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Archive for April, 2008

Parducci Wine Cellars – 2004 True Grit Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on April 30, 2008

Mendocino County is the origin of the next wine up for the 12 Days of Petite Sirah. Parducci Wine Cellars is a producer committed not only to making good wine but also to sustainable practices. They have set out to produce wines that have a sense of place and which are inextricably linked to their Parducci True GritMendocino roots.

The 2004 ParducciTrue Grit Petite Sirah had a small amount (2%) of Viognier blended in to help elevate the nose. It was aged in a combination of French (56%) and American (44%) oak, 23% of it new. 1380 cases of this wine were bottled and the suggested retail price is $25.

Bright berry fruit bursts through a dusty earthiness from the nose onward. The first sip reveals black currant, dark dry fruit notes and a touch of vanilla bean. The mid-palate has black raspberry with a strong and persistent undercurrent of dark chocolate syrup. The finish is multilayered and lengthy. Raspberry truffle and tons of earthiness followed by espresso and chicory notes are the most prominent characteristics. Drink this wine with Beef Brisket, Hangar Steak with port wine reduction Sauce or other equally hearty fare.

Decanting for 45 minutes or more is recommended for this wine to really start opening up and exhibiting it’s charming flavors and layers of complexity. This wine is tightly structured with firm tannins. It promises to age a long time. 10 to 15 years strikes me as a safe window for aging this wine.

For $25 Parducci is offering an excellent wine, which for all intents and purposes is a text book example of classic Petite Sirah.

Check out PS I love You, the Advocacy Group dedicated to this great varietal.

12 Days of Petite Sirah Continues. Stay Tuned, 19 More Petite Sirah Reviews Coming!

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Quivira Vineyards – 2005 Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on April 29, 2008

Quivira Vineyards is a small winery in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. First founded in 1981 Quivirathe winery started a second life in 2006 when Pete Knight purchased it and Steven Canter was brought onboard as winemaker.

Dry Creek Valley is an area prized for the Zinfandels and Petite Sirah’s it produces. No surprise then that Zinfandel is the trademark varietal of Quivira. Zinfandel is so important to the Quivira portfolio that most of their Petite Sirah is blended in with those wines. In some years however Quivira finds that the Petite Sirah they harvest is of such outstanding quality that it demands to be bottled separately.

2005 was a year in which Quivira bottled a stand alone Petite Sirah. The Quivira 2005 Wine Creek Ranch Petite Sirah spent 12 months in French Oak. 852 cases were produced. The suggested retail price is $26.

The Quivira Vineyards Petite Sirah opens with a nose of black currants, pepper and spice underscored by subtle but persistent vanilla notes. A slight tartness out of the bottle blows off pretty quickly, especially if you decant. Dark fruit in the form of blackberry, fleshy plum and cherry dominate the palate of this wine. Sweet black cherry notes and additional pepper emerge on the finish, which is above average for sure. The finish also featured a bit of residual lip puckering tartness. This is no small wine, but within the world of Petite Sirah this is a medium bodied, fairly complex offering. This wine is going to pair with a wider array of foods than most Petite Sirah’s. A traditional Italian Sunday Dinner with pasta and red sauce is certainly not out of the question.

The Quivira Vineyards 2005 Petite Sirah is drinking well now and should improve over time. It seems to be at the beginning of it’s drinking window and a solid decade of positive evolution seems plausible. Anyone who enjoy Dry Creek wines with that unmistakable dusty quality that can be tasted so much easier than it can be explained are encouraged to check out the Quivira Petite Sirah.

Check out PS I love You, the Advocacy Group dedicated to this great varietal.

12 Days of Petite Sirah Continues. Stay Tuned, 20 More Petite Sirah Reviews Coming!

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Peltier Station – 2005 Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on April 29, 2008

12 Days of Petite Sirah continues, with the first of several coming up from the Lodi California appellation. I find this region to be particularly noteworthy for Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Therefore I’m happy to report that several of the two-dozen Petite Sirah’s I’m covering will be from this area.

Peltier StationPeltier Station is the first selection from Lodi I’ll be looking at. I recently had their Viognier at a tasting and was impressed by it’s freshness and varietal character. So when I was planning the 12 Days of Petite Sirah I knew I’d want to include Peltier Station in my coverage.

This Petite Sirah is 100% varietal and all Lodi fruit. Oak alternatives were used over 7 months to replicate 24 month of barrel aging. 5,000 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $18. This is a wine made with a specific flavor profile in mind, that of big and brawny Petite Sirah.

