There are hundreds of wine grape varietals in the world. Actually, some report there are thousands. Nonetheless, it is sufficed to say there are more wine grape varietals than most wine lovers will ever experience.
Most people will stick with their tried-and-true varietal wine’s… we just know what we like and if it took awhile to get to that place then we stay on that path. In the evening I like a glass of sip’in wine (a moniker I use for a relaxing wine. That for me is a cab or merlot. I like to relax and spend time sniffing and tasting the wine.
The other day I was in a wine store and an employee noticed me purusing some tempranillo’s and malbec’s, his offer of help was welcomed. I pretty much told him I wanted a friendly red, with character, and something that would be a nice sip’in wine. His suggestion evoked a comment from me that showed my slight naivete. A petite sirah is not a modified syrah varietal. (This is kind of like thinking of a Fume Blanc being a varietal… thank you Robert Mondavi.) A petite sirah is a varietal that doesn’t seem to have a pedigree or history that is commonly known. Obviously, (at least it is obvious now) petite sirah is not a Rhone varietal and is not even related. It started life as we know it, as a blending wine; kind of like how merlot is used in some cabs.
Folks, this is a wine that is dark/inky, slightly heavy, a little chewy, has some nice pleasant aromas and is in the 13.5% abv range. Some petite sirah’s have a lot of tannin’s which means they probably do not stand alone as a sip’in wine. There are some that are not in the distinctly tannic type and those are the ones I am talking about here. The Bogle Vineyards, Concanon Vineyards, and The Bucaneer Winery (of which I can’t find where they are located) do make my favorite petite sirah sip’in wines. But Turley, Parducci, Girard Wineries also make petite sirah wines. Seems that about 20 wineries in Northern California produce the wine.
As an aside, syrah grapes originated in Persia, made famous in the Rhone region, and today 50% of syrah plantings are still in France. Don’t know where I got that last bit of information be there it is.
In my “Sip’in Category” I have found some are higher in tannins which are nice but not easy on the palate. Three I like are as follows: Bogle Vineyards which has about 1,500 acres in grapes (chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel primarily, and petite sirah) in the Sacramento area, referred to as the Delta region. Concannon Vineyards are in Livermore (a neighbor of Wente’). All of this is to point out that these are not in Sonoma and Napa. This is nothing bad or good. The reason, as it relates only to petite sirah, is that the petite sirah grape does really well in less stressful soil (substitute fertile), likes space and has a tendency to some rot in the clusters. Therefore it needs some dryness and a lot of tending-to. Tight clusters can also produce a relatively high yield per acre.
If you are willing to try the petite sirah realize that you can pay from $11 to $78 per bottle; most are in the $25 and less category. Turley Vineyards produces a $78 per bottle petite sirah and they are in Napa. I suggest a petite sirah with soft tannins. But realize soft tannins can be vintage specific.
By the way, I do not receive anything free or compensation for my comments. Never even had a free tasting when visiting some wineries so I offer my thoughts to make life more enjoyable with wine.
Steven S. Lay has been in the travel and corporate meetings business for 30 years and is now focused exclusively on small luxury corporate gatherings in Wine Country. More information about his company, Symtrek Partners
Mr. Lay has held “C” Level positions in large private and public companies. These companies, in addition to the travel corporate and leisure business, include the defense industry and e-commerce. Prior to launching Symtrek Partners, Mr. Lay was the Vice President of Exhibitor Sales for a major exposition company. oregon wine tours