Petite Sirah Lovefest

Most of the wines I tried at a recent Petite Sirah tasting were tannic, tart and true to form for the big and burly flavor profile of the grape that originally hails from France’s Rhone region.

If you can get a bit more up-front fruit into the California version of this varietal, the wine becomes more approachable.

Petite Sirah can be a hard-sell to the general wine-drinking population, but don’t tell that to the P.S. I Love You crowd.

P.S. I Love You is an association of Petite Sirrah producers and their supporters.

The group’s annual public tasting, held Friday night at Rock Wall Wine Co. in Alameda (click here to read my earlier blog about Rock Wall), featured 58 wineries pouring selections mostly from Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Lodi and the Sierra foothills.

Several vintages were represented, with a few 2010 examples scattered amongst the mostly 2007, 2008 and 2009 selections.

My favorite of the tasting was the 2008 Pizzicato Petite Sirah ($28) from R&B Cellars, a boutique producer who makes wine at the Rock Wall facility.

The fruit comes from Bingham Ranch in Napa, where red wine grapes have been grown for more than 50 years.

This is a bold red wine with a strong tannic structure that grabs the limelight, for now. I picked up black (plum) and blue (blueberry) fruit that should move forward a bit as this wine ages.

Paso Petite

The 2009 Petite Sirah from Christian Lazo was a bit easier to swallow.

This Paso Robles wine ($25) showed some really nice and deep red plum fruit up front with blueberry highlights. The taste, which included a nice spicy undertone, lingered on the palate for half a minute.

Rosenblum

I liked two bottles from Rosenblum Cellars.

The 2008 Pato Vineyard ($25), which is in Contra Costa County, is a personal favorite. I’ve enjoyed multiple vintages and this one doesn’t deviate from the expected fruit forward profile that tones down the more aggressive nature of the grape.

Rosenblum’s Rockpile Road Vineyard Petite Sirah ($45) from 2009 is a deeper, darker and more sophisticated bottle of wine. The fruit comes from a Sonoma vineyard that sits 1,200 above Lake Sonoma at the edge of the Dry Creek Valley.

The Rockpile wine is big and sleek, like a thoroughbred racehorse.

Concannon Vineyards

I’ve enjoyed several Petite Sirahs from Livermore’s Concannon Vineyards over the years, especially the entry-level California blend that runs $10-$12/bottle. Concannon is a legendary producer of Petite Sirah, bottling the grape as a varietal starting way back in 1961.

The 2007 Concannon Reserve Captain Joe’s pushes Petite Sirah to a higher level.

There’s a pleasing smokiness to the taste, thanks in part to 17 months aging in French and American oak. There’s good blackberry fruit, a touch of leather and some gamey notes that complete the flavor profile of this $36 wine.

Fieldstone

I thought the just-released 2008 Fieldstone State Family Reserve Petite Sirah was also quite good.

Here’s what I wrote in my notes: “Tight, right and tasty.”

The $35 wine comes from a historic Alexander Valley vineyard, first planted in 1894.

There’s good minerality and rich blueberry-scented fruit in this wine, which has good tannic structure. It spent 20 months in oak before release and includes a dash of Viognier, a white  grape that is sometimes added to red wine to introduce floral elements to the taste and aroma of the finished product.

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