are SO GV!!!

Loweeel: jersey, yo

Themostrighteous: YES!!!!
11:25 PM i will say this
to those who criticize PS

Loweeel: fuck em, more for us!

Themostrighteous: about being somewhat monodimensional

Loweeel: btw, I have a new everyday drinker champion
and you GOTTA try that shit

Themostrighteous: fire away

Loweeel: see blog :)
dr debs (good wine under $20) gave it 90 on ct

11:28 PM Themostrighteous: shite
it's been a while
you've been busy blogging
The Crusheer heh?

Loweeel: yup
GREAT stuff
really fantastic at that price
such great fruit
no phenolic shit like this
but $13!!!

11:29 PM Themostrighteous: just goes to show
you look at the stats
(high pH)
and you might not take a swig

Loweeel: not THAT high for ps

Themostrighteous: but if you do
you get surprised

Loweeel: yeah

Themostrighteous: just making a point that you can't always judge the book by its cover
11:30 PM wait...

11:31 PM Loweeel: last glass :-)

11:32 PM Themostrighteous: ah shit
not for sale in IL

Loweeel: I am happy to pick some up for you, give to octocat on sat

11:33 PM Themostrighteous: not sure when i'm going to see her next
what with her visiting her man in TN
and with the Chicago w.w. community MIA
just poured one more
but still have one left
you sped by me!

11:44 PM Themostrighteous: and i quote
"your teeth are gross!"

11:45 PM Loweeel: :-D

Themostrighteous: ah the sacrifices

11:47 PM Loweeel: :-D :-D

Monday, July 13, 2009

Crushing It!

No, this isn't about my buddy Gary Vaynerchuk's new book.

It's about this phenomenal PS I tried from the Sebastiani family wine conglomerate, THE CRUSHER, which my friend Sonadora received as a sample from the producer. And while its name denotes a grape PreSs, its connotations were accurate as well -- this was a very enjoyable PS, and one hell of a deal at MSRP of $13 (putting it in the Concannon-Bogle range).

Here are the PStats:
  • Vintage: 2008 (by far the youngest PS I've had -- I have to suspect that this used microox, given the relative softness of the tannins)
  • Released: 04/2009
  • Region: Clarksburg AVA
  • Alcohol: 13.5% ABV (low for a PS, especially from Clarksburg, which is where Bogle gets its PS Port grapes)
  • pH: 3.77 (a bit high for my taste for PS)
  • TA: 5.8 g/L
  • 8400 cases produced
On opening, the nose was GREAT -- blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, dark ripe plums, and hints of dill and mint. On the palate, those flavors are joined by cassis, hints of cocoa and tar. You can barely taste the oak in this wine, which is a good thing, as it allows all the delicious fruit to show.

The wine is a bit flabby on the attack; the acid doesn't really start to appear until the midpalate or really take hold until the finish, and the tannins are not immediately evident (again, I suspect heavy microox), but do coat the mouth nicely upon swishing. The finish is pretty lengthy most of the time (but it comes and goes) and has great pure fruit that lingers in the mouth.

We PoliShed off this bottle pretty quickly -- which indicates that it's more medium than full-bodied (i.e., light for a PS), and did not decant. This is a tamed PS. The uPSide of that is that you actually don't need to pair this one with the biggest, gamiest, hunk of meat you can find. You (i.e., people are aren't tanninophilic like I am) can even have this by itself, or just with crackers and cheese. On the other hand, I would not age this for more than a few years -- it doesn't have the stuffing for it.

The extraction is fantastic, especially given the relatively light body -- it borders on getting fake, but does not go over the top. This is a great value, and a fantastic PS to introduce newbies and tanninophobes to the PSychos' Path. I highly recommend seeking out this evening "PSipper" from the well-regarded Sebastiani family.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"PaSsionate" requires PS

Richard Auffrey, aka "The PaSsionate Foodie" tries 6 different PS wines with his friends! Click on over for the full notes and pictures

The wines were:
  • 2006 Michael-David Petite Petit (Lodi; 85% PS, 15% PV) -- "I was very pleasantly surprised that this wine was so delicious."
  • 2005 Michael-David Earthquake PS (Lodi) -- not a fan, a bit too medicinal and eucalyptusy for him
  • 2005 Stonehedge Reserve PS Special Vineyard Select (California) -- also too strong and eucalyptusy for him
  • 2005 Stonehedge PS Terroir Select (Mendocino) -- "It was a very big and bold wine, with a complex melange of flavors. . . . The tannins were prominent so this is very much a food wine. It had a long, satisfying finish . . . . [T]ypical Petite Sirah. . . . an appealing model for that grape."
  • 2005 Lava Cap Granite Hill PS Reserve (El Dorado) -- "another big wine with intense flavors. . . . tannins a bit more pronounced [than Terroir Select] . . . almost a bit sweet, which turned off some of my friends but which I enjoyed"
  • 2006 Victor Hugo PS (PaSo Robles) --"very smooth . . . lengthy and PleaSing finish . . . good value "
Richard's conclusion:
Overall, I found some impressive Petite Sirahs, enough to make me seek out more of them to taste. If you have never tried this grape, you should do so. Even if you think you know Petite Sirah, you might benefit from trying different Petite Sirah wines as you might be surprised by what you find.
The one note I would offer is that I don't know how long Richard decanted his wines, if at all, or even if he let them breathe in bottle. Because the two "biggest" wines were the ones that he liked the least, I suspect that he just popped and poured. The more structured, larger PS will benefit even more from air, so I'd urge Richard to give those two another try after a 3-4 hour decant. I bet it will make quite a difference. I didn't particularly care for the one stonehedge I had, but I wasn't taking formal notes on it. I do remember that the Earthquake benefited enormously from decanting -- the tannins appeared as if by magic.

Friday, July 10, 2009


My good friend Sonadora tries the Seven Artisans PS. Sadly, she didn't wait for me. It's ok, though -- I get to raid her cellar on PSaturday :-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Gregory Dal Piaz at Snooth had some tasting notes and recommendations for PS a few months ago.

Correctly describing it as "California's Unsung Hero", he offered notes and reviews for 4 grouPS -- Budget, PaSo Robles, Lodi, and Napa, his favorite being the Mettler 2005 that I enjoyed about 6 months PreviouSly.

