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Art in Wine,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine tasting,Winemaker

Exploring the Depths of Petite Sirah’s Soul

Yesterday I queried if wine has a soul, as described by my friend Sondra Barrett. We’re both convinced that it does. In her book, Wine’s Hidden Beauty, ” Sondra has been able to get close to the cellular structure of certain different varieties, which have very similar patterns. Sauvignon Blancs, for instance have very angular structures… likes swords. Interestingly, some organic wines have the shape of a heart.

UPDATE FROM SONDRA BARRETT – EDIT:

A common mistake people make (you are not the only one) because wine is alive they think I’m photographing cells: There should be no cells in wine except if its unfiltered and there would be yeasties. The photos are actually molecular expressions – how the molecules gather together in their given environment. Maybe they are the soul or spirit of the wine, maybe they express the inner terroir. a gathering of molecules. Like Lava Cap shows one consistent type smallish rounds while Crusher showed big showy images.

We couldn’t wait to find what shape would become Petite Sirah’s defining structure. And, so, I held a tasting where Sondra was invited, and she dutifully took samples of each separate wine. Little did any of us know what shape would dominate.

DIGRESSION: It has been greatly written about Petite Sirah, that there’s no benchmark style. I did have one writer tell me back in 2002, that his benchmark was Stags’ Leap… the style that Carl Doumani was wanting and Robert Brittan (at the time) was delivering. However, no one else could put a finger on it… And today, that still remains true.

I can actually explain flavors to people, when I have the wines AVA (American Viticultural Area)  in front of me, but I won’t go so far as to say, and that’s the benchmark of Petite Sirah. There are so many different types expressions, and I believe that Petite Sirah is very vulnerable to a terroir’s conditions.

Sondra has written on her Website:

I never really knew petite sirahs until I met Jo Diaz, Executive Director of PS I Love You and WOW! PS I do love you. Here are the latest series of images, wines I’ve drunk and enjoyed, of course. Some of these will be available to purchase at our store as downloads, the images not the wines.

With Sondra’s permission to use her images, let’s explore her findings, and see what you think about Petite Sirah’s cellular structures.

I’m going to use what I used as a review for each wine, and have Sondra’s image to support it. Here we go…

2007 AQUINAS (Don Sebastiani & Sons) Napa Valley ~ $15.00 ~ Nose of blueberries, earth/flint, blackberries ~ Palate flavors followed the nose ~ Finish had good tannic structure. I really enjoyed this one. I felt that it deserved a Very highly recommended rating. all of the wines being mentioned have high scores from our tastings.

2007 PARDUCCI – True Grit, Mendocino ~ $30.00 ~ This one delivered, because it always does. True Grit has a gorgeous fingerprint. Very, very highly recommended. Owner Tim Thornhill explained to me years ago that he really like my story about Petite Sirah being a John Wayne kind of wine… And so, their True Grit was born. (I’m so pleased that he took advantage of being in our marketing group, and using a great idea to benefit his brand.)

2007 PARDUCCI, Mendocino County ~ $11.00 ~ Nose had plenty of black fruit ~ Palate was in great balance (we noticed it was a bit corked, but I was still able to taste what the wine had to offer). This wine produced by Parducci is always a great value, and for many, their entry wine into the world of Petite Sirah. Very highly recommended.

2008 ROCK WALL WINE CO., Mendocino County ~ $20.00 ~ Black juicy fruit, isn’t that what Kent Rosenblum ~ and now his daughter Shauna ~ always delivers? Lots of black fruit and boysenberries on the finish. Many of you will remember the wines produced by Kent while he owned Rosenblum Cellars. He brings his style and expertise to Rock Roll Wines. Very highly recommended.

2009 THE CRUSHER (Don Sebastiani & Sons) Clarksburg ~ $13.00 ~ Nose was blackberry pie begging for whipped cream ~ A medium bodied Petite, the flavors were more blueberry and strawberries. This one I’d pull out my fryolator and throw in some Tex-Mex wontons (Wonton wraps are great for this one). Very highly recommended.

