Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
Gotta luv Lodi Petite Sirah!
For dyed-in-the-wool red wine lovers, Petite Sirah is the Sara Lee of grapes – who doesn’t love it?
It makes big, yet round and comfortable red wines – think Gerard or Charlize throwing kisses from a down topped Tempu-Pedic mattress – satisfying the nose and touching every part of the mouth with its purple stained, pungent flavors that are ripe yet sturdy, more often than not suggesting baked blueberry pies with black pepper and brown stick spices.
Ask almost any winery that produces one, and by no means will they tell you that Petite Sirah de beeg seller like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or even Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. But what grape actually has its own little club of devoted aficionados, who occasionally get together and talk… PS?! That club, as it were, is called PS I Love You (a Petite Sirah Advocacy Group), and you might consider signing up if your palate is simpatico.
Now, these PS fanatics can’t be all that loco – look at some of the dishes they recommend, and provide recipes for, to enjoy with their favorite red wine:
Smoked buffalo bratwurst with wild mushroom risotto… mouth-watering
Best damn duck ever… you don’t say?
Spice rubbed leg of lamb… doncha feel my leg
Wild boar barbecued ribs with tasty rodeo sauce… first, kill me a boar (stop it!)
If anything, these Petite Sirah libationists know how to live it up…
If you happen to be one living in Lodi, no doubt you’ve been loving the fact that this grape has been cultivated in this here parts for well nigh 100 years; whereas in most other regions in California, the vine has been ignomoniously pulled out in favor of the usual commercial cropola, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or… (exasperated gasp) Merlot. Thank goodness, Lodi has been keeping the faith!
In Lodi, Petite Sirah is not only the primary blending grape for varietal Zinfandel bottlings (its densely textured body adds beautiful structure to Lodi zins, which can be on the soft, lush side), it also makes epic, must-try red wines on its own — as the grape has always responded lovingly to the deep, rich sandy loam soils of the region.
Finally, everything a Petite Sirah club member should know, and share whenever possible with non-believers, deservant friends or potential lovers: not to be confused with the Syrah grape, Petite Sirah is a red wine crossing of two varieties of Vitis vinifera (recent DNA studies have shown it to have originated from Syrah pollen germinating on a Peloursin plant), propagated by a Dr. Durif in nineteenth century France (where it is no longer grown, much less appreciated, commercially). Oh, and the grape has also been called Durif, although Petite Sirah obviously sounds sexier.
Last and certainly most, five outstanding Lodi grown examples of Petite Sirah that you may want to sink your teeth into:
2007 Grands Amis, Catherine’s Vineyard Jahant-Lodi Petite Sirah ($25) – Plump as a Christmas pie replete with blueberries and plums in its full, firm, fleshy flavors; yet not nearly as hard or domineering as you might expect from a wine of such dark, purplish ruby color. Really hits a PS crossed lover’s sweet spot.
2007 McCay, Lodi Paisley ($24) – This star bright red is actually a blend of mostly Zinfandel with 45% Petite Sirah, which is large enough a percentage for this grape to dominate the flavor spectrum: absolutely luscious, juicy, round and mouth riveting flavors, teeming with aromatic, bright berry fruitiness, yet finishing firmly dry and zesty. Pass the pasta!
2007 McCay, Lodi Petite Sirah ($24) – While carrying the same price tag as the Paisley, this pure varietal bottling is rising star winemaker Michael McCay’s “serious” bottling: fragrant, multiple spice notes of black tea, cracked pepper, dried kitchen herbs and dollops of blueberry jam drift over the rim; and then cozy up to the palate with variant textures of soft flesh over hard muscle, the firming tannins cut by bright acidity and smoothed over by the deep, spiced berry flavors. Where’s that spice rubbed lamb?
2008 Michael David, Lodi Petite Petit ($18) – Packaged in Michael David’s riotous “circus label,” this is a blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot, and it’s meant for kicks and grins, which it fully delivers on: ripe, black pepper, cardamom and smoky spices enveloping violet scented berry jam fruit in the nose; making you think you’re getting a big, blustery wine on the palate, when in fact, you get something nicely rounded, easy going, medium in body. Go-o-od drinking – especially for the price!
2006 Michael David, Earthquake Lodi Petite Sirah ($24) – Year in, year out, the Earthquake appeals to the most hardcore of PS lovers: dark, brooding, smoky and honeyed blueberry concentration in the nose with notes of sweet black licorice and Mexican cola. Big, musclebound, dense and viscous in the mouth; handsomely framed by chunky tannin and oak calling for honking cuts of charred, rare beef or red game. If anything, gotta luv it!