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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Petite Sirah

The Ryland Inn Launches Into Lunch Service

The Ryland Inn Launches Into Lunch Service

The Ryland Inn located in Whitehouse Station, NJ has gone through many incarnations over the years. It was built in 1796 and started out as a home. After years as a family restaurant it spent several decades as a highly awarded destination dining spot. That seemed to come to an end in 2007 when it closed after a flood and financial problems. But under new ownership it was re-opened in 2012, reinvigorated and is once again a place diners should be clamoring to dine.

The Ultimate Summer Wine: Petite Sirah Roundup

2012 Petite SirahSummer is here and grilling season is in full swing. Whether you’re pulling burgers, ribs, chicken, or portabellas off of your grill, you’ll need a wine that will pair well with all of those things. Petite sirah, generally one of darkest, inkiest, and most intense wines out there, is too often relegated to winter and paired with stews and pot roasts. Don’t get me wrong — it works fabulously with those dishes, but it works equally well, if not better, with grilled or smoked foods.  Over the last several weeks I tasted through 77 current examples of petite sirah of all shapes, sizes and styles. The 36 below are the examples I heartily recommend, including a couple of older wines I tasted. One of the things I love about petite sirah is the quality you can get for such a reasonable price relative to many other more well-known grapes. It’s a particularly good value if you like aging wine. Not every example will age well of course, some are built for youthful drinking, but many are and they’re often bargains. I sampled two examples from the 2004 vintage. Both from long-term petite producers whose current releases I also recommend. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Ironstone Vineyards - A Wine for Every Taste Bud

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The Kautz family has been farming grapes in California for more than 65 years. With more than 5,000 acres under vine, they’re one of the largest growers in the state. In addition to selling fruit, for more than 25 of those years they have also been making their own wine. Ironstone Vineyards is located in the Sierra Foothills. They farm their property sustainably as shepherds of the land they inhabit. Their portfolio features a wide range of wines, many available nationally, as well as a few limited releases found in their tasting room. Here’s a look at four of my favorites among their current offerings.

Ironstone Vineyards 2012 Ironstone Reserve Chardonnay – The fruit for this wine came from Sierra Foothills vineyards that have been in the family for four generations. This offering is 100 percent Chardonnay. The fruit was hand-selected and gently pressed. Barrel aging occurred entirely in French oak; bottle aging followed prior to release. About 1,000 cases of this wine were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of  of $19.99. Bright apple, white fig and gentle crème brulee aromas are all part of the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is studded with Asian pear and... read the rest over at

A Tiny Peek at Australia’s Wine Diversity

Australia is a huge wine producing country whose depth is apparent in both the assortment of varietals they can grow well as well as the styles they’re made in. For years our shores were inundated with mostly lower end Australian wines, often in the form of overripe Shiraz. As a result, the bounty from Australia is significantly broader than a lot of wine lovers realize. All across the Unites States a larger and larger swath of terrific Australian wines are filling our shelves. It’s a great time to try some interesting Australian wines; here are six recent releases that I recommend. To read all about them, head over to The Daily Meal.

Fifty Shades of Grey - 2011 Red Satin

I've had a long-standing penchant for Petite Sirah. It’s a grape that fascinates me and I can’t recall every turning down an opportunity to taste one in any setting. Whether I’m in a tasting room, a wine event, or at someone’s home when I hear the words Petite Sirah, I say “yes.” So when the opportunity presented itself to sample a wine composed mostly of Petite Sirah named after a famous series of books, I had to say yes. Here’s what I thought of it. Fifty Shades of Grey 2011 Red Satin – This wine blends together primarily Petite Sirah and Syrah. It was aged in a combination of new and previously used French oak barrels. The author of the Fifty Shades of Grey books had a hand in creating this wine as well as an accompanying white blend. Red Satin has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Violet, blueberry and white pepper aromas are all part of the dense and somewhat brooding nose of this wine. The palate is loaded with appealing, dark fruit flavors. Black plum, cherry and raspberry are joined by oodles of plum pudding spice characteristics. Hints of brown sugar, dusty baker’s chocolate and continued spices are all part of the above average finish. This is a softer, somewhat gentler Petite Sirah dominant wine. It shows off medium tannins, that yield easily with air, and firm acidity.

The Syrah in this wine helps soften things up. It also helps make this a wine that can be enjoyed on it’s own as well as paired with somewhat lighter foods than the average Petite Sirah dominant wine. In any case it’s a tasty offering, produced from an underappreciated grape. Considering the tie in with the popular books of the same name, it might be a great bottle to pop open for a date.