He also offered some of those for sale, along with others (and more tasting notes) in an accompanying article.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More RounduPS

A nice article on one of my favorite surPriSes from PSILY 2009, Miro Cellars PS.

A review of some of Judd's Hill's wines, including their PS.

The $25 2006 Clayhouse PaSo Robles PS beats the $139 Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne and wins best wine in a blind tasting.

Jo Diaz queried the PSILY members to find out how they typically do in competitions, and it's pretty imPreSsive.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Perfectly Satisfying

So much is going on outside of my wine life that I don't even know where to start. After a long night at work, I wanted something simple, refreshing, and easy.

I got a bottle of the Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 "Petite Zin" Rose (Sonoma County) as a sample from Dry Creek Vineyard's wine club. I requested a bottle from Kim Stare Wallace after seeing it on their website, where it retails for $18. While perhaPS above the median price for a rose, this one is worth the price; it is distinctive and offers flavors that other roses don't.

This wine is 80% Zin, but the 20% PS really PuncheS above its weight. The grapes are from Sonoma County, and it's 13.9% ABV. It was harvested on 9/11/2008, and fermented for 30 days at 52 degrees Fahrenheit, then aged 2 months in French oak. The wine is classified as Dry, and has a pH of 3.57 (I'm not sure where it fits in dry roses, but it's a pretty typical pH for a "dry red" that's not spoofulated) and a TA of 0.67 (no units given). 384 cases were made, and Dry Creek Vineyard says that it can age 3-5 years (which, again, probably derives from the PS)

It's rounder and fuller-bodied than many roses. The color is dark -- even darker than the picture. It's very dark for a rose, just a few shades lighter than some beaujolais and pinot. Again, credit the PS.

Aged 2 months in French Oak, it reveals some creamyness and spice, underlying the dark fruits that PS is known for. It's very refreshing to find pepper and blackberries, and black cherries in a rose -- most of the ones I've had, regardless of varietal or blend, seem to stop at cherry limeade. This one goes darker, and deliciously so, but has that lime-like tingle lingering on the tongue and the finish.

This would pair nicely with a variety of dishes, including salmon, PeSto-based PaStas, and chicken dishes without too many strong flavors -- though southwestern would be a great pairing.

I haven't had too many PS roses (the Bella Vista/Cilurzo in April was sweeter than I expected, and I have a 2005 "off-label" from David Fulton, my "unicorn", that I'm looking forward to trying this month; Bogle apparently makes one from time to time, but I haven't been able to try it), but this is highly, highly recommended for all PS fans.

As I've come to expect from their wines in general, Dry Creek Vineyard's Petite Zin is a very well-crafted, well-balanced wine that nevertheless PreSents a nice value and unusual flavors and tasting notes. Seek this one out if you have a chance -- a rose this full-bodied is quite an experience, and the creamy key lime pie finish is really refreshing after a long, hot, humid, day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

ExPloSive growth in the Pacific northweSt

It's not just Masset anymore. PS is becoming more popular in the Evergreen state, and even Oregon. Here's a roundup.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


PSILY has PoSted the sPecificS for the Petite Sirah (P)Symposium, which will be held this year at Concannon Vineyard's new tasting room, at 4596 Tesla Road, Livermore, CA, on Tuesday August 4, 2009. For all the fun, go to .

I will do my best to be there for this fantastic event, work permitting, but with job and my living situation currently in flux for the month of August, I can't promise anything.

Again, whereas Dark & Delicious is consumer-oriented, the PSymPoSium is oriented to the wineries. It features sessions on Enology, Viticulture, and Marketing, and ends with a trade and media tasting.

Jo Diaz has more details about it on her own site.

Speaking of Concannon's new tasting room, here's a pic of its progress that I took on April 16th, 2009:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

48 hours with Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah 2002

2002 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah - USA, California, Napa Valley (5/17/2009)I've tasted this bottle several times, most recently at the Winemaker Dinner on May 1. The bottles from my cellar seemed much more acidic and out of balance than the bottle from the winery. When I open a bottle of VA at home it rarely lasts a full hour, and I typically just pop & pour. The bottle at the winery had been opened several hours earlier and was more balanced than what I remember. I decided to do an experiment with this wine to see if I might be prematurely judging this wine. I opened the bottle at 6:00 PM Friday and gave it a whirl.

  • 6:00 PM- It was just as I remembered it previously- tight and acidic with muted fruit.
  • 8:00 PM- The acids had diminished a bit and the fruit was starting to show. This drank similar to the bottle from the winery. Still not wonderful, but promising. I’ll stick the cork in the bottle and leave it on the counter overnight.


  • 10:30 AM- I need to keep the experiment going. The nose was much more balanced; the acidic edge is gone. Much more rounded on the palate, the fruit is coming out and the acids have further integrated. The wine is improving, but still has a bit of a medicinal finish.
  • 7:00 PM- The wine has definitely softened, but the acids are still prevalent on the back end- still somewhat medicinal. The fruit is still there, but it might be fading a bit. I’ll pump it overnight.


  • 6:00 PM- The bottle has been opened for 48 hours; time to see if it’s falling apart. The color hasn’t changed; the nose offers feint traces of black cherry. There’s still plenty of fruit on the palate, but the tannins have diminished and the mid palate is a little hollow. There’s still plenty of acid, which still gives the wine a nice long finish. The medicinal notes on the acids have all but disappeared. I can detect a little oxidation on the wine; the experiment needs to end today.

My analysis is that this wine will improve with additional bottle ageing; I would guess 2- 3 years. It should drink well through 2015; the fruit is holding up. (90 pts.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah Barrel Sample Tasting Notes

The following wines were tasted on May 1, 2009 from the barrel at the winery:

2006 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah Winemaker's Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley (5/1/2009)Barrel tasted at the Winery. Deep dark inky purple color with a nose of blueberries and blackberries. Big soft mouthfeel; a full bodied wine. The tannins are still chewy but will soften with time. Adequate acids to keep the wine lively and vivid. The wine is begining to show complexity and delivers a beautiful long finish. The wine should come into balance nicely with time, but will likely still have rough edges when released in the fall of 2009. My guess is that 2 to 3 years of bottle age will allow this wine to begin showing quite well. (91 pts.)

