Red, White, and Blue Fin

Happy Independence Day to all my blogging friends in the U.S.!

July 4th is always a big to-do in my area.  All-day free public concerts, folks setting up picnic celebrations in the park early to get the best view of the really big fireworks show just after dark, and that awesome fireworks display.

I’ve done my share of time in our Independence Day mosh pit.  I loved it and even took my kids into the fray when they were young.  One year we were maybe a bit too close to the firworks, and my oldest son got a little scared because they were so loud.  In the last couple of years, however, I’ve taken an overnight bike ride with my sweetheart – escaping the city but still tuning in for coverage of the festivities in the evening with a glass of vino in hand for a quiet celebration.

This year we’ve had to reschedule the biking due to circumstances beyond our control.  Much to our disappointment.  So instead, we’re opting for a an early dinner of burgers and a quick dash to a nearby high point where we will have a good view of all the excitement – from a distance.  We thought it fitting to choose an inexpensive American wine to accompany our Independence Day repast