While it has not been as cold as usual, we are in the coldest part of the winter. And when the bitter cold hits, you want to reach for big wines. Few are bigger than petite sirah.
Related to syrah but a distinct grape variety all its own, petite sirah earns its name from the size of its grape berries. Smaller berries mean more grape skin and seeds relative to the amount of berry. Skins and seeds hold most of the flavor, color and tannins that end up in wine. Small berries mean more of everything.
So petite sirah produces a big, full-flavored, tannic wine that is finding more expressions as more wineries take a crack at it. The grape’s productivity and durability and the wine’s standout flavor have made it a favorite of home winemakers.
Around the $10 price range, McManis sets the benchmark. McManis 2016 California Petite Sirah sends up blueberry and blackberry with a round texture and touch of chocolate. $12. ★★★★ 1/2
A nice starting-point petite sirah is the likable Chronic Cellars 2018 Suite Petite Paso Robles. The wine, whose brand sports a Grateful Dead aesthetic, offers a fresh take on petite sirah, producing a medium-bodied wine with character of violets and cranberry plus a touch of sweetness and cocoa. $16. ★★★★
Castle Rock 2017 California Petite Sirah smells of cassis and earth with firm tannins and prominent acidity. $10. ★★★ 1/2
If you want to find even more flavors and climb up the price ladder, you can find bolder expressions of petite sirah from Stags’ Leap Winery of Napa Valley, or the blend from Michael David Petite Petit, a mix of petite sirah and petit verdot.
GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below average ★★, Poor ★.