A huge nose of plum and vanilla are the first things from the Peltier Station Petite Sirah to present themselves. The first sips reveal a bit of tartness, deep jammy plum and dark berry fruit. Atypically for a Petite Sirah this wine opens up quickly when decanted. The mid-palate through the finish feature a ton of white pepper notes as well as continued dark berry fruit and undertones of mocha and earthiness. This wine will match up with the biggest food you can throw at it. Steak, Lamb, and Wild Boar are but a few choices that come to mind.

The 2005 Peltier Station Petite Sirah epitomizes Lodi fruit. It’s bright and jammy on top with a solid backbone of dark fruit underneath. This wine is a big, rich, opulent, drink now pleasure giver. The Peltier Station Petite is over the top and I mean that in the best way possible. As the old Howlin’ Wolf song is titled this wine was “Built for Comfort.” While it’s not as age worthy as the other Petite Sirah’s I’ve looked at, so far, that wasn’t it’s intent. All that in mind it still the structure to drink well for several years. But why wait?

While the retail price is $18 you can find this for under $15 if you look around. At that price it’s the perfect choice to bring to a Memorial Day BBQ or other event where you want to wow a large group for a reasonable amount of money.

Check out PS I love You, the Advocacy Group dedicated to this great varietal.

Up Next: 12 Days of Petite Sirah Continues, Stay Tuned.

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Rutherford Grove – 2006 Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on April 28, 2008

The second selection for the 12 Days of Petite Sirah is from Napa Valley’s Rutherford Grove. Established in 1993, they have been making excursively Estate sourced wines since the 2003 vintage.

The Spring Creek Vineyard that the grapes were sourced from is located in St. Helena. This is in the northern Rutherford Grove Petite Sirahportion of Napa Valley. Aging was split evenly between French and American oak. 50% of it new, 30% on year old and the balance 2 year old.1,000 cases of this Petite Sirah was made. The suggested retail price is $37.

Bib black cherry character underscored by vanilla are the most prominent characteristics on the nose. The first sips reveal a fleshy dry fruit and bring plum and sour cherry to mind. Spiciness and subtle licorice notes come out on the mid-palate and carry on through the finish which also has additional dark fruit notes and a touch of earthiness.

While this wine drinks well now, especially after decanting I don’t think it’s near it’s peak. This is a good choice to lay down for 8 or so years and drink for close to a decade after that. The earthiness that is subtly present now should emerge to the forefront over time.  Petite Sirah’s are rightly often described as big, juicy and brooding. Elegant is rarely a word associated them, this one is that as well as subtle and layered. The sour cherry notes that emerge on the front of the palate remind me of the characteristics associated with Chianti. In some ways this wine strikes me that perhaps this is what Petite Sirah would taste like if it was made in Tuscany.

Rutherford Grove has crafted a wine that has many of the benchmark Petite Sirah characteristics, yet also strays from what one might consider a typical expression of this varietal. As I mentioned above I expect this wine to be an exceptionally age worthy example of Petite Sirah. Pick up a couple and forget about them for awhile, you’ll be rewarded later.

 Check out PS I love You, the Advocacy Group dedicated to this great varietal.

Up Next: 12 Days of Petite Sirah Continues, Stay Tuned.

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Epiphany Cellars – 2005 Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on April 28, 2008

The first wine I’m looking at for the 12 Days of Petite Sirah is from Epiphany Cellars. Located in Los Olivos California they’re one of the labels under the Fess Parker Family of Wines Umbrella.

Epiphan Cellars Tasting ROomThe 2005 Petite Sirah from Epiphany is 95% varietal with 5% Grenache blended in. 55% of the wine spent 24 months in French Oak. 967 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $30.

Plum, cedar and caramel present prominently in the nose. The first sip reveals the wine to be a bit tight out of the bottle with some characteristic Petite Sirah tartness at first blush. Decanting is highly recommended with almost any Petite Sirah and this one is no exception. Once it opens up vanilla notes emerge and play and become prominent. The caramel continues through the mid-palate and is accompanied by fruitcake notes and some light earthiness. The finish features a terrific spiciness.

I found the 2005 Epiphany Cellars Petite Sirah to be particularly layered and complex for an offering this young. Considering it’s relative elegance for a young Petite this is a good choice for a kicked up BBQ. Will pair well with grilled filet mignon, braised short ribs or other rich roods.