Bailey’s of Glenrowan - 2012 19 Crimes Red Wine Blend

When it comes to wines in the value category I’m looking for things that have wide appeal, easy drinkability and solid varietal character. In general I’m thinking about wines that will go over well in large gatherings, and have curb appeal. Often times I feel that blends are particularly good for these settings. Here’s an offering I just tried from Australia that hits the mark for me. Bailey’s of Glenrowan 2012 19 Crimes Red Wine Blend was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. This wine is a blend of Shiraz (mostly) with some Durif (Petite Sirah) added in. After fermentation this offering was aged in French oak barrels for just about 6 months. This wine most often sells for $10. Red cherry aromas dominate the generous and ebullient nose of this 2012 blend. The palate is simply stuffed with a mélange of ripe, berry-pie filling notes. Red and black raspberry, cherry and blackberry are all present and accounted for. Bits of cinnamon and black pepper spice provide a nice accompaniment to all the glorious fruit flavors. The finish, which has nice length, features cranberry, hints of sweet chocolate, and a touch of a mineral component. 19 Crimes is very tasty all by itself. That said, it will also serve as a good accompaniment to a host of casual hand foods such as burgers, pizza, ribs and the like.

Whether you’re attending a party where you want to bring a couple of bottles of wine that will win over a crowd or you’re looking for a tasty house wine to purchase a case of, 19 Crimes might be just what you’re looking for. If an easygoing red with good Shiraz character and a nice dollop of darker elements from Durif sounds appealing, grab a bottle of 19 Crimes and indulge. For around $10 the risk / reward factor is high.

Gabe’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re like most Americans you still have plenty of shopping to do. Most of us have Wine & Spirits lovers on our list. So here are some killer Wine & Spirits selections in a variety of price points to make those on your list happy and keep them warm. And if by some chance all your shopping is done pick some of these up for your Holiday table, your taste buds will thank you!


Agricole Vallone – 2007 Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Riserva. This Italian wine was made from Negroamaro (80%) and Montepulciano (20%). The fruit for this wine was sourced on the winery’s own estate. Aging started in stainless steel tanks followed by large Slavonian oak casks for about 7 months. 12 months in concrete tanks followed and finally 6 months in bottle prior to release. 1,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Red plum and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine along with pepper spice. The palate has warming red fruit flavors such as cherry and red raspberry as well as continued plum. A hint of cinnamon, cardamom and pepper are all part of the above average finish along with a bit of espresso. Firm acidity and gentle tannins provide nice structure. This wine screams out to be paired with a nice meal. Thankfully it’ll work with a wide array of foods such as classic roast chicken, pot roast, pasta with red sauce, a cheese and charcuterie plate or more. At under $20 this wine is an outstanding value. It’s priced for everyday drinking but tastes like a special occasion wine.

Dry Creek Vineyard – 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine was made using fruit sourced in Dry Creek Valley. In addition to Zinfandel (83%), there is some Petite Sirah (17%) blended in. The fruit comes from vines that are between 90 and 110 years old. Fermentation took place over 22 days in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging followed over the next 20 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak. 28% of the barrels utilized were new. Just more than 3,200 cases were produced and this Zin has a suggested retail price of $30. The Petite Sirah in this wine makes its presence known from the first whiff where black plum and violet aromas are in evidence along with raspberry and a bit of vanilla. The palate is a horn-o-plenty of fresh berry fruit flavors. They’re abundant, succulent and incredibly varied. A core of spices is present as well and it dances merrily alongside all the fruit. Bits of blackberry and pepper emerge on the finish as well as a touch of rhubarb. This is a proportionate Zinfandel that is loaded with fruit without ever straying over the top, or even close to it. Fleshy fruits, medium tannins and a fine backbone of acidity all come together to make a fresh and desirable wine that will pair well with food. Year after year this wine is one of the best values in Zinfandel. It also happens to be continually made in the style that encourages pairing it with food. It will also drink well longer than the average Zin. It’s outstanding now but don’t hesitate to hold on to it over the next 7 or 8 years. Under proper storage conditions it’ll flourish. If you want to buy someone the most American of wines you aren’t going to do much better than this benchmark example of Zinfandel which comes from Dry Creek Valley, the effective home office of the varietal.

Swanson Vineyards – 2010 Oakville Merlot. This wine blends together Merlot (83%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), and Petit Verdot (2%). After Fermentation this wine was aged in an even split of French and American oak for 18 months. 33% of the barrels utilized were new. The Swanson Merlot is widely available nationwide and has a suggested retail price of $38. Black fruit aromas are joined by interspersing bits of red fruit on the nose of this Merlot. Cherry flavors dominate the palate with raspberry and plum playing a role here as well. The finish is substantial and memorable with loads of spice, chicory, and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. It shows off firm tannins and rock solid acidity. This wine is delicious now, particularly after being decanted for about an hour but will benefit from a couple of years of bottle age under proper conditions. I’ve been drinking the Swanson Merlots for over a decade now and I believe they really improve over the first 5 or 6 years in the bottle and drink well for another 6 or so after that. It’s always been a Cabernet lover’s Merlot with depth structure and the ability to age. This is as far away from stereotypical insipid Merlot as you’re going to get. Year after year the Swanson Merlot represents one of the best wines values in Napa Valley. If you want to drink killer Napa Merlot, or gift it to your friends, this is the one.

