Originating from a cross-pollination of Syrah and Peloursin grapevines, Petite Sirah is anything but small in flavor. Also known as Durif, it makes wines of incomparable color and unique character.
While it is grown in France (barely), the United States, and Australia, the amount of acreage devoted to the grape is miniscule compared to more popular varieties.
Gilles and Joyce were the night's guest tasters, with Gilles nabbing the first prize, and Joyce landing third. Kristin decided that she just didn't like these wines, while Ali found that she enjoyed them over most Spanish reds. Still, tasters gave points to only their top three wines, not the usual four.
Only one Australian wine was featured, with the others Californian, three bottles coming from Paso Robles.
First Place: X Winery Petite Sirah 2003 (Paso Robles). Very inky on the nose, featuring earthy scents of mushrooms and dust, with the alcohol standing out a bit. Initially shy aromatics that tasters found "intriguing" (David), "like a dirty secret" (Andy), and "like a whisper . . . makes me want to come closer" (Ali). Hints of butterscotch, along with dark fruits, and graphite, with refined tannins. Ali craved food with this one. A sipping wine, showing depth and richness. Gilles commented that this was "the first wine that makes me want it to me mine". Four tasters gave this their highest rating. Received 32 points. Gilles' bottle. About $25.
Second Place: Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2003 (Lodi). Smelling bloody, like a juicy steak, along with a spiciness that David described as "Petite Sirah vindaloo". Ali once again craved food with this one, saying "I need potatoes with this". Flavors of cherries, blackberries, and "birthday cake" (Gilles). Andy felt this had "more class", while other tasters felt it was port-like. Gilles and Joyce voted this as their favorite. Received 20 points. Ali's bottle. Originally $33, but purchased on sale for $25.
Third Place: Victor Hugo Petite Sirah 1999 (Paso Robles). Aromas of Comet cleanser, new book, Tums, chalk, mint, and dandelions. Cloudy, and looking muddy in the glass. Spices and mustiness on the palate. Received 14 points. Joyce's bottle. About $19.
Greg Norman Petite Sirah 2004 (Paso Robles). Alcoholic nose, with licorice, cardboard box, ink, wet soil, perfume, and flowers. This reminded Gilles of "a closet that's been closed for a while . . . not musty, but closed for a while". Tasting sweet, with bubble gum, blackberry, black tea, cedar wood, and black pepper flavors. Resinous. Almost astringent, with not much finish. Received 6 points. Kristin's bottle. About $15.
Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah Pets 2004 (Clarksburg). Smelling heavily of black olives, along with berries, dust, wet soil, vinegar, prunes, and grape jelly. David decided that this was a blend of "prune juice, tapenade, and rubbing alcohol". Flavors of currants and graphite, with no finish. Joyce felt that it was "very narrow on your palate", while Andy decided that it "tuned in on one channel, and it's very loud". No points. Andy's bottle. About $15.
De Bortoli Willowglen Petite Sirah 2004 (South Eastern Australia). Looking unfiltered, and having aromas of floor polish, iodine, old shoes, acetone, tomato soup, and granite. Gilles thought it was "like walking in to a new condo", with Ali adding "in Dorchester". Featuring burnt ashes, cherries, old sneakers, plums, and black pepper, with a finish of wet dog. Andy described this as "dead", while Ali thought it was "ugly, but intriguing". No points. David's bottle. About $7.