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.
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…