Rodney Strong - 2010 Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit for this wine comes exclusively from the Brothers Ridge Vineyard which sits in the northern half of Alexander Valley near Cloverdale. This single vineyard wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from 4 select blocks. After fermentation this wine spent 21 months in French oak; 43% of the barrels were new. This small production wine has a suggested retail price of $75. Blueberry, black raspberry and green peppercorn aromas emerge from the nose of this Cabernet. The palate is loaded with ripe and ready fruit flavors such as blackberry and raspberry. Bits of vanilla bean are present as well. Espresso, earth, chocolate and wisps of minerals are present on the substantial finish. Firm, gripping tannins and solid acidity mark this Cabernet’s structure. It’s been about had a dozen years that Rodney Strong has been making a trio of super premium single vineyard Cabernets. These wines upped their game into a space that they didn’t previously inhibit with the rest of their portfolio. At $75 this wine is a very good value. Alexander Valley is a region with excellent Cabernet potential, which the folks at Rodney Strong fulfill with this wine. Since not as many consumers realize how awesome Alexander Valley Cab can be you can be the beneficiary. A Cabernet of the same quality from Napa would likely cost closer to $125. So if your gift giving list includes a Napa Cab lover, buy them this wine and you’ll be giving them two gifts, the wine itself and the eye opener into Alexander Valley Cabs. They will thank you profusely.


Auchentoshan – Classic Single Malt Scotch. This Scotch was triple distilled, which is their house methodology and aged entirely in Bourbon Casks. This offering is the entry level selection in the Auchentoshan portfolio and it has a suggested retail price of $30. There are hints of charred wood on the nose. Peach, apricot, Granny Smith Apple and spice are prevalent on the palate which is mid-range in terms of overall weight in the mouth. Continued spices are in evidence on the finish along with lemon zest and a gentle salinity. At less than $30 if you shop around this is an excellent value in Scotch. It’s an easy going Whisky which calls you back to the glass for sip after sip. Perfectly suited, style and price wise for everyday drinking. That said it has more than enough complexity to keep you interested.

Laphroaig - Triple Wood Scotch. This Scotch was created using a triple maturation process. It was aged in ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks and Oloroso Sherry Casks. This is a seasonal expression available in limited quantities that won’t be on the shelf too long. It’s available in select shops around the United States and has a suggested retail price of $59.99. This Scotch has a beautiful light copper hue that stands out when poured. Aromas of toasted macadamia nut, Lychee fruit and apricot are all present in the effusive nose. The palate here is loaded with fruitcake spices, dried yellow peach and interspersed bits of char. Oatmeal characteristics lead the finish which also shows off a lovely bit of brine that interlocks with caramel and molasses. This is a gorgeous Scotch that shows off the trademark peat that Laphroaig is known for in a gentle and even handed manner. Other expressions in their portfolio lean heavier on the peat. So if you like a dollop of it but don’t want to go all in on Smoky and Peaty Scotch yet, this could be the Laphroaig for you. It’s a distinct expression in their range that is well worth exploring or gifting.

The Irishman - 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. The Irishman was founded in 1999 by the Walsh family. Their family has been involved in Whisky production for well over 100 years. This Whisky was aged over 12 years in entirely first time used Bourbon barrels. This Whisky is non chill filtered and limited to only 6,000 numbered bottles per year. It has suggested retail price of $65. The toasty char from the Bourbon casks is prominent on the nose along with some spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, as well as a gentle wisp of allspice. Apple, rye , and oat characteristics are in strong evidence throughout the robust and full flavored palate which has bracing depth and complexity. The toasty notes circle back in on the finish along with a bit of dusty dark chocolate and continuing reverberations of spice. This is a beautiful Irish Whisky with  lovely and notable complexity.

Gosling’s Family Reserve - Old Rum. This rum is aged for an extended period in barrels. Every bottle is hand numbered and wax sealed. Unlike several of their other releases which are made in large quantities, the Old Rum is made in limited amounts. It sells at select shops for around $80. The hue of this rum is dark and it is opaque. Bits of cinnamon and anise emerge from the deep, dark nose of this rum. From the very first sip a cornucopia of flavors emerge. Plum pudding spices, molasses and hints of mesquite honey are all in evidence. As you sip it, layer after layer of gorgeous flavors emerge and envelop your senses. Bits of burnt sugar and chocolate sauce are part of the finish which has tremendous depth, length and persistence. It’s thick, dense and meant to be contemplated. Gosling’s Old Rum is a gorgeous offering that should be savored. If you want to make a rum cocktail, pull something else off the shelf, this one is meant to be enjoyed straight. If you have a Rum lover on your gift list this one will knock them out. The Rum itself is certainly enough, but it’s also beautifully packaged and comes in a wooden box with a sliding cover, making it a lovely presentation as well.

