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WBW #40 - PS I (Sort Of) Love You

I don't normally review wines on this blog (at least, not so far), but I recently became intrigued by the excellent Wine Blogging Wednesday Community, who post themed monthly reviews of wines.

This month's theme is being hosted at the Wannabe Wino Blog, and features an 'underdog' of a wine - Petite Syrah, also known as Durif.

I live and operate near Philadelphia, which is the ultimate underdog / bum rap city. It was once described as "the city for people too scared to live in New York, and too dumb to live in Boston."

So I (understandably) have a soft spot for underdogs who get a bum rap. And Petite Syrah often gets a bum rap. As an example, Jancis Robinson described it in her reference book Vines Grapes & Wines as "Rigorous though unsubtle." Not exactly high praise...

Often blended with Zinfandel to provide structure to its more blowsy tendencies, PS has arguably achieved its apex in California, where it has been planted since the late 1800s. You'd imagine that some of the PS vines in CA are pretty old - and you'd be right. These older vines offer lower yields of more concentrated grapes - and therefore more concentrated wines.

So for WBW #40, it's to CA we go - I opted for Stags Leap Winery's 2003 Napa Valley Petite Syrah. Technically this one is a blend, 85% PS with 10% Syrah (of the non-petite variety), and even a little bit of Viognier thrown in for good measure.

So... is this wine unsubtle? At 14.2% alcohol, it's certainly not subtle. And it could stand a bit of decanting - preferably 6 years' worth performed in a dark basement in the original unopened bottle. There's no lack of inky darkness to this wine either (it's a good pick if you ever find yourself on a haute cuisine dinner date with the Creature from the Black Lagoon), and if you don't like your blackberry and cherry fruit done 'in-yo-face' style, then this is probably NOT the wine for you.

Having said all of that, the power of this wine is balanced with quite a bit of elegance - there is a nice surprise of orange and exotic spice (mostly cinnamon) on the nose. In your mouth, the tannins are abundant but not too astringent (think 'pleasantly chewy'), and the sting of all that alcohol is kept mostly in check by a mix of vanilla and chocolate flavors. I enjoyed mine with roast beef, but matching this sucker with grilled bison would really be the bomb.

My verdict: take the Leap.

PS - I love you... Sort of...



Sonadora said...

Thanks for participating in your first WBW and breaking your not reviewing wines rule. Sounds like you have had the best luck so far, I've never had a PS with orange on the nose, I usually notice blueberry, vanilla, plums...yours sounds like one I should hunt down.

Joe Roberts said...

My pleasure.

This is one of my favorite PSs, which I don't get to drink too often since my wine snobby friends are usually down on PS in general.

BTW - the orange on the nose was not like fresh-cut fruit, it's more like dried orange or oriental orange-sauce. Anyway, hope you like it when you finally get to try it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you enjoyed your PS more than I did. http://www.drinksareonme.net

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

I know what you mean about petite sirah - definitely not subtle. But you hit the nail on the head: Petite is outstanding with wild game. Bison or even moose or elk would have been perfect...

Joe Roberts said...

Wow - sounds like I was one of the lucky ones with my pick. I now tons of wine peeps (wine directors, buyers, etc.) that can't stand PS, but I've found the Stag's Leap is consistently good enough to be worthy of making a spot on a restaurant wine list (assuming the restaurant is progressive enough to even consider it!).

Unknown said...

Nice to see that you had some success with this PS; admittedly, going with Stag's Leap is a pretty safe bet with this grape, though.

I've added the wine to Vinismo (with a link to your review):

2003 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Petite Syrah

It's pretty sparse right now; please feel free to update and improve.

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks, Evan! I'm glad the review was useful.

I really dig the idea of vinismo.com - very cool stuff!

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