2007 CLAYHOUSE Estate, Paso Robles ~ $25.00 ~ Cherry bomb ~ Rich, dense black fruit. It was very yummy. Tasting it in a blind tasting, I wrote, “Could this be another Paso Robles?” Yes, it was. Paso Robles Petite Sirahs have the distinction of delivering Petites with yummy flavors that trick your palate into thinking there’s a sweetness about them, even though they’re fermented bone dry. What I’ve learned at tastings, when I have someone who’s never tasted a Petite before, is to have that neophyte taste a Petite from either Paso Robles or Lodi, and I’ve got an instant fan. After that, these tasters can go anywhere else for anything else in the PS department. I’ve never had anyone make a face of displeasure or say, “Yuck!” This Clayhouse wine delivered with a Very highly recommended score.

2007 CLAYHOUSE Estate, Show Pony, Paso Robles ~ $40.00 ~ Again, dense, rich, and an extra spiciness that we all loved. We all got a big “Yum” from the black fruit. The Wine Wench called this one “sassy.” I liked that description a lot, and felt we had found a pair of velvet gloves in the Clayhouse wines. This is one of the Petites that got the highest of high scored. Very, very highly recommended.

2005 EOS Cupa Grandis Grand Reserve, Paso Robles ~ $60.00 ~ Another Paso Robles Petite, this one was rich and wild… Like Paris Hilton wild, where it was so good that everything it did to our palates was more than okay. EOS wines are very easy to like. Heck, EOS was the goddess of dawn, who opened the gates of Heaven each morning for the Sun’s chariot. Aphrodite punished her to be always in love. In my opinion, that’s not a punishment; it’s a pleasure, and so was this wine. It had wonderful flavors, it was beautifully balanced (something that our Paris is also trying hard to achieve), and it had a great finish. Very, very highly recommended.

2007 FIELD STONE, Staten Family Reserve, Alexander Valley ~ $35.00 ~ I haven’t tasted a Petite Sirah from Field Stone for a while. Winemaker Patrick Murray has been working with Reverend John Staten’s 100-year old vineyard for many years now, and he’s come up with something very magical that the whole Staten family can be very pleased with… A Petite Sirah that’s like a Samba, very sexy fruit, dressed in a black velvet gown with very muscular legs to pull off the entire routine without a flaw. We all agreed that another 20 or 30 years with this one, and it would only be more precise, but still very accomplished at this time.  Very highly recommended.

2007 HARNEY LANE, Lodi ~ $24.00 ~ A new kid on the block for me, because this is a relatively new member of PSILY, and I’ve never tasted what they’re doing with their family’s Lodi fruit. I couldn’t have been more pleased, and this was the point that I realized, I really do love Petite Sirah… more than I realized. This one was a lighter version, and my palate welcomed the luscious fruit. More blueberry and strawberry than the others. It reminded me of cotton candy (and who doesn’t love cotton candy?). It was fanciful and lively, the finish didn’t finish like candy, but left soft, pleasing notes that we all enjoyed. Very highly recommended.

2006 LANGTRY Estate, Guenoc Valley ~ $40.00 ~ One of my old favorite members, one of the wineries that was included in my winery cat story in 1995… A winery where I share a lot of personal history… Did you know, there’s only one winery in Guenoc Valley, and it’s Langtry Winery? (Good trivia question for you…) This wine had a nose of complex depth, flavors that were black fruit and very tasty. The rich, brooding fruit with notes of smoked beef delighted us all. Very, very highly recommended.

2007 TRES SABORES, Napa Valley ~ $35.00 ~ This Petite was an Audrey Hepburn ~ Breakfast at Tiffany’s wine. That all makes sense to me, given that the winemaker is Julie Johnson. A simply beautiful Petite Sirah, I loved the rich, chocolate nose, the tobacco and leather blending with blueberry and blackberry flavors,and the refined finish. It was a waltz of a wine directed by Julie. Very highly recommended

2007 TWISTED OAK, Calaveras County ~ $24.00 ~ I always love getting Twisted with Jeff Stai. This is definitely the rock n’roll version of Petite Sirah, with the dip at the end that my favorite dance partner (during the rock n’roll heyday) always delivered with me. Jeff’s Petite danced it out in a Ginger Rodgers way… How she could dance it out, and then slide through the finish. This petite was rich and dense, filled with intricate flavors and promise, which delivered in a very smooth and lovely exit on the finish. Very, very highly recommended.

