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Little monsters


Petite Sirah can be a huge beast of a wine, but in the right hands it becomes one of the richest, most uncommon diversions from the ordinary.

Greg Horton February 23rd, 2011

Alder Yarrow is a wine critic known for his work in and around San Francisco, as well as his highly respected and frequently visited wine blog, Vinography. Recently, he wrote an entry on Petite Sirah, a grape that has its problems, both with popularity and with unskilled winemakers.

“I’ve referred to it in the past as ‘the beast,’” Yarrow wrote. “Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent wine-making, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine.”

Anyone who has tried a bad one will know exactly what Yarrow means: excess bacon, smoke and graphite are common in over-the-top Petite Sirah.

Speaking of his home state of California, Yarrow relayed good news for wine geeks: “Producers all over the state continue, quietly, to make Petite Sirahs, and many have no trouble selling them at all to an equally quiet, but passionate following of wine lovers.”

Tim Rosetano, a wine rep with Oklahoma broker Dynamic Brands, represents two good introductions to the varietal widely available in the metro: The Crusher and Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah.

The Crusher, from Don Sebastiani & Sons, offers some of the flavors that make good Petite Sirah so appealing: chocolate, blueberry, blackberry and toasted nuts.

“This is a single vineyard Petite Sirah at a great price,” Rosetano said. “Rich, elegant and extremely versatile.”

The Crusher is available by the glass at The Mantel Wine Bar & Bistro, 201 E. Sheridan, and is also on the menu at Bolero Spanish Grill & Tapas Bar, 200 S. Oklahoma. It’s typically priced less than $15 in retail stores and is available at Byron’s Liquor Warehouse, 2322 N. Broadway.

One of the most widely available Petite Sirahs in the market is Bogle, a brand familiar to Oklahomans. The Bogle is also an affordable and excellent introduction to the varietal, ready to go out of the bottle with flavors of blueberry, blackberry, toasted oak and vanilla.

At the other end of the price spectrum is the spectacular Turley Hayne Vineyard Petite Syrah. The last three vintages of this wine have averaged 95 points from Robert Parker, who calls the varietal the “most underrated varietal in California.” The Turley is ample evidence to this claim.

It’s only available at metro restaurants, so expect to pay about $150 for a bottle. Available at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, 3241 W. Memorial, the Turley showcases everything that is amazing about this varietal: rich, dense layers of fruit, spice, graphite and vanilla.

Seghesio is another name familiar in the metro. Its Home Ranch Petite Sirah is a very good example of the varietal. Priced about $40, the Seghesio features strong tannins, solid fruit and layers of spice. Available at the Spirit Shop, 1117 Garver in Norman, this one needs decanting before drinking.

Yarrow did say that at least one winery has been making good Petite Sirah since the 1970s: Stag’s Leap. Layers of fruit, spice and graphite are blended with more subtlety than you would expect in a wine this inky.

 
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