Murphy-Goode - 2011 Homefront Red

In general people love Red Blends. Well when they’re tasty of course. There are all sorts of styles out there but the ones I’m specifically talking about today are the kind that are well priced, made for a wide audience and generally available. These have a found a big following with different kinds of wine lovers. To the novice Red wine drinker they can be easy to drink and appealing. To the seasoned wine drinker they offer something tasty and easy on the budget that will satisfy a lot of different taste buds. Murphy-Goode has a new blend called Homefront Red. For every bottle of this wine sold Murphy-Goode will doncate 50 cents to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency and financial assiustance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. With that in mind here’s a look at the wine. The Murphy-Goode 2011 Homefront Red was produced from fruit sourced throughout California. This offering blends together Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. This wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak. It was recently released and is available nationally. 50,000 Cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $15. Blackberry and raspberry aromas light up the nose of this wine along with a little hint of anise. The palate is loaded with berry fruit flavors such as black raspberry and spices galore. Red Cherry is present as well and leads to the finish which has wisps of sweet chocolate and black pepper. Homefront Red will pair well with a pretty wide array of foods. It will be particularly good with casual grilled foods.

Good cause, good wine, good price, a win all around. Pick up a bottle or two for your next BBQ or casual get together with friends. Homefront Red is sure to please a broad array of palates. And by doing so you’ll also be helping a good cause.

Visiting Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley

Frog’s Leap has been around since 1981 and their focus has remained resolute to this day. They grow their grapes organically utilizing dry farmed vineyards. Their wine making techniques are classic and old school in intent and execution. Neither their vineyards nor their wines are over manipulated. They are also stewards of the land they inhabit and strive to be community members that make a difference. Towards that end they have been a solar powered facility since 2005. The folks at Frog's Leap take their work, their wine and their place in the neighborhood quite seriously, but they do so while having fun, giving a wink and a smile so to speak. A couple of days ago I made a visit to Frog’s Leap in Napa Valley. Though I’ve enjoyed a number of their wines over the years it was my first time visiting. Along with a couple of friends I made my way into their reception area and we were quickly seated even though we arrived quite a bit earlier than our scheduled appointment. They have an open porch with tables to host tastings, from that vantage point we could look at some of their vines as well as one group of visitors playing a game on the lawn while they enjoyed a taste of wine.

It was a beautiful day and Frog’s Leap is an excellent atmosphere in which to taste wine. After being seated we had someone dedicated to pouring us wine and telling us anything we might want to know about the facility and the wines. Their standard flight features 4 selections and the tastings are priced at $20. In addition to the four we were lucky enough to sample a few other releases.  On weekdays they also offer tours by prior appointment. What follows are my thoughts on a few of my favorite selections I tasted on my visit.

Frog’s Leap 2011 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc: This 100% varietal wine is what got things off the ground for Frog’s Leap more than 30 years ago. All of the fruit for this offering comes from Rutherford. It was fermented and aged in stainless steel. This wine has a suggested retail price of $20. Citrus and mineral aromas pop out of this wine’s nose. The palate is gently layered with tropical and citrus fruit characteristics. Zippy acidity, spices and minerals galore are at play here as well and they continue through the finish which is clean, crisp and refreshing. My overriding desire after taking a sip was simply to take another. This is a lovely Sauvignon Blanc whose flavors are not forceful or over the top but rather persistent in their complexity and depth.

Frog’s Leap 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc are blended into this wine. It was aged for 21 months in French oak and it has a suggested retail price of $42. The small dollop of Cabernet Franc in this blend really helps the nose pop. As a result cherry and leather aromas are in striking abundance. The palate here is smooth and approachable with deep berry flavors; Blackberry and plum are of particular note along with continued cherry. Earth and a bit of mocha emerge on the finish which has impressive length for the price. This wine will drink well for a number of years but it’s incredibly engaging and exuberant right now, there’s simply no reason to wait on this one.

Frog’s Leap 2010 Zinfandel: This wine is made in classic Field Blend style. This wine is composed of Zinfandel (77.5%), Petite Sirah (22%) and Carignane (0.5%). All 3 varietals were picked, fermented and aged together. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $27. This Zinfandel really emerged after it was sitting in the glass for 15 or 20 minutes. Cherry aromas came out in droves along with a dollop of vanilla bean. Both red and black berry flavors dominate the palate along with a nice complement of spices such as clove, cinnamon and pepper. The finish is lengthy with sour cherry, bits of chocolate sauce and a final bit of biting spice. This is a proportionate Zinfandel made in a classic style. It’s spicy, fun, delicious and easy drinking without being over the top or simplistic. It’s a wine that will pair as beautifully with a pizza as it will a burger or soft polenta topped with sautéed mushrooms. Whatever you pair it with, you’re likely to love this terrifically well made Zinfandel.