2007 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah Greenwood Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley (5/1/2009)Tasted from a barrell sample at the winery. With a medium red color, the nose was somewhat closed but hints of black cherry prevailed. The wine is currently medium bodied and disjointed. Bright red fruit leads to a medium finish. The score reflects it's current condition, not it's potential. This wine will likely turn lovely with time, but needs about 5 years of ageing after release for the components to integrate. Suggested drinking window 2013-2019. (90 pts.)

2007 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah Rattlesnake Acres - USA, California, Napa Valley (5/1/2009)Tasted from a barrel sample at the winery. The color is dark and brooding; the nose is full of vibrant blueberries. The wine has a soft silky mouthfeel, is big and brawny, and full bodied. Rich black fruit flavors lead to a long finish. Beautifully balanced, this is a powerful wine that's not a fruit bomb. This wine will likely still be quite rugged upon release in the fall of 2009, but within 2 to 3 years should soften to yield a luxurious cuvee. Time should significantly add to the complexity of this wine. Suggested drinking window is 2011- 2020. (94 pts.)

2007 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah - USA, California, Napa Valley (5/1/2009)Tasting from a barrel sample. Beautiful dark red color (almost black) with nose of blueberries and violets. Big mouthfeel with already supple sweet tannins. Acids are in balance and alcohol seems around 14% (but I didn't inquire). This will be a beautiful finished bottle of wine when released in the fall of 2009. Although it can be consumed young, it will benefit subsatntially from an additional 5 years of ageing. (93 pts.)

Out of this lot I thought the best QPR wine was the regular Petite Sirah- a great wine for the $$.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


In her post today, my friend Sonadora talks about her visit to Teldeschi in Dry Creek Valley to get more of their 1998 PS. She and I had their 1998 on election night and enjoyed it; I did not particularly like the 1999 I had at some point in the fall.

Monday, April 20, 2009

10^3 words

The Patriarch himself, Mr. James Concannon, with me in the barrel room at Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, CA.

Getting the chance to speak with Mr. Concannon again, this time at more length, and to have him show me around the winery was truly exceptional. He's not only instrumental in making PS what it is today, but is also a great conversationalist with some really fascinating stories. His generosity is PeerleSs.

I can't wait to go back in August!

(More on the trip later...)

Friday, April 17, 2009


I'm out in Cali to be the best man at my college roommate's wedding (Congrats, Byron and Jo!), and found a few hours to head to Livermore yesterday before my Best Manly duties began.

I had the most wonderful visit at Concannon, including lots of time with THE PATRIARCH, Jim Concannon. I felt like Royalty there. More on the visit, including lots of PicS and tasting notes, coming next week.

I also stopped in at Wente (where the only PS they make is a PS port), and sampled a selection of their wines as well, which I really enjoyed.

Many thanks to the irreplaceable Jo Diaz for hooking me up!

Now, to finish that speech...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WBW #56 -- Fine Kosher Wine

Our host for Wineblogging Wednesday this month is CorkDork, who picked "fine kosher wines" as the theme.

Glad that I finally found a theme that fit the blog again, I decided to participate, and ordered the 2005 Carmel Winery Appellation Petite Sirah Judean Hills (previous vintage pictured at left). I bought it at for about $22, but they've since sold out (unspecified vintage currently available at their competitor for $22.69).

The wine was 14.5% ABV, and breathed in-bottle for about 3 hours. I drank it with leftover (cold) prime rib (seasoned with salt & pepper only) and sauteed spinach with black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and shiitake mushrooms. I consumed the wine from Spigelau Syrah glasses from this year's Dark and Delicious event (thanks again, Jo!). My friend Dan drank along with me.

Two things were immediately noticeable about this wine. First, there was not even a hint of heat (to which Dan is very sensitive -- he dislikes many CaliCabs for that reason), and this was much closer to medium-bodied than full-bodied. In the glass it was a dark, impenetrable purple at the center, shading to a translucent red-purple at the edge. There was no noticeable bricking.

On the first glass, the nose was still somewhat tight (suggesting I should have given a full decant or let breathe longer), but revealed an exceedingly PleaSant dominant scent of tart blackberry reduction, along with leather, flowers, and hints of smoked meat. The palate confirmed the tightness, and surPriSed with abundant, though well-balanced, acidity. This is definitely a food PS. The flavor profile was slightly different, featuring black currant and blackberry as well, and no flower PetalS. The wine had the signature long, charmingly austere, finish that I've come to expect from Israeli PS.

The second glass was much more open, and the finish was even longer. Even as it opened, it did not become more full-bodied. The one negative on this wine was that it was not as tannic as I would like -- this is a PS that PairS with more delicate meats, and not the biggest, gamiest cuts you can find.

On the third glass, the nose was absolutely incredible, to the point that I wished I could bottle it as cologne (or perhaPS PerfumeS for the ladies), and the wine had oxygenated enough that it was quite pleasant, further revealing hints of black pepper and spice on both the nose and palate.

In sum, I'd give the wine a 90, and recommend trying it if you come across it. It is very enjoyable, true to character but for the relative (and I say "relative" just because I expect more from PS) lack of tannin, and shows the traits common with other Judean Hills PS (the long, austere finish, high acidity, dark berries) with that I've had. I plan on keeping a bottle or two around.

At under $25, this is a delightful kosher wine that will pair with a wide variety of dishes due to it's just-fuller-than-medium body, soft tannins, and vibrant acidity. I would recommend, in particular, duck breast, Jewish (i.e., brisket) pot roast, filet mignon, and beef roasts, and would go nicely with dark chocolate. At that price, it's a welcome addition to many holiday meals without breaking the bank, and has enough bang for the buck to hold its own at other times. This is something I plan on buying again.

(compare Rogov's review here).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wine Library PimpS PS

The subject of today's Wine Library Daily Offering is the 2005 Peachy Canyon PaSo Robles PS, which Gary Vaynerchuk rated at 90 points, at $17. Here's his take:
"I have tasted 38 Petite Sirahs in 2009 for placement in Wine Library and have passed on all but 2 and the other one is $36 so you can imagine how highly I rate this epic effort!

