Petite Sirah was first bottled as its own varietal by Concannon in 1961. The wines made in these early years were huge, tannic, extracted wines. Some of the better examples like Ridge York Creek, Freemark Abbey, Stags’ Leap and David Bruce were thought to be wines capable of aging for 30 or more years. Therein though was the problem as most consumers don’t buy wines to cellar for that long and these wines were almost capable of ripping the enamel off your teeth if you drank them upon release.
When I first started buying and cellaring wines in the early 1990’s the appearance of Petite Sirah on the shelf at a wine store was a rare occurance. The varietal was on the verge of irrelevance. In 2002 Diaz Communications began a campaign to resurrect Petite Sirah. Through relentless marketing and promotion Petite Sirah has staged a comeback. Longtime producers like Ridge and Stags Leap have been joined by hot wineries like Outpost, Turley, Carlisle, Foley and Switchback Ridge. All the while wineries like Bogle, Concannon and Foppiano continue to produce staggering case volumes of Petite Sirah year in and year out.
Another factor in the renaissance of the varietal was a concerted effort on behalf of producers to make wines that are more user friendly. Better tannin management has supposedly made the wines more approachable in their youth.
I decided to put this premise to the test by pulling some bottles from my cellar:
- 2004 Outpost Petite Sirah Howell Mountain – The wine has an an amazing nose of fresh, ripe raspberries. On the palate there are jammy raspberries and cherries with a strong dose of pepper and anise. There is no getting around the wall of tannins on this wine as well. The wine has a long, tannic, jammy finish. My rating: 91 points
- 2005 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah – Sit tight. 16.4% alcohol by volume. Cherry liqueur on the nose. Massive structure but in no way hot or over-ripe. Chocolate, cherries, prunes and blackberries. There is simply a massive amount of fruit on this wine. Perfect acidity keeps everything in balance. Drink over the next 20 years. Wow. My rating: 94 points
- 2004 Turley Hayne Vineyard Petite Sirah – Still opaque purple in color. Raisins and blackberry liqueur on the nose. Blackberries, raspberries and chalk on the palate. Their is a unique sweetness to this wine that is irresistible. The finish is long and sweet. A massive, port like wine. My rating: 95 points
My takeaway from opening these bottles? Many of the Petite Sirahs produced today still have the capacity to age for 25 or more years. That being said, they can also provide immediate enjoyment if you choose to open a bottle now.
This is a unique varietal that deserves space in your cellar. I’m on the hunt to add more Petite Sirah to mine. Who are your favorite producers?