Petite Sirah is somewhat off the beaten path. Even though I love it, I rarely think Petite Sirah when I’m planning on what to open or what to buy. In my area, you will find a few options at most retail outlets and even the local grocery store, but I can’t recall seeing many on restaurant wine lists. Thanks to Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm, I had a reason to seek out this varietal and pair it with something delicious for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW group.
Petite Sirah originates in France’s Rhone Valley where it goes by an entirely different name – Durif. You won’t see Durif on the label here in the U.S., with the exception of one very recognizable producer – Caymus. They recently added Durif to their line up and although I didn’t have it with this smoked brisket, I did enjoy it a while back. It was a delicious wine and I love that it hails from the little known region of Suisun Valley – just a stone’s throw from Napa. Caymus is charging a whopping $60 for this bottle. I’m not sure about all that, which is why I didn’t purchase again for this dinner. If online reviews are any indication, people love this wine and although I think it is overpriced, I love that Caymus is bringing attention to the grape and the region, good on them.
Petite Sirah is sometimes spelled Petite Syrah, or even Petit Sirah/Syrah. It was thought at one time to be completely unrelated to the Syrah grape, but modern technology has confirmed that Syrah is in fact one of it’s parents. Peloursin is the other. That explains the Sirah portion of it’s name but if you’ve tasted this wine, the Petite part might be a mystery as the wine is anything but small.
Petite likely comes from the fact that the actual grapes are small. If you’re a bit of wine geek, this starts to make sense because the smaller the grape the higher the ratio of skin to juice. Red wine gains all of its color and flavor from the phenolic compounds found in the skin, thus the smaller the grape the bigger, bolder, more tannic the wine.
So what can you expect when you open up a Petite Sirah? It pours very dark and opaque – inky if you will. It is known as a “teeth stainer” and in fact, after taking my l last sip, the glass I drank from actually looked stained. The aromas and flavors are complex and can vary depending on the region it comes from, but you’ll likely find some combination of black fruit, blueberry, dark chocolate, eucalyptus, cedar, violets, and pepper notes. The best ones are big and bold but also elegant and complex.
Of, enough geeking out about wine, let’s talk about this amazing brisket my husband smoked. He put this baby on the smoker at midnight on Friday and pulled it off around 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. We had invited a few friends over for dinner on Saturday to help devour the deliciousness, The good news is the brisket was amazing, the bad news is I didn’t get very good pictures of the Ridge Petite Sirah we had with it because we were too busy enjoying it! Que Sirah Syrah.
Ridge Vineyards|Lytton Estate Petite Sirah|2018|13.8% ABV|$31.97
I am a fan of Petite Sirah and I knew that I wanted one to go with this brisket. I didn’t know exactly what wine I was going to pick but I was tickled pink to find this Ridge bottle at my local Total Wine. I thought that the big, bold profile, coupled with a nice fruit presence was a perfect choice for the brisket — standing up to the big, smoky piece of meat, but also playing nicely with the subtle spice in my homemade BBQ sauce. This wine delivered on every level.
In full disclosure we are members of a Ridge wine club. Lytton Springs is where Ridge’s Sonoma property is located and if you’ve never been I highly recommend a visit the next time you are in that area. The winery at this location is built of hay bales and vineyard clay resulting in a naturally temperature controlled environment. There are also has solar panels that provide the majority of the building’s energy needs. It might sound very rustic, but it is actually beautiful, with gorgeous views overlooking the Lytton Estate vineyards.
Devoted to sustainability, organic growing and truth and transparency in labeling, I love the incredibly informative labels, including ingredients. Ridge is the largest grower of organic grapes in Sonoma county and is working to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Since you can’t fit all of the information on a label, you’ll find the Ridge website to be another source of detailed information about their wines, including sulfite details.
This is the tenth vintage of the Petite Sirah bottling and it contains 3% Zinfandel, but you can read that and the winemaking details for yourself thanks to the awesome label. The oldest Petite Sirah vines at Lytton Estate were planted in 1901! There are newer vines of course, but that is kind of crazy. The wine spent 15 months in American oak barrels ranging in age from new to 5 years old.
We found aromas of black fruit, black olive, and herbal and floral notes. On the palate all of those notes carried over but it was the actual mouthfeel that stole the show. It was so smooth and silky, despite those big tannins, which I would describe as slightly dusty, giving a softness to the huge tannins. Speaking of finish, there was a mineral note and absolutely incredible acidity. The acidity was a perfect accompaniment to that rich, fatty beef.
We did have leftovers which was a great reason to open up another Petite Sirah!
Crux Winery|Russian River Valley|Petite Sirah|2012|14.2 ABV|$42
Opening an 11 year old bottle of wine to go with leftovers might seem a little crazy, but these leftovers are the 15 hour labor of love brisket so we thought it perfectly acceptable.
Crux is a small producer – about 2,000 cases a year – located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma. There are just 2 guys behind this label, Brian Callahan and Steve Gower. They are neighbors who started making wine in their garage, but now have a winery and tasting room and much praise for their Rhone varietal wines. They went commercial in 2012, so this bottle is an anniversary edition.
You can find Crux wines at some California restaurants, but the majority of their distribution is direct to consumer. We are members of the Crux wine club which is how I came to own this lovely bottle.
This wine is 90% Petite Sirah and 10% Syrah which would make you think it is a punch you in face wine, but it is anything but, especially with this little bit of age, it is absolutely delicious. The grapes come from their own Crazy Run Ranch and from Windsor Oak Vineyards. Only 98 cases were produced.
We found aromas of blackberry, chocolate, and herbs. On the palate all of the aromas came through but juicy black cherry dominated with the addition of tobacco and spice. Again, it was the mouthfeel that made this wine exquisite. It is truly a magical thing to have such bold tannins and such silky smoothness. As the wine opened up there was also a floral or perfume note.
This wine is like a little game for your mouth in that those big tannins wick all of the moisture away, then immediately upon swallowing, your mouth waters with a burst of juicy goodness from the excellent acidity. Bold but smooth, dry but juicy. Amazing.
The brisket nachos were a great pairing with this wine. I used a salsa verde as I just didn’t think regular tomato salsa would go well with the BBQ sauce and brisket, or the wine. It was layers of chips, cheese, BBQ sauce, salsa verde, a dab of sour cream with green onions sprinkled on top. So simple but absolutely delicious.
Have I made you want to open a bottle of Petite Sirah and smoke a brisket? If not, check out these articles from some fellow #winePW writers, the possibilities are delicious:
- Camilla of Culinary Cam shares A Meaty Match: Petit Sirah from Monterey with Merguez Sausage and Saucy Ribs
- Susannah of Avvinare writes “PS I love You, A Change of Heart”
- David of Cooking Chat shares “Petite Sirah Pairings”
- Martin ENOFYLZ Wine Blog visits Theopolis Vineyards Petite Sirah + Kare Kare
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm sings Que Syrah Sirah
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator says “PS I Love You: Dark and Delicious Sierra Foothills Petit Sirah from Cantara, Kehret, Lava Cap”
6 Comments Add yours
You certainly have and I just happen to have a brisket in my freezer. Now I am off to find one of these excellent wines you suggested.
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Wow, Cathie. I am impressed and inspired by this post. I can’t wait to track down some of these bottles for myself.
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It’s been a while since I’ve had a Ridge PS. The last one I had was at least ten years old. Beautiful beautiful wine. I love the pairing.
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I’m going to have to try that Ridge PS. And wow, what delicious pairings with the brisket!
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