"This is what I had to say when I tried the wine: 'Huge and mad' is exactly what I wrote down. And you know what? It didn't calm down after 5 hours being opened either. This is one serious mofo and it doesn't apologize on its long and rugged finish. The light black fruit mixed with the pretty floral and fleshy mid-palate along with its epic finish make this the Petite Sirrah [sic] to beat here at Wine Library. If you are a fan of the PS grape then you need to get this into your rotation asap!

The offer also links to Episode 609, which GV dedicated to Yours Truly for his 28th birthday.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wineblogging Wednesday does PaSsover!

CorkDork has announced the theme for the latest wineblogging wednesday, and it is Kosher wine! While many of the fine PS from Israel are not kosher, others are. I'll be having a bottle of Carmel's Regional series PS (and maybe another kosher wine, and possibly another PS) for the online shindig.

Here's Rogov's latest note on this wine:
Carmel, Regional, Petite Sirah, Judean Hills, 2005: Developed in French oak for 12 months, made from grapes from 35-year-old vines, this almost impenetrably dark purple, still-firmly tannic wine opens in the glass to reveal a rich array of dark plum, blueberry, peppery, herbal and spicy cedar notes. Dense enough to be thought of as chewable but opens to show harmony and grace. Drink now–2012. Score 91. K
By the way, avoid the execrable Gedeon Petite Sirah like it could give you the plague (as it just might...) It's that bad.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A PocalypS Now? (aka "A Diamond in the Rough?")

The ubiquitous Francis Ford Coppola "Diamond Series" has added a new member -- the Plum Label (of course!) Petite Sirah, which is available directly for them for $20. I haven't been hugely imPreSsed with most of the diamond series wines (I've liked the Malbec and the Shiraz, haven't liked the Claret in recent vintages, and haven't tried the Zin, Merlot, PN, or straight Cab). Given the price for an "entry-level" PS, I don't know whether this is a good value, especially given the other very solid to good PS that are available for cheaper (Concannon, Foppiano, Peachy Canyon 05, Bogle 06)
Winemaker’s Notes (fact sheet .pdf)
My grandfather, John Rolleri, was a Napa Valley grape grower back when the California wine industry was just gaining notoriety. His favorite grape was Petite Sirah, and because it had been a passion of his, I, too, developed a fondness for the varietal. Once I became a winemaker, I sought out prime Petite Sirah vineyards, and started experimenting with different winemaking techniques for this grape variety. After all these years of working with Petite Sirah, I’m proud to include this wine in our Diamond Collection. I hope that more wine drinkers can experience this wonderful varietal. [HELL YES! -- Loweeel]
The fruit for this wine is grown in diverse regions throughout California. Immense color saturation and intense aromas of sweet, juicy boysenberries set the stage for a wine loaded with lush, jammy fruit, and long, lingering flavors of plums, blackberries, sage and a hint of smoke.
Pairs perfectly with lamb chops, brisket, or creamy mushroom soup.

Tasting Profile
Appearance: Deep purple
Aromas: Crushed berries, sage, and smoke
Flavors: Black plums, currants, and vanilla
Appellation: California
Blend: 100% Petite Sirah
Alcohol: 13.44%
Total Acid: .57
pH: 3.73
Barrel Regimen: 16 months in French oak
Released: March 2009
Suggested Retail $19.00 [ironic, given that they charge $20 for it! -- L]

I've also discovered that FFC also makes a port-style PS in its Reserve (highest-end) series, sourced entirely from Ruby's Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley ($30, available from FFC -- they don't list the bottle size, but CellarTracker has it at 500ml).
The Varietal (fact sheet .pdf)

Petite Sirah is a powerhouse red grape that makes dark, inky wines that are peppery, heavy on the tannin and chock full of delicious blackberry flavors. Because of its heady nature, this varietal is ideal for producing a Port-style wine, which is produced by stopping fermentation while there is still sugar left in the wine and then adding grape brandy to the tank. The resulting wine becomes higher in alcohol, as you may well imagine, and well suited for aging. Ports made from Petite Sirah typically offer juicy flavors of baked blackberry pie, sugared plums and sweet black cherries as well as notes of dark chocolate and seasoned wood.

The Wine
Our Petite Sirah is grown in Dry Creek Valley. This appellation has a diversity of microclimates and soil variations, which enables it to accommodate many different grape varietals. Petite Sirah ripens beautifully in the warm northern section of the region and gathers much complexity due to the soil composition. After harvest, our grapes are placed in special tanks. When about half of the natural sugar in the grapes has been converted to alcohol, clear grape spirit is added to the wine, which causes the yeasts in the wine to die off. This effectively causes fermentation to cease, thereby creating a sweet wine. The port is then placed in small oak barrels for an extended cellaring period in order to subdue the tannin and heighten the flavor complexity.

Food and Wine Parings
Pair our Petite Sirah Port with chocolate or toffee desserts, hard or bleu cheeses, and toasted nuts for a decadent after dinner treat.

Blend: 100% Petite Sirah
Aged: 24 months in 50% new French oak barrels, 50% 1-2 year old barrels.
Alcohol: 17.5%

CUT. And that's a wrap.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More On PS Not PaSsing Its Prime

