The Best Petite Sirahs for Grilling

California’s darling grape is game for grilling
Staff Writer

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Like zinfandel, petite sirah is primarily a California wine: the Golden State’s long, sunny growing seasons are necessary to ripen petite sirah’s substantial tannins and reveal its rich blackberry flavors. The wine’s structure, fruit, and inky color make it an excellent blending partner for zinfandel, red Rhône varieties, and even cabernet sauvignon. As a varietal wine, it can be surprisingly complex and long-aging. It’s also, not surprisingly, an excellent food wine.

Petite sirah offers layers of flavor beyond black fruit, particularly Chinese five-spice, leather, and meat. It melds with the spice-laden stewed beef dishes of Ethiopian cuisine, the lamb tagines of Morocco, and Mexican molé sauce. But petite sirah loves grilled meat. Choose rib-eye steak, pork ribs, lamb chops, wild game, or sausage. Do a garlic and herb marinade, a dry spice rub, or just salt and pepper. Slather on barbecue sauce or don’t. It’s all good with petite sirah.

Concannon Vineyard: The History of a Variety

Petite sirah arrived in the vineyards of San Jose, Calif., in 1884, somewhat by accident. Just a few years later, Livermore Valley’s Concannon Vineyard began planting petite sirah in volume and no winery has been a bigger champion for it. In 1961, Concannon bottled the United States’ first varietally-labeled petite sirah. And today Concannon remains one of its foremost producers, offering a wide range of petite sirah wines, from smooth and friendly to robust and age-worthy.

2008 Concannon Petite Sirah Polo Field Vineyard Reserve Livermore Valley $36

Opaque ruby in the glass, with appetizing aromas of dark spice, cherry, black fruit, and citrus notes (a hallmark of Livermore Valley reds). The palate is medium-plus in body with very soft, chalky tannins. Ripe blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, sweet spice, earth, and an attractive hint of Meyer lemon oil. Tasty and immediately accessible. It will be happy with any red or white meat you grill or those chocolate cupcakes you’ve been saving for dessert. Aged 24 months in American oak. 260 cases. 14.6 percent alcohol. 88 points

2000 Concannon Petite Sirah Heritage Reserve, Livermore Valley $70

Concannon offers library wines as well as current releases. Heritage Reserve is their top-of-the-line, made from stringently selected estate fruit. Thirteen years from vintage, this wine has developed some tertiary characteristics, but also plenty of rich fruit. Dark ruby in the glass, with generous aromas of blackcurrant, Chambord, drying leaves, and tobacco. Full-bodied with medium-plus chalky tannins. The palate holds juicy black fruit and Chambord, the tobacco and drying leaves, but also medium-dark chocolate and dark spices. Try it with smoked, char-grilled ribs brushed with tomato-molasses barbecueA sauce. Drink now through 2020+. 100 percent petite sirah. 14.1 percent alcohol. 90+ points

1965 Concannon Petite Sirah $N/A

Speaking of the aging ability of petite sirah, early this year I had the opportunity to open a 1965 Concannon Petite Sirah sourced from a private cellar. I poured it with some top Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon from the same period and a number of other wines. This petite stole the show. It was still dark in color and intense. I decanted it for an hour. The body was moderate (just 12 percent alcohol) but the wine was mind-bendingly complex. There was a broad assortment of tertiary flavors, but also a lot of black fruit. The finish was long and, for those of us with willpower to sip slowly, the wine’s intensity lasted all night in our glasses. Wines tend to be built differently today and few, if any, can last this long but the variety does have that potential.

Click here to find more petite sirah recommendations for grilling.

— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth

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