Frog’s Leap 2010 Petite Sirah: This selection is 100% varietal and all of the fruit came from Rutherford. Aging took place over 11 months in French oak. The Frog’s Leap Petite Sirah has a suggested retail price of $37. In the glass this wine is as black as night. The aromas that emerge are dark and brooding to match. The first sip reveals Blackberries, blueberries and plum pudding spices. The finish has good length with hints of earth and a bit of chicory. This Petite Sirah is young and a bit tight right now with firm tannins. Time in the bottle will soften this wine and really help show off its charms. I’m fond of aging well made, balanced Petite Sirah that has good structure and acid. The Frog’s Leap Petite hits all those marks and I can’t wait to see where this wine is in about a decade. Of course you could decant it for a few hours and speed up the process. In any case this is a promising example of one of my favorite varietals.

It took me way too long to make it to Frog’s Leap for the first time, suffice it to say my second visit won’t take nearly as long. This is a great winery to visit in the heart of Napa Valley. The wines are terrific and well made. Each of them was balanced and proportionate with reasonable alcohol content, bucking current trends. The Zinfandel in particular stood out for being under 14%, something worth noting in an environment where some folks are making Zins that tip the scales over 16%. The wines are also clean and fresh with pure fruit flavors bursting through. Additionally the atmosphere is welcoming and charming with lovely understated décor that is soothing to the eye. The folks working at Frog’s Leap are incredibly friendly, accommodating and quite knowledgeable about the wines and Frog’s Leap in general. Next time you’re in Napa Valley, I strongly urge you to make a beeline to Frog’s Leap.

Pedroncelli - 2009 Family Vineyards Petite Sirah

If there’s a better Petite Sirah for under $20 than the one Pedroncelli releases vintage after vintage I have yet to taste it. And as much as I love Petite Sirah I sample every example can get my hands on. At some point it would stand to reason that someone would challenge them in this category. But with fruit that’s under their control, a very long track record of making affordable wines in Sonoma County and the fact that Dry Creek Valley is the epicenter of the best Petite Sirah in the world, the Pedroncelli family has an advantage. With all of that in mind I sat down to taste their latest release of Petite to see how it compares to my somewhat lofty expectations. The Pedroncelli 2009 Family Vineyards Petite Sirah was made from fruit sourced at two vineyards within Dry Creek Valley that have family connections for the winery. Roughly half came from their own estate vineyard and the balance was sourced at a vineyard owned by John and Jim Pedroncelli’s niece. Barrel aging occurred over 17 months in a combination of French and American oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16.

Violets and black plum aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Petite Sirah along with hints of vanilla and cardamom. From the first sip through the very last a core of dried black and purple fruits are revealed with red fruit characteristics making a cameo appearance here or there. Blackberry, plum and blueberry are the stars here. The firm tannins cling to the back of your throat pleasurably. This finish shows off earth, continued dark fruits and hints of minerals. This wine will absolutely flourish paired with hearty and full flavored foods such as roasted meats and stews or mushroom heavy dishes. However It’s a delicious and glorious wine all by itself.

I’m thrilled to report that the 2009 vintage of Petite Sirah from Pedroncelli is in keeping with previous vintages when it comes to quality, value and eminent drinkability. This is quite simply the best Petite Sirah on the market for under $20. It’s delicious today but has the tannins and structure to age gracefully for a decade. 10 years from now you’d have a softer wine that is silky smooth and even earthier. However it’s so damn good now and they literally keep making more so my advice is to knock it back.

Gnarly Head - 2010 Authentic Red

Their Old Vine Zin remains the best known selection from Gnarly Head. But every now and again they expand their portfolio. The latest addition is Authentic Red and eventually it may well become the most popular of the Gnarly Head wines. Each of their selections is crafted with crowd appeal in mind. These are wines that are widely available throughout the country and well priced. Today I’ll see how Authentic Red stacks up. The Gnarly Head 2010 Authentic Red was produced using fruit sourced in Lodi California. This offering is a blend of Zinfandel (50%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (17%), Petite Sirah (10%) and Syrah (3%). The fruit was hand picked and de-stemmed prior to being pressed. Fermentation took place over a nine day period. 25,000 cases of this wine were produced in 2010 and it has a suggested retail price of $11.99.

This blend leads with a big jam-laden nose that’s studded with dark and brooding fruit aromas as well as bits of eucalyptus and vanilla. Cherry and blackberry flavors are prominent throughout the palate as well as plenty of baker’s spices and black pepper. Sour Cherry and wisps of dark chocolate emerge on the finish which has good length for its category. Fine acidity keeps things in check.