Medium tannins suggest this wine will age and evolve nicely. I’d expect the now subtle earthiness to emerge and become far more prominent over time. The Epiphany Cellars Petite Sirah should drink well for at least a decade and perhaps longer. Deciding when to drink it will depend on whether you want to enjoy the current fruitiness or the earthiness which will come out later. Either way this is a fine example of Petite Sirah.

Check out PS I love You, the Advocacy Group dedicated to this great varietal.

Up Next: 12 Days of Petite Sirah Continues, Stay Tuned.

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12 Days of Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on April 27, 2008

Starting tomorrow I’ll be featuring Petite Sirah reviews for 12 straight days. It’s an early Christmas gift for those of us who love the varietal most likely to leave your teeth with purple stains. Some will be from well known producers and others will be from lesser known wineries. In all about 2 dozen offerings will be featured during the 12 Days of Petite Sirah. They’ll be from a variety of price ranges. This is a fun wine that some winemakers with other varietals as their focus only make tiny amounts of as a pet project. It’s the kind of wine that has inspired an advocacy group, PS I love You to form. How many grape varieties can lay claim to that? I hope you enjoy it, I know I’m looking forward to it!

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Lunch with Pieter Malan of Simonsig Family Vineyards

Posted by Gabe on April 26, 2008

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of spending a few hours having lunch with Pieter Malan. Along with his two brothers he runs Simonsig Famliy Vineyards in South Africa. It was founded by their father in 1968. Pieter Simonsigis a raconteur of the first order. He told the intimate group gathered at King’s Carriage House in Manhattan as much about wine in general as he did about his wines specifically. Pieter made an analogy that seemed to get the attention of everyone at the table. Basically he said that wine is like a four legged table. If fruit, acidity, sugar or alcohol is out of whack with the others, the table will not be balanced. It would be the equivalent of one leg being longer or shorter than the rest.

As Pieter conversed with us we ate  and tasted through six of his wines. First up was a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. While this wine definitely leaned toward the grassy style so often associated with New Zealand, I also found it to have some of the citrus associated with French and California Sauvignon Blanc’s.

The second wine we tasted was a 2007 Chenin Blanc. This varietal is the signature white grape of South Africa. Depending on the producer one of the big differentials with Chenin Blanc is how sweet a style it’s made in. The Simonsig Family Vineyards Chenin Blanc did have some light sweetness but it was never overdone. Rather that sweetness was enough to get the taste-buds primed after the more austere Sauvignon Blanc. The Chenin Blanc has a suggested retail of $10.99. For that price point it certainly would make a lovely aperitif or welcome wine to serve guests as they enter your home, or at the beginning of a long meal.

The next wine, and first red, was the 2004 Labyrinth Cabernet Sauvignon. Pieter revealed a story about the single vineyard (called Labyrinth) that this wine was sourced from. Long discussions with his brothers about planting a spiral vineyard led to planting one that is shaped like a Labyrinth. Pieter further described this wine as the one he finds the most pleasing to take into a corner and drink over a long evening. I found it to be a nice Cabernet Sauvignon for it’s $20 retail price. Dark fruit and vanilla notes were the most prominent to me. It’s particularly smooth for a Cabernet that’s less than 4 full years old.

Next we moved on to two vastly different Pinotage’s. While South Africa has more Chenin Blanc under vine than any other grape it’s Pinitoage that is it’s singularly unique offering. The first one we tasted was the 2004 Simonsig Pinotage. This wine saw no oak treatment at all. The thing that stood out to me about this offering was how much spice character it showed. It had good fruit and a medium body, but the spice is what drew me in for additional sips. For a suggested retail of $13.99 this was the wine that left the biggest impression on me. It struck me as steal. It’s a red that has enough complexity to keep you interested, yet is light enough to drink in the summer when bigger reds tend to be a bit too much.

The second Pinotage and fifth wine overall was the 2006 Redhill Pinotage. It would be an understatement to say this was a completely different expression of the same grape. This wine spent 16 months in a combination of French and American Oak, all new. That oak influence added quite a few layers. I found this wine to be enjoyable now, but I’d expect it to better and more resolved a year from now.

The final wine we had was the 2004 Simonsig Merindol Syrah. This Syrah had more in common with old world wines than new world examples. Plenty of rich berry fruit and mocha characteristics where present along with an inherent spiciness. The Syrah retails for $36.99 and also has several years of positive evolution ahead of it.

The wines of Simonsig Family Vineyards were all well balanced, often elegant. Each of them was built with food in mind. When thinking of South Africa this is unquestionably a producer to not only be aware of, but to seek out. Recommended across the board.