Via CellarTracker, here's another old Petite Sirah tasting. Most of the wines came through with flying colors. For scores, notes, and pictures, click on over, but here are the wines that they tasted and a bit about them:
  • 1975 Burgess, Napa Valley (13%) (91-95/100, Connoisseurs' Guide). We've tried this a couple times over the past 5 years or so, and the wine has developed a wonderfully fragrant nose of black cherries, vanilla and cream. Rich, lush, and layered in the mouth, it has shown no signs of reaching the end of its peak, even after 25 years
  • 1975 Caymus, Napa Valley (13.0%): The only Petite Caymus every made. Ink grade and seemingly ageless.
  • 1977 Ridge "York Creek", Napa Valley (5% Zinfandel, 13.6%): One of the all-time classic vintages from Ridge. In the same spirit as Ridge using a bit of Petite Sirah in many of their Zins to add complexity, so have they added a bit of Zin to this Petite to good effect. Ridge captures the minerally, spicy side of the York Creek Vineyard while Freemark Abbey features more the powerful fruit.
  • 1977 Burgess, Napa Valley (13.5%) (87-90/100, Connoisseurs' Guide) As this wine passes its 30th birthday, it has become a lovely, elegant wine, more reminiscent of an old Cote Rotie than a brawy Petite Sirah.
  • 1977 Mount Veeder "Niebaum-Coppola Vineyards", Napa Valley (13.5%): Mount Veeder's only Petite Sirah. Almost black purple. Black cherries and eucalyptus.
  • 1978 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley (13.2%): Warren Winiarski is best known for his great Cabernets from the Stag's Leap region, including the 1973 which won the famed Stephen Spurrier Bordeaux-California Cabernet tasting in 1976. However, from 1978 through 1980, he experimented with Petite Sirah and produced a style different from most Petites from his contemporaries.
  • 1978 Stag's Leap Vineyards (13%): While Stag's Leap Wine Cellars is known for its Cabernets, Stag's Leap Vineyards [later Stags' Leap Winery] has always led with Petite Syrah. Their Petites from the 1970s are the benchmarks by which other Petites were measured, and this 1978 was one of his very best.
  • 1980 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, North Coast (13.2%): This was Warren Winiarski's last Petite.
I planned to open an old bottle myself last night, a 1977 Parducci PS (North Coast), but it was completely vinegarized. In fact, it looked like somebody had opened the bottle previously, and re-glued the (wax-ish, not tin) capsule head back to the top of the cork after recorking. My first completely spoiled (and possibly deceitfully-listed) bottle from WineBid. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Are You PSycho about PS?

If so, then you might want to keep Tuesday, August 4, 2009 open, especially if you can get to Livermore, CA.
Well, it's the 7th Annual Petite Sirah Symposium, at Concannon Vineyards, the birthplace of varietal-labeled PS.
Didn't we just have Dark & Delicious?
Yes, but that's a totally different event.
How so?
Well, D&D is consumer-centric. The focus is on tasting wine, eating food, and having purple teeth. You're in and out in a few hours, and it's like a whirlwind of tannins.
And PSS?
Is not just tasting and schmoozing -- it's more academic. It is a gathering of Winemakers, Growers, and ProducerS. Here's more from Jo Diaz:

Each year, on behalf of Petite Sirah, this event gathers the best and the brightest Petite Sirah growers, winemakers, and producers. Topics traditionally include aspects of wine growing, wine making, and the marketing of Petite Sirah. Because this year’s event is going to be held at a much larger venue, the program has been expanded to include a media PS tasting after lunch in Concannon’s new barrel room. The Symposium is still going strong as it approaches its seventh year of fostering the best expression of this noble variety.

The day will include lunch, prior to the afternoon media event. This informal gathering of wine principles is also a highlight of the day, as growers and producers explore each others’ Petite Sirahs.

For all of you wine writers, bloggers, or trade people who want to explore the depths of PS out there, you’ll have about 40 winemakers all pouring their Petites for you, and another 40 wine growers, all available to talk with you about their passion… Petite Sirah. This is one event you don’t want to miss. Just let me know that you’re interested, and I’ll send you more details.
Will you be there?
Um... I'll do my best. Mid-week trips to California aren't the easiest for me, but I'll see what I can do. :-)

Friday, March 6, 2009


(Sorry about the lack of PoSting -- I got sick with something I caught on the airplane on the way home from Cali about 10 days ago, so I haven't been drinking much or had a ton of free time to PoSt. There's plenty to come).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Mr. Brecher, (and Ms. Gaiter), Open That Bottle!"

John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter of the Wall Street Journal are my favorite "old media" wine journalists. They write in an open and engaging manner, aren't preachy, and often relate their long journey through the world of wine. On top of it, they're married to each other, and it's heartwarming to see family anecdotes and informative to see where their palates differ.

One of their creations is something called "Open That Bottle" Night, on which they encourage us to open a bottle of wine that we've been hoarding or saving for a special occasion. They are of the opinion (and it's true at least for me!) that people typically hold onto "special bottles" for too long, because there are too many special bottles and not enough special occasions. So, now there's one more, one guaranteed to come every year.

Why am I PoSting about this? Well, they also posted their 4 candidate bottles, along with why it's a potential. The one that's WAY in last place (we should be used to getting no respect!) is of interest to us -- 1994 Royal Escort Petite Sirah Port, from Prager Winery and Port Works! So go vote for it -- all 12 or so of you who read this. Here's why they picked it:
During one of our first visits to Napa and Sonoma, we stopped by Prager in St. Helena. We thought we'd dropped into Santa's workshop because standing before us, in a room chock-full of interesting memorabilia and doodads, was a white-haired man who seemed to be straight from central casting. That's how we met Jim Prager and, man, did he like to talk. We spent what seemed like the whole afternoon with him and left with way too many bottles. On another visit years later, we again purchased too much and asked Mr. Prager to sign a few bottles, which he merrily did. This is the last bottle from that lot -- and it's signed in gold ink by Mr. Prager. Yep, we know real Port comes from Portugal, but every time we see this bottle, we smile at the memory of our introduction to Jim. His children run the place now. Peter Prager, one of Jim's sons, says his dad retired when they changed the tasting room cash register to a computer -- he took one look at it and said, "I retire." Still, Prager remains a marvelous quirky stop in Napa and we know that many people have the same warm memories of it that we do.
Even beyond PS, I'm interested in their imPreSsions of this bottle, because I have 2 375 ml bottles of the 2004, 3 750s of the 1998, and 2 750s of the 1984, mostly thanks to my winebid addiction. I've also had their NV PS Port, and 2 bottles of their 1991 LBV Royal Escort PS Port.

Prager isn't limited to port, though -- their only dry wine is a PS (current vintage is 2004, from Imogene's Vineyard in the town of Calistoga, but bears the St. Helena appellation on the label). They also make, depending on the year, three different ports (fortified dessert wines) from PS -- the constant being their non-vintage PS Port (currently from Lodi fruit). They also make, from time-to-time in selected vintages, a true Vintage port and an LBV port, (though somewhat confusingly, both are currently called "Royal Escort") out of the "Paladini" Vineyard that they own in the Napa Valley AVA.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The PaSt is Prelude

Whew. Dark and Delicious was flat-out AMAZING (even outweighing the backlog from spending 2 days out of the office). As I have more time, I'll be more specific (including PoSting some abbreviated tasting notes and other imPreSsions from D&D and the other tastings that weekend, which included Vincent Arroyo's 2007 Barrel SamPleS).
  • On top of the fantastic wine and delicious food, it was great to spend my time there with other wine.wooters -- especially Cat, "Sparky", and "Tenuki". From meeting up beforehand and traveling over together, to walking around as a (very) loose group at D&D, our afterparty (with a very special 44-year old guest) back at the Oakland Holiday Inn, and the travels over the weekend, it was a blast. Good friends, both new and old, make experiencing wine exponentially better.

