The Ultimate Summer Wine: Petite Sirah Roundup

Wines perfect for pairing — especially during grilling season
Barra of Mendocino / Victor Hugo

Once you find a petite sirah you love, lay a couple of bottles or more down and wait — you’ll be justly rewarded in a few years.

Summer is here and grilling season is in full swing. Whether you’re pulling burgers, ribs, chicken, or portabellas off of your grill, you’ll need a wine that will pair well with all of those things. Petite sirah, generally one of darkest, inkiest, and most intense wines out there, is too often relegated to winter and paired with stews and pot roasts. Don’t get me wrong — it works fabulously with those dishes, but it works equally well, if not better, with grilled or smoked foods.  Over the last several weeks I tasted through 77 current examples of petite sirah of all shapes, sizes and styles. The 36 below are the examples I heartily recommend, including a couple of older wines I tasted.

One of the things I love about petite sirah is the quality you can get for such a reasonable price relative to many other more well-known grapes. It’s a particularly good value if you like aging wine. Not every example will age well of course, some are built for youthful drinking, but many are and they’re often bargains. I sampled two examples from the 2004 vintage. Both from long-term petite producers whose current releases I also recommend.

Ravenswood 2011 Vintners Blend Petite Sirah — Suggested Retail Price $10

The fruit for this widely available wine was sourced from throughout California. In addition to petite sirah (76%), carignane (11%), syrah (9%), and mixed black (4%) were blended in. It was aged over 16 months in French oak; 30% of the barrels were new. Plum, vanilla, and bits of toast appear on the nose of this widely available wine. Red and black raspberries dominate the palate. Leather, cherries, minerals, and cranberry are all part of the finish. At around $10 this is a good choice for casual drinking.

Pedroncelli 2012 Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah — Suggested Retail Price $17

This wine blends together grapes from the Pedroncelli Estate with fruit from the Bushnell Vineyard. This vineyard from a third-generation member of the family has been used in Pedroncelli wines since the 1940s. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in American Oak. Black plum, earth, and violets are all prominent on the nose along with bits of vanilla bean. Blueberry, plum, black pepper, clove, and cinnamon are each present on the palate, which is full-bodied and proportionate. Dark, dusty baker’s chocolate and continued earth are both present on the long finish. This wine has firm chewy tannins that yield with some air. If you’re drinking it now, decant it for an hour, otherwise lay it down for the next 10 years and drink it in the 5 or so after that. When you take age-worthiness, consistency of quality year–to-year, and price into account, it’s nearly impossible to beat this offering from Pedroncelli. This is a textbook example of awesome Dry Creek Valley petite sirah.

Pedroncelli 2004 Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah — Library Vintage

This was made from Estate fruit sourced in Dry Creek Valley. The nose is remarkably floral with a bevy of violet aromas. A hint of dusty chocolate, heaps of earth, and subtle but still present dark fruit flavors make up the palate. Chicory and black tea are both part of the long finish. This is simply an awesome wine. It’s softened up and doesn’t need the bold foods a younger PS does. It’ll pair well with things like pasta or pizza loaded with mushrooms. It’s a pleasure to drink now, but it has plenty of life ahead of it.

McNab Ridge Wine Company 2011 Petite Sirah — Suggested Retail Price $18

449 cases of this wine were produced. This Mendocino offering blends petite sirah (94%) with a bit of pinotage (6%). It was aged over 13 months in a combination of French and American oak.  The nose leads with a pure burst of blackberry, laced with hints of vanilla. This petite has a rich, full, bruiser of a palate loaded with dark and brooding flavors. Plum pudding spices and hints of thyme are present as well. Mushroom, earth, and chicory are part of the substantial finish. Well-integrated tannins and firm acid come together to help make this a terrific example of Mendocino petite sirah.