2007 LAVA CAP Reserve, El Dorado ~ $30.00 ~ This is also one that I was tasting for the first time. One would think that I could taste all the members’ wines at Dark & Delicious, but I’m lucky if I get to even just say, “Hello!” to each one. They’re all there. They’re all open and such a temptation, but I’m constantly expediting. Meanwhile, I’ve always wondered about this one, because I knew David Jones, the founder, before he passed away. The man was an accomplished geologist… he knew his soils as a scientist. I knew as a morphed winemaker his soils would be very important to the flavors of his wines, terroir being what it is. This one is a Thomas Jefferson wine, because one sip and I thought, “Where’s my quill?” The black ink coming from this wine was awe inspiring. It reminded me more of a Pinot Noir, because it was filled with delicate cherry and plum flavors, and it had a powerfully lovely finish. Very highly recommended.

2005 METTLER, Lodi ~ $25.00 ~ This Mettler family (there are other branches in Lodi) has supported PS I Love You since the day we began. Larry Mettler was on our board from the beginning for the time allotted for members. He took a year off and then returned. He started as a grower member, only. Then I watched his brand be born, and now it’s in a lovely bloom. I knew with the nose tasting blind that this was either a Paso or Lodi wine (and I also learned if I’m questioning Paso, then it’s a Lodi… Got that one, now). It was a jammy fun-house kind of wine. We were all delighted and wanted more from its rich, black fruit, well balanced, great finish. Very, very highly recommended

2007 J. Rickards Vineyards & Winery ~ $24.00 J. Rickards is one of our newest member of PSILY, and an awareness of us as result of this tasting ~ We were all very interested in seeing what this Petite had to offer. It did really well. This one has strawberries and cherries on the nose with lively blackberry on the palate, which all translated into being very easy to like for me. It’s well balanced and has really beautiful fruit. Very highly recommended.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Exploring the Depths of Petite Sirah’s Soul”

  1. Jo Diaz says:

    From Sondra Barrett:

    Great and interesting article. I tried to write a comment – a teeny space and then only got some out – maybe its my browser but I never had a problem before yesterday commenting on your blog.

    What I attempted to write –
    A common mistake people make (you are not the only one) because wine is alive they think I’m photographing cells: There should be no cells in wine except if its unfiltered and there would be yeasties. The photos are actually molecular expressions – how the molecules gather together in their given environment. Maybe they are the soul or spirit of the wine, maybe they express the inner terroir. a gathering of molecules. Like Lava Cap shows one consistent type smallish rounds while Crusher showed big showy images.

    Sondra Barrett

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Sondra, for the clarification. It takes your PhD to even begin to understand what you’re all about. Yesterday, I called you diminutive. I can also add as complex as your undertakings… What a gift to have you as a friend. — jo

  3. Sondra says:

    A great article Jo and I got to revisit the molecular photo expressions of the petites we tasted. It almost seems as the wines you described with tannin structure are those that have more linear forms – Aquinas and Parducci’s True Grit, and what about the muscular legs of Fieldstone. Those wines that you described with black fruit like Rock Wall, Crusher, and Clayhouse Show Pony revealed much more voluptuous rounded forms. The rock n roll wine Twisted Oak had forms no other PS shows – maybe its all the dancing its done.

    It was an amazing variety of wines to taste and photograph. A lot more variety than cabs, in general.

    In the end, you have made me a convert to PS for all levels of its inner beauty and expression on our palates. Thank you so much for featuring my work here.

  4. Sondra says:

    Figuring this stuff out my friend – a lifetime – for wine and each one of us. And we may never figure it out – so guess we must enjoy the journey. A toast to friendship – clink clink.

  5. Nice blog. Very informative one. I learned a lot. Thanks for posting this one.

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