What I like most about this wine is its balance. While it features bold, upfront fruits it maintains it’s heartiness through the palate and a more than reasonable finish. This wine is fruity and fun and just dying to be paired with food. It’ll work best when matched with something substantial and bold. The deep, rich stews of winter and slow cooked BBQ dishes immediately come to mind. There are a lot of options in the category of Red California Blends around $10. Authentic Red is one of the better ones out there. Some of the others can be over the top and sickly sweet. While this is a bold wine, it’s never goes too far and it’s a selection you won’t have trouble finishing a bottle of. It continues the Gnarly Head tradition of fun wines that are solid values which are also easy to find. If you're looking for an everyday or house red to purchase by the case, Authentic Red is a solid choice.

Michael David Winery - 2009 Earthquake Petite Sirah

If you haven’t had any wines from Michael David Winery before there’s still a good chance you’ve seen one on a shelf somewhere in your neighborhood. Their wines are widely available offerings that appeal to a lot of folks. Today I’ll look at the current release of Petite Sirah which is labeled under their Earthquake tier of wines. The Michael David Winery 2009 Earthquake Petite Sirah was produced using fruit from the Lodi region. In addition to Petite Sirah this wine contains a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. After fermentation this wine spent 19 months in French oak. This wine, which is available nationally, has a suggested retail price of $26.

The moment you pour this wine the beautiful deep purple hue is immediately apparent. More than other wines, Petite Sirah can have the color of Welch's grape juice, as this one does. Plum violet and leather aromas fill the nose of this Petite Sirah. Deep dark plum, blackberry, and black raspberry fruit characteristics are prominent throughout the deeply layered palate of this wine along with plum pudding spices. All of those fruit flavors and spices carry through the finish along with bits of chocolate and earth. This is a structured Petite that features tightly wound, firm tannins. If you’re going to drink this wine now I recommend decanting it for about 90 minutes and pairing it with bold, full flavored foods. If you’re patient you could also lay this wine down for 3-5 years to soften it up a bit.

The Michael David Wines are unabashedly big, bold efforts aimed at folks who want lots of up front fruit. However their wines also consistently feature depth of palate and an above average finish in their respective categories. These are qualities not often found in the wines they’re competing with shelf space for. For that reason if you like bold, brash wines the Michael David offerings should be on your shopping list.

Michael David Winery - 2010 Sauvignon Blanc / 2009 Petite Petit

Michael David Winery has been turning out appealing, budget friendly wines for a number of years. Their 7 Deadly Zins is the first one that hit my radar. In subsequent years I’ve tasted many of their offerings and there has been a consistency of overall style and value to be found with their wines. Today I’ll look at a current release white and red in their portfolio. The Michael David Winery 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced in Lake County. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, small amounts of Semillon and Muscat Canelli were blended in. This wine saw no time in oak. Just over 1,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14.

Aromas of grapefruit, lemon zest and vanilla bean are prominent on the nose of this 2010 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc. Melon, tropical fruit and a continuing parade of citrus notes emerge on the palate; lemon ice and hints of tangerine are of particular note. White peach, apricot, pepper and a touch of nutmeg are part of the finish which has reasonable length. This wine is light crisp and very refreshing. Increasingly Lake County has become a haven for very tasty Sauvignon Blanc at extremely reasonable price points. This example from Michael David Winery certainly falls into that category.

The Michael David Winery 2009 Petite Petit was produced from fruit sourced in the Lodi Appelation. This offering blends Petite Sirah (85%) with Petit Verdot (15%). After fermentation, Petite Petit was barrel aged for 18 months in French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $18.

Violets, toast, dark berries and vanilla punctuate the nose which features intense aromas of brooding dark fruits. Plums, blueberries, blackberries and a host of plum pudding and fruitcake spices fill the palate whish is dense, layered and fairly intense. Dark chocolate and hints of earth mark the velvety finish of this wine. Petite Petit has firm tannins that yield with some air. This is a big, bold wine that will work best paired with similar styled foods. At 85% Petite Sirah this wine could legally be labeled as such; however the Petit Verdot plays a pivotal role here at 15% adding such depth and dimension that the Petite Petit name is wholly appropriate and actually quite perfect.

Both of these wines from Michael David Winery offer lots of pleasurable drinking for their price-points. As is their overall house style these wines offer lots of friendly upfront fruit that will appeal to large groups with varying palates. Unlike a lot of wines in these categories the Michael David wines also offer depth and length of palate that belie their price points. If you like bold California wines, the Michael David Portfolio is one you should explore.

V. Sattui Winery - 2008 North Coast Petite Sirah

The 2008 V. Sattui North Coast Petite Sirah was produced using fruit sourced in Lake County (65%), Napa Valley (30%) and Dry Creek Valley (5%). In addition to Petite Sirah (95%), this wine has some Zinfandel (5%) blended in. This wine is available directly from the winery for $30. The first noteworthy thing about this wine is its color. Like most great Petite Sirah it leads with a deep, dark, purple hue. It’s fair to say it’s as dark as night. From there comes the nose which is deep and brooding, loaded with aromas of plum and blueberry. This Wine has a big, burly palate which features intensely layered black fruit flavors which intermingle with copious spice characteristics. Blackberry, plum, and blueberry are the dominant fruits; plum pudding spices are prominent as well. Earth and dark chocolate notes are present on the finish which has good length and oodles of complexity. This wine features solid acidity and firm, gripping tannins.