  • Special thanks to "Winedavid39" and his wife "winefarm", the people behind wine.woot who make the community what it is, for attending D&D and the after party, and for supplying some samPleS of your own. You are, and always will be, my favorite dealers of the best gateway drug -- insane QPR wine of any variety.

  • I got to meet Jo Diaz and much of her family, and it was heartwarming to see other people so enthusiastic about PS. I'll never be able to thank her enough for supporting my habit, taking so much time to deal with me and my PS-obsession online and in-PerSon at D&D, and all her efforts on behalf of PS and its chamPionS.

  • The wines at D&D were fabulous. I didn't get to taste them all (only about 60%, I'd estimate, because I was busy chatting with the winemakers/sales reps), and that's even when I specifically avoided wines that I'd tasted in the last month or 2 (e.g., the yummy 2005 Mettler PS). I'll post my abbreviated notes, along with what were, to me, some of the biggest surPriSes, during the next week or so.

  • The conversations were also great. I had a lovely, incredibly flattering, 20-min conversation with the first among PatriarchS himself, Jim Concannon. He was almost as excited that I have a blog devoted to PS as I was to be speaking with him! I also ran into Dick Keenan of Kick Ranch, which my friend Megan loves to call "Kick-ASS Ranch", and had a nice chat with him, as well. The surprise there was that we have some unexpected mutual acquaintances in the legal field.

  • Then there was the after-party, with a wide array of high-end PS.

  • And of course, the winery visits. Those of interest to this blog are Vincent Arroyo for barrel samPleS, Corison (I'll explain later... this story is too good!), David Fulton (another great story there), Field Stone, and Seghesio and Rosenblum in Healdsburg.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love you Tomorrow, You're Only a Day Away...

In preparation for Dark & Delicious, I'm trying to focus on articles that will help us prepare to wrap our minds and palates around the scope of PS, to develop an appreciation of its differences and similiarities (roundness in the mouth, and hopefully some face-smashing tannins!).

And another on the scope of PS with some stats. In the most recent Quarterly Review of Wines (link at PSILY currently broken), Richard Paul Hinkle provides some nice stats on PS before providing some tasting notes (which I will only summarize, for copyright reasons).

First, the stats. PSILY must be doing a great job, as Hinkle observes, because PS, once a 14,000-acre workhorse, had dwindled to a disgracefully low 1400 acres in 1990. A little more than a decade later, and it had nearly tripled to just over 4000 acres. Fast forward another 4 years, and California was back past 6000 acres, and we'll be over 7000 by the end of 2009. A decent recovery, to be sure, but we have a ways to go!

Similarly, Hinkle notes that in 2003, only 65 American wineries produced PS. Today, we're up to (are you ready for this?) 448. That's just AWESOME. (Good job, Jo!)

In terms of the wines, Hinkle likes 2 that I'm a big fan of -- the Concannon Limited Release '05 (black currant, bacon, duck fat, oak, fruit-forward), and Parducci True Grit '05 (I enjoyed the '04, but this one is black pepper, pomegranate, tannin, dark chocolate, brusque). He also likes the standard RRV Foppiano 2005 ("all black fruit all the time" -- black currant, blackberry, pomegranate, blueberry, supple and alluring, agile and sophisticated), EOS's standard Paso Robles '05 (blustery, leather, plum, raspberry, soft black pepper), and the Twisted Oak Calaveras County '05 ("fluid, cigar box, fruit from cranberry to blackberry and cola").

And on that note... I'll see you guys tomorrow. I'm not hard to spot -- I'll have a gigantic blue-toothed smile to complement my red hair. Come say hi!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2 Days Left...

In preparation for Dark & Delicious, I'm trying to focus on articles that will help us prepare to wrap our minds and palates around the scope of PS, to develop an appreciation of its differences and similiarities (roundness in the mouth, and hopefully some face-smashing tannins!).

With just 2 short days remaining until Dark & Delicious 2009, let's get back on track with the American theme and the scope of PS. Here's a bit more about Washington State PS, including one from the Wahluke Slope Appellation north of Yakima Valley.

And another favorite of mine, inquiring whether PS is PoiSed to be the next value red. (Short answer = yes)

As for me, I had some PS of my own last night -- the 1996 Signoriello (Napa Valley), entirely unfiltered, made from 110-year old vines. I saw no signs of leakage or seepage. In the glass the wine was a translucent but impenetrable midnight purple, with a thin ruby-purple rim at the top of the glass. Surprisingly, there was very little sediment anywhere, just a bit at the bottom of the bottle. The wine, as one might expect from an adolescent PS, was a bit muted, but what I did taste was lovely -- black cherry/blackberry reduction, late-swarming velvety tannins, a bit of brett, some cedar, and a decently long finish. Plenty of acidity makes this a lithe, well-balanced, food-friendly PS, one that will last close to another decade with proper cellaring. Luckily, I do have that one last bottle...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

3 Days Left...

In preparation for Dark & Delicious, I'm trying to focus on articles that will help us prepare to wrap our minds and palates around the scope of PS, to develop an appreciation of its differences and similiarities (roundness in the mouth, and hopefully some face-smashing tannins!).

Having spent the last 3 days discussing the good old U. S. of A. (with that little detour to Baja), we're taking a vacation to Israel.

Courtesy of my friend Avi at HaKerem: The Israeli Wine Blog comes some interesting statistical information on Israeli viticulture.

Apparently, PS is considered a "main variety" of grape in Israel, though it is certainly smaller than many of the others. 2% of the total grape acreage planted is PS; similarly, PS is 2% of the total harvest by weight -- not bad for such a small grape!

Israel has more PS planted and harvested than it has gamay, malbec, zinfandel (take that, Zinfidels!), grenache, tempranillo, barbera, sangiovese, or nebbiolo.

3 of Hugh Johnson's 10 highest-ranked wineries in Israel use PS in some capacity: Margalit as a non-trivial blending agent in their Special Reserve Cabernet, while Ella Valley and Carmel make it as a stand-alone varietal.

Keep ImPreSsing us with your wines, Israel!

Monday, February 16, 2009

4 Days Left...

In preparation for Dark & Delicious, I'm trying to focus on articles that will help us prepare to wrap our minds and palates around the scope of PS, to develop an appreciation of its differences and similiarities (roundness in the mouth, and hopefully some face-smashing tannins!).

With 4 days left, we return to the last of Clark's articles on regional variation in PS. This one is a listing of the ratings/medals of 37 PS wines that tasted to determine regional variations. Mouseover (and look in the right-hand column) for the tasting notes.

Getting excited for D&D? With some of these wines available for tasting there, I know that I am! Masset, in particular, is of interest to me, having not had West Coast PS outside of California.

Wait, "West Coast"? What's with the qualifier? Yes, there's one from PennSylvania that I've had, and while it doesn't measure up to most of the ones from Cali, it is better than you might expect, knowing that it's from PA.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

5 Days Left...

In preparation for Dark & Delicious, I'm trying to focus on articles that will help us prepare to wrap our minds and palates around the scope of PS, to develop an appreciation of its differences and similiarities (roundness in the mouth, and hopefully some face-smashing tannins!).

With 5 days left, there's more from Clark Smith. In yesterday's PoSt, I link to his discussion of the ways in which PS varies according to its terroir and the chemical and PhySiological bases for those differences.

Now that we have that in hand, today's PoSt features Clark's listing of PS characteristics from many different appellations -- from Masset Vineyards way up in Washington State's Columbia Valley all the way down to Paso Robles and the rest of the Central Coast Appelation. Regrettably, Clark does not go further south and taste any of the interesting Baja California PS (including the widely-available L.A. Cetto from the Valle de Guadalupe appelation, one of my favorite bargains for a "drink soon" PS), but it's understandable. After all, the site is neither "Appellation North America" nor "Apelacion Mexico".

Unfortunately, Clark's sampling was far from complete. In some cases, like the Columbia Valley, the other ProducerS (PortteuS, Thurston Wolfe, Animale being the others who have produced more than one vintage since 2003) may not have had enough available for dataset of the region to be more than one wine.

However, in others, the small data sets are very puzzling. For the Russian River Valley, Clark only ProfileS Foppiano. To be sure, a sampling of RRVPS would be incomplete without them, but they are not the alpha and omega of that active of an appellation -- glaring omissions include Mayo, Elyse, Trinitas, and Christopher Creek. Clark's Concannon-only profile of the Central Coast appellation, which though slightly less active a hotspot than RRV, spans the San Francisco Bay area all the way down to Santa Barbara County may be even more deficient, as that area is much larger than the Sonoma-only RRV.

But compared to the imPreSsive scope of the project, these shortcomings are relatively minor. Kudos to Clark for risking his palate and mouth with the fearsome tannins of that much PS!

Clark concludes with a few ParagraphS on one of my favorite toPicS, aging/cellaring PS:
This variety seems endowed with all the elements to achieve gracefulness naturally – intense coloration, extractive power, and aromatic charm. But we also found a few clunkers, which were, in the main, victims of excessive hang time. It takes effort to dry out these wines, but it can be done. Particularly in regions of moderate color density, one should not count on big tannin as a warranty of ageability. Chief among the warning signs to drink now is a voluptuous forward fruit, but in this variety, one needs to distinguish between the fragility of pruney/raisiny fruit and the generosity of the dense plum and boysenberry which may age well.

Not immune from the downside of modern trends towards extended hang time, Petite’s dense coloration nevertheless usually saves all but the most extreme examples from dryness in youth, but poorly formed tannins spell doom in the cellar. Even for experts, the sheer mass of tannin makes it plenty tricky to distinguish youthful hardness from the grainy dryness which signals decline. In lighter reds, these are easily distinguished by the position and character of the tannins - the sheet-like grippy structure, all atop the tongue, which one finds in young wines being quite different from the dirty, gritty tannins under the tongue and in the cheeks as older wine falls apart.

To be sure, these tannin differences will prove useful guides once the wines have gotten through their first decade or so, and it is plain that the ’93 Foppiano remains vigorous and age worthy. But in the young wines, I doubt many could have seen this possibility. Likewise, I do not find that the standards of acidity, alcohol balance, pH or even minerality offer reliable clues to ageing of young Petites.

What to do? My simple advice is to watch the color. Healthy color is the key to structural finesse and graceful longevity. Probably the best indicator is hue. As with kings, the royal purple is the stamp of nobility, and a premature bricky hue says “if you like me, drink me now.”

Beyond that, I’d simply add that this varietal offers one of the best playgrounds for an enthusiast to experiment. The best reason to cellar this variety is that it’s an adventure, because none of us really know how it works. Hey, anybody up for a little fun?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

6 Days Left...

(oops! My scheduled auto-post didn't work for these entries! I'm going back and publishing them manually.)

In preparation for Dark & Delicious, I'm trying to focus on articles that will help us prepare to wrap our minds and palates around the scope of PS, to develop an appreciation of its differences and similiarities (roundness in the mouth, and hopefully some face-smashing tannins!).

With 6 days left, I bring you a fascinating piece from Appellation America on Sources of Petite Sirah's Regional Diversity (aka "Yes, Virginia -- and California, too! -- there is such thing as Terroir in the New World).

The article delves into the regional differences in aroma, tannins, fruit profiles, and even color! But this doesn't just discuss the difference qualitatively -- Clark Smith also discusses the "why" and the "how" of these differences. As somebody with a science background, I really love finding out what makes wine "work" -- coming as close as one can to isolating the dependent variables in the peculiar blend of soft science and art that takes us from soil to bottle.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beginning... The Final Countdown!

As Dark & Delicious 2009 fast approaches, I'll be counting down, trying to feature something new each day, no matter how many bottles of wine I have to crack open, or how thoroughly I have to scour the vast exPanSe of the internet.

With ONE WEEK LEFT until the Party Starts, today's PoSt will be circular and meta.

How so?

It's about Jo Diaz's write-up and PoSt about Carl Doumani (of Quixote), starting with his resPonSe to my own PoSt summarizing several of Jo's PoSts, including one about Carl Doumani. Confused yet? :-)

In that earlier PoSt, I described him as "PS Godfather Carl Doumani, currently of Quixote (which makes both the Quixote and Panza labels)."

From what Jo relates, Mr. Doumani read my PoSt as calling him the winemaker at Quixote, and wanted to emPhaSize, “I am not a winemaker. I did (and do) work with the winemakers to maintain a style that was developed by Lee Stewart in 1972-1973 and 1974. Any improvements in the wine quality were because of their intelligence, not mine.”

While Mr. Doumani is exceedingly modest, he is also correct. While I don't think I gave the imPreSsion that he was the winemaker, merely one of the more influential men in the small-but-lovely world of PS, part of the reason for this PoSt is clear up any remaining ambiguity. Mr. Doumani is not the winemaker.

But please click over and read the rest of Jo's article, which has some fascinating information on Mr. Doumani, his aesthetic sensibilities, and the visually arresting art and architecture that comprise Quixote Winery.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You're Only A Day Away...

Tomorrow, Titus Vineyards is having a video chat for the release of their 2005 Lot 1.
Wednesday, February 11th, 10:30am to 11:30 am PST. Join Eric Titus while he talks about and tastes the Titus Vineyards '05 Lot 1. Ask your questions in the chat room and get a real time answer from Eric and crew if you have a bottle you can even taste along with him. Special guests from the Oxbow Cheese Merchant will be by to talk about what cheeses to pair with the '05 Lot 1. Also, watch Eric prepare the winning recipe from the "Make my recipe with Titus Olive Oil Contest". The Titus Vineyards crew has chosen a recipe submitted by The Beer Wench. Enjoy!
(direct link to video here)

As you may remember, I got to "labrat" the 2004 version (65% PS, 30% PV, 5% Z) as a sample for wine.woot back in September '08, as quid pro quo for my tasting notes on it and general imPreSsions. I enjoyed the bottle immensely, and I look forward to the 2005 (same blend -- I wonder if that was deliberate, or was the result of blending trials? I'll have to ask that tomorrow). Even if I don't get a sample bottle, or woot pricing, I'll probably pick up at least one of them to hang out with its older brothers in my cellar.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Time CaPSule II

Eric Asimov recently wrote, about aged wines:
Similarly with petite sirah — I’ve had 25-year-old bottles that taste astonishingly fruity though less tannic than a new bottle, but I don’t see the point of keeping a bottle that long.
Sorry, Eric -- we do! And you would too if you've had some of ours.

3 weeks ago, I met up with some of the other PSychos in Chicago for a tasting of old wines, along with a bunch of the Chicago-area wine.woot crowd. While the was officially on Saturday, and was Cab-centric, we PSychos had some other wines beforehand, on Friday night, which, as one might expect from us, focused on well-aged PS.

But as the saying goes, there are no good old wines, just good old bottles. These were all from winebid, removed from temperature- and humidity-controlled cellars, with base neck fill or better. No bottle went for more than $30 (before winebid's markup). And the results showed that winebid's quality control is impressive indeed.
  • 1982 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah (USA, California, Napa Valley) -- Our (old) wine of the evening, and but for the 2006 Munch PS, would have been the wine of the night. Brilliant, extracted red fruits, vibrant acidity, tannins still gripping firmly through layer upon layer of red velvet. A 27-year old wine that could easily be mistaken for 8, but for the impressive amounts of sediment. The last few drops in the bottle were still kicking the next morning. (I have one of these left, and while it seems like it could last another 5-10 years, I probably won't take any chances))
  • 1983 Inglenook Petite Sirah (USA, California, Napa Valley) -- a bit disappointing at first, but the remaining bit in the bottle had improved by the next morning. Dark fruits, muted, still some gripping tannins, some oxidized aromas, tar. Not bad, but not worth the price (at least, based on the tastes after we opened it). But it may just have been a bad bottle, or something that lacked the structure to age. (1983 being my brother's birth year, I have a few of these left)
  • 1987 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah (USA, California, Napa Valley) -- Following the Stags' Leap, the old PS of the night. It's one of Arroyo's earliest wines. Blackberries, caramel, tar, dusty fine tannins everywhere, still great acidity, had the Arroyo "shoepolish" house style, which is always lovely to find. Tasted older than the Stags' Leap, and probably won't be around too much longer. But surprisingly, the last bit in the bottle was still kicking in the morning.
  • 1992 Schuetz Oles Petite Sirah Rattlesnake Acres (USA, California, Napa Valley) -- might have been in its dumb period, but wildly disappointing. No real fruit or structure to speak of. If you see it on winebid, don't be in a hurry.
  • 1999 Fife Petite Sirah Redhead (USA, California, North Coast, Redwood Valley) -- the youngest of the bottles, and, at least to me, still a young PS, albeit on the aged end of that. Very nice round red fruits, medium-bodied, light tannins, gripping acidity. Not a big, tarry PS. What made this wine work was the Brett to balance out the red fruits.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Time CaPSule I

My friend Sonadora came to our recent NoVA wine.woot gathering this past weekend, where we had a bunch of French and California wines from no younger than the 2000 vintage.

4 of the 6 wines I brought were PS that fit that theme (have no fear, I have plenty more old bottles).

Here are her notes on those bottles:
1979 Sebastiani Vineyards Petite Sirah Proprietor’s Reserve: Still fairly dark for an old wine. No fruit on nose. Chocolate, raisin, little port like on the nose, something plasticy, thin in the mouth. Past its prime.

1990 Mirassou Vineyards Petite Sirah: Blueberry, red fruit, tart, smoky, chocolate, cranberry juice, raisins. Really nice.

1997 Markham Petite Sirah: Indistinguishable dark fruit on the nose, sweet fruit, raisin, blue fruit.

1999 Kent Rasmussen Petite Sirah Leeds-Chavez Vineyard: Blueberry, chocolate, caramel, perfumey, spice, nice fruit, tasty, well done.