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Spier – 2005 Malbec/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot

Posted by Gabe on April 25, 2008

The last wine I’m looking at this week from Spier is a blend of Malbec (57%), Cabernet Franc (32%) & Petit Verdot (11%). The lots for this wine were aged separately in a combination of American and French oak before blending and bottling. As with the Shiraz I looked at yesterday this wine is part of Spier Vineyard ShotSpier’s Vintage Selection series. It’s suggested retail is $20 but i can be located for closer to $15.

The Cabernet Franc in this blend is the first varietal that makes it’s presence known due to the big nose it provides. The Bouquet is one of leather and tobacco with subtler berry notes underneath. The first couple of sips find this wine to be tight and tart out of the bottle. Decanting is a necessity with this wine right now to get the most out of it. An hour at minimum is recommended. Once it has a chance to open though you’ll be rewarded with a huge burst of bright cherry fruit. The finish is long and spicy featuring white pepper and hints of nutmeg.

With this wine Spier presents an intriguing blend. From the Cabernet Franc’s strong aromatic nose, the Malbec’s meaty and chewy mid-palate to the solid backbone supplied by the Petit Verdot this is a diverse wine. It probably needs another 8-12 months in the bottle to fully resolves itself and come together as one. It’s enjoyable right now, especially after decanting a long while. But If you have the patience to hold on to it for a year or two you’ll be happy when you pop the cork. After that it should drink well until about 2013.

In general I found the Spier Wines I tasted to be well balanced and food friendly.

Up Next: Lunch with Pieter Malan of Simonsig Family Winery

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Spier – 2005 Vintage Selection Shiraz

Posted by Gabe on April 24, 2008

Shiraz is one of the red varietals that seems to emerge a lot from South Africa. After Pinotage it’s the next red I tend to think of.

The 2005 Spier  Vintage Selection Shiraz is 91% varietal. Smaller lots of Mouvedre (6%) and Viognier Spier(3%) are blended in. The suggested retail price is $20 but this wine can be found commonly for closer to $15.

The wines nose opens with tobacco, dark berry and a hint of tar. Decanting this wine is definitely recommended as it takes about an hour or so to really open up.  The first sips reveal more berry fruit that become more prominent as the wine opens. Once it does it shows a lot pepper, clove and nutmeg in the mid-palate through the lengthy finish. The 2005 Shiraz from Spier has good acidity. This wine drinks well on it’s own but will also match up with a wide array of foods.

While this wine has a lot of fruit this isn’t what I would call a “big” Shiraz. In fact it’s fair to say this wine is closer to the old word Rhones than it is to it’s new world counterparts.

What stood out to me about this wine is that it over delivers in flavor and complexity for it’s price point. Decanting this wine really allows it to shine and show it’s subtle layers more effectively.  This wine has medium tannins and is appropriate for short to mid term aging.

This wine is a good value in the $15 price range.

Up Next: A fourth and final wine from Spier.

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Spier – 2005 Private Collection Pinotage

Posted by Gabe on April 22, 2008

The second wine up from Spier is the 2005 Private Collection Pinotage. For those who are unfamiliar with Pinotage it’s the benchmark red grape of South Africa. It was created over 80 years ago as a cross of Pinot PinotageNoir and Cinsault.

The 2005 Private Collection Pinotage from Spier checks in with a robust 15% alcohol. It was blended with 2% Shiraz and aged in French and American oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $30. Looking around though it can be found for closer to $25.

Leather, raspberry and plum present prominently in the nose. A hint of Eucalyptus underscores the nose and carries subtly throughout the wine. The first sip reveals some tartness which blows off once the wine has a chance to open up. Once that tartness steps aside rich, spicy berry fruit emerges in copious quantities. Loads of pepper, assorted other spices and oodles of dark fruit appear in the mid palate and carry through the finish. Spice really is the master of the day in this wine. Lovers of black pepper notes will certainly be rejoicing when they taste this wine.  This Pinotage is rich, full bodied and mouth filling with a finish that brings to mind crushed velvet. This is a big chewy wine that demands to be served with with a big meal. Leg of Lamb is the first thing that comes to mind as an accompaniment to this wine.

Firm tannins on this wine suggest medium term aging. Cellared properly this wine should be evolve and be very enjoyable until 2018 or thereabouts. Of the Spier wines I have tried over time this is the biggest and brawniest. It offers good complexity and is reasonably priced for a wine that will age well for a decade.  Highly recommended, especially for lovers of pepper.

Up Next: Spier Shiraz/Mouvedre/Viognier

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