Petite Sirah is a grape whose offerings I look to taste as often as possible. Sometimes I run across a surprising example of the varietal that exceeds expectations. This 2008 release from V. Sattui is such a release. The intense layers of complexity and good length along with its overall balance make this a wine that provides more quality than its price point suggests. If you like classically styled Petite Sirah, this is an offering you’ll want to sample. This wine is delicious now, but some additional bottle age will help it round out a bit. If you have patience lay this down for about 5 years and you’ll be dutifully rewarded with an even more resolved wine. If you’re drinking it now I recommend decanting it for about 2 hours.

Parducci - 2007 True Grit Petite Sirah

Mendocino’s Parducci Wine Cellars has a long and storied history with Petite Sirah, dating back to the 1940’s. In addition to a couple of separate bottlings of Petite Sirah, they use this great varietal in blends. Today I’ll look at the current release of their True Grit Petite Sirah. The Parducci 2007 True Grit Petite Sirah was produced using fruit sourced exclusively in Mendocino. In addition to Petite Sirah (88%), this wine has Syrah (12%) blended in as well. Barrel aging was accomplished over 24 months. 4,800 cases of this vintage were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29.99.

This 2007 Petite Sirah is gorgeous from the moment you pour it. A deep, dark purple hue fills the glass with brilliant color. Plums, violets and blackberry aromas leap from the glass and provide a heady nose. Baked blueberry cobbler characteristics lead the palate which is full-bodied, deeply flavored and simply loaded with dark, brooding and intense flavors. These bruising purple fruits lead to pencil lead, espresso, sour black fruits, earth and black pepper on the lengthy and lusty finish. This wine is big and beefy with firm tannins and excellent acidity.

I have tasted this wine over numerous vintages and find the Parducci True Grit to be one of the best and most consistent Petite Sirahs in its price range. This wine is delicious now, particularly if you enjoy the vigorous enthusiasm of young Petite Sirah. However, if you have the patience to lay this wine down for a decade you’ll be rewarded with a subtler, earthier bottle. Whenever you decide to drink this wine, if you like Petite Sirah, you’re in for a real treat.

Paul Dolan Vineyards - 2006 Deep Red

Over the last year or two I’ve had more and more wines from Mendocino County in California. And I have to say that I’m finding quite a few that I enjoy. So when the opportunity presents itself to taste one I haven’t had before I jump at the chance. Such was the case with this blend from Paul Dolan Vineyards. This Mendocino producer farms organically and biodynamically. Those two things also up the appeal for me. The 2006 Paul Dolan Vineyards Deep Red is made from 100% Estate fruit and entirely sourced at their Dark Horse Farms Vineyard. This offering is a blend of Syrah (56%), Petite Sirah (31%), and Grenache (12%). 770 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $45.

The color of this wine is immediately striking. Its hue is as black as night in the glass. Taking the first whiff dark fruit aromas such as plum and blueberry emerge and are immediately underscored by red fruit notes. The palate is layered with intense and intermingling fruit flavors. Both bright and dark flavors are prominent as the Syrah and Petite Sirah that dominate this blend tussle for control of your taste buds; black cherry, blackberry and raspberry are of particular note. Black pepper notes kick in mid-palate and lead to the finish which shows dark chocolate dipped raspberry, earth, minerals and espresso bean notes. That finish has very nice length. This wine is well balanced and has excellent acidity.

Despite alcohol clocking in at well over 15% this wine doesn’t drink hot in the least. I’m a sucker for Petite Sirah in general and the 31% in this offering makes it intense and brooding presence known. If you’re going to drink this wine over the next year or so I’d recommend decanting for at least an hour. If on the other hand you have patience, which I rarely do with Petite Sirah, feel free to cellar this for the next 5-8 years and watch it develop as the earthy characteristics take greater hold. This is a terrific wine.

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Michael David - 2007 Petite Petit

As I mentioned yesterday I've had several of the Micahel David wines over the years. There are a handful of them that I keep in my cellar ppregularly. All that said there are a few that I've never had. The wine I'm looking at today, Petite Petit is one of them. I'm a huge fan of Petite Sirah which makes it surprising to me that I hadn't gotten to this one before now. But that's been corrected. The 2007  Michael David Petite Petit is produced from Lodi fruit. This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah (85%) and Petit Verdot (15%). This offering was aged in French oak for 15 months. The suggested retail price for this selection is $18.

Violets, plum, blueberry and nutmeg are all part of this wine's nose. The palate is rich, jammy, velvety and loaded with decadent and inviting berry fruit flavors. Blackberry is the standout characteristic. It's not quite blackberry pie though. There are some vanilla elements and fresh pastry notes that put me in the mind of blackberry and currant scones. Dusty cocoa, white pepper and continued nutmeg are all part of a nice finish. Sufficient acidity keeps things in check.