Fire up your grill and pair the results with some petite sirah. Chacewater Wine Company 2011 Petite Sirah — Suggested Retail Price $20

722 cases were produced. This wine from Lake County, Calif. is a blend of petite sirah (94%) with a splash of petit verdot (6%). All of the fruit came from a single vineyard. Aging took place over 20 months in both new and used French oak. Toast and bramble inform the nose. Chocolate-covered plum and blackberry emerge on the sumptuous palate along with black cherry. The finish has a velvety texture with bits of cinnamon, clover, tons of earth, baker’s chocolate, and a final flourish of fresh, dark fruit flavors. If you’re going to drink it now decant it for an hour, otherwise lay it down for 8 to 12 years.

Barra of Mendocino 2009 Petite Sirah —Suggested Retail Price $22

400 cases were produced. This wine is entirely Mendocino petite sirah produced from organically farmed Estate fruit. Violets, black plum and vanilla jump from the nose. Cherry and raspberry dominate the palate; they’re underscored by blackberries dotted with bits of dusty cocoa. Minerals, sour cherry, espresso and earth are all part of the lengthy finish along with a final kiss of blueberry. If you plan to drink it now, decant it for an hour and it will show you all of its many charms. If you’re patient, lay it down for a decade. This wine is consistently an excellent value.

Victor Hugo Winery 2011 Petite Sirah — Suggested Retail Price $24

599 cases were produced. This wine is 100% petite sirah grown on the winery’s Estate Vineyards in Paso Robles. Aging took place over 17 months in entirely American oak.  Plums, thyme, toast, and vanilla are all there on the nose of this young and eager to please petite. Tons of willing black fruit flavors such as blackberry and blueberry mark the substantial but even-keeled palate. Black raspberry and pepper emerge on the substantial finish. Firm acid and tannins provide solid backbone for this wine. It’s delicious now but will age gracefully for a dozen or more years. If you’re looking for a burst of pure petite sirah character, here’s a great example to consider.

Victor Hugo Winery 2004 Petite Sirah — Library Vintage

This wine was made entirely from Estate fruit and is entirely composed of petite sirah. The first thing I noticed when pouring it is that it has yet to lose a bit of color. Dried blueberry and earth aromas dominate the nose. The palate is filled with mellow, dry fruit flavors that have softened and glide over the tongue. The finish is quite mineral laden and also shows off bits of earth. I found that it needed about 30 minutes in the decanter to blow off a touch of funkiness. After that it was refined, sophisticated and a pleasure to drink. It’s delicious now and will continue to drink well for another 5 years.

Hearst Ranch Winery 2011 “The Pergola” Petite Sirah — Suggested retail price $25 — This selection is blends together petite sirah (87.5%), and petit verdot (12.5%).  All of the wines in their portfolio are given names with significance to the Hearst legacy. All of the fruit for this wine was Estate-grown on the east side of Paso Robles. Black raspberry and plum aromas rule the nose. The palate is loaded with forceful, juicy plum flavors as well as tons of complementary spices. Rhubarb and vanilla bean are part of the finish. This is a bold petite sirah that will pair perfectly with a rack of Kansas City-style ribs.

Odonata 2011 Machado Creek Vineyard Petite Sirah — Suggested Retail Price $28

The fruit for this wine came from a small 10-acre vineyard on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s 100% petite sirah. It was pressed into the barrel and after fermentation was aged for 18 months. 30% of the barrels were new, the balance neutral. Bold, ripe black raspberry aromas explode from the nose. The palate brings to mind a bowl of ripe, dark berry flavors with raspberry and plum taking the lead. Sour cherry and fruitcake spices emerge on the juicy finish. This is a well-proportioned wine with soft tannins and good acid. It would be a fantastic partner for smoked brisket.

Parducci 2011 True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah —Suggested Retail Price $29

This wine is made entirely from Mendocino fruit and it’s all petite sirah. It was barrel aged for 27 months in a combination of new and previously used oak. Dust, bramble, and bits of bay leaf are all present on the nose. Dried black fruits such as blackberry and plum, wrapped in bits of earth and bitter-leaning dark chocolate, are all part of the dense palate. The tannins are firm and gripping. Earth dominates the finish along with white pepper and cardamom. This one is delicious now but will improve for 8 or so years and drink well for another 6 after that.

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