As I mentioned I'm a sucker for good Petite Sirah. and while Petit Verdot is most often used in Bordeaux style blends I think it really adds a lot to this selection. The lush and velvety mid-palate is most likely a result of the healthy percentage of Petit Verdot in the blend. There are a handful of solid Petite Sirah's in the budget category that have been consistent year after year. Concannon and Bogle are two that come to mind. This release from Michael David is a bit more than those, but for the extra money you get an additional wallop of flavor. I'll be very curious to see if this wine is as consistent from vintage to vintage as the other Michael David wines. As it stands this wine is a nice value and a good example of both Petite Sirah and what adding Petit Verdot in can bring to the party.

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promisQous Red - A California Table Wine

promWhen tasting a wine it's important to take into account what the intent and purpose is. Some wines are crafted with the goal of scoring 90 + points in major wine publications. Others are made with the intent of producing wines reflective of their place. And then there are wines produced with the purpose of providing everyday drinking value. The promisQous wines seem to aim for that market. I'll look at their red blend today and see if it hits its mark.  promisQous Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and other red varietals. Fruit was sourced from several areas in California, though 42% is from Lodi. 15% of the wine was aged in barrel. The suggested retail price for this wine is $12. This offering is available at Supermarkets and Target stores that carry alcohol.

The nose of this blend is filled with plum, red raspberry and vanilla. The palate is loaded with both red and black, lush, ripe, fleshy, jammy, berry fruit flavors. Spice notes in the form of pepper emerge on the finish along with a touch of earth. This wine has the structure and acidity to stand up to a wide away of foods.

For me promisQous Red is a classic pizza wine. This is the price bracket most people are drinking in on a regular basis. For $12 you can buy this on your way home from work and pop it open to pair with leftovers or a burger. The blend of varietals offers a broad array of characteristics that emerge as you drink it, offering something pretty interesting for the price range. So, yes this wine fulfills its intent. This is one I'll keep in mind to bring with me to the first barbecue of the season.

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Nothing "petite" about this trio

Pedroncelli-PSPetite Sirah is a grape that absolutely fascinates me. Popularity-wise, it’s a bit of a fringe player in the wine world. Often it’s blended in with other grapes, most commonly Zinfandel. While there are quite a number of them out there, a look at most wine or liquor store shelves won’t often reveal more than a handful of Petite Sirah selections. So at times, it can be hit or miss to find exactly what you’re looking for. Yet there are cult bottlings of this grape and a group, PS I love you, dedicated to advocating its greatness. There are a few things that really get my attention when it comes to Petite Sirah. First, it’s often so dark, brooding and massively intense in flavor. Second, these wines -- at almost any price point -- seem to age in an interesting manner. Frequently they become earthier and mellower with a decade or more in the bottle. Petite Sirah is also, more often than not, an excellent value. I’m going to look at three different Petite Sirahs in varying price categories. Head over to to read the rest.

Locatelli Vineyards & Winery - 2006 Petite Sirah

Dear Petite Sirah, Have I told you lately that I love you? Well if I haven't I apologize. All kidding aside I realize how much I love this varietal locevery time I open a fine example of it. The reason being that each and every time that happens I think to myself that I don't drink Petite Sirah nearly as often as I should. If you take into account the fact that Petite Sirah already accounts for more than 10% of the reviews I've posted here, you get the idea. Last year I looked at a few releases from Locatelli Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles. Their current release of Petite wasn't ready for release at that time and therefore I didn't review it then. The Locatelli 2006 Petite Sirah was made from Estate Fruit. Production was limited. The suggested retail price for this wine is $35.

When you pour this wine, the dark, inky hue often associated with Petite Sirah is quite evident. This wine, like the band, is Deep Purple. This Petite is a bit tight out of the bottle and decanting is definitely recommended. Once it opens up, this offering is shot out of a cannon and full of big, bold, juicy flavors. The nose features apricot notes, which quite honestly threw me for a bit of a loop at first. Strangely when you take the first sip, plum and dark berry characteristics take over, the apricot makes sense. This wine is big and rich, full of boisterous dark fruit notes. The finish, especially once this wine has had a chance to breathe, shows explosive earth characteristics that linger in your mouth along with spice notes for a nice long while. As big and bold as this Petite Sirah is, it is has good acidity that keeps it balanced. A wine this big and extroverted wants to be paired with an equally full flavored meal. Braised short ribs or barbecue are two things that come to mind.

What I like best about the Locatelli Petite Sirah is that it reminds me of all the things I love about both Petite Sirah and Paso Robles wines. This is a great example of both and well worth the $35 price tag. Some time in the bottle will likely allow the earthiness to become more prominent. However, this wine is irresitable now .

Look out for another wine from Locatelli next week when I reccoemend Dessert wines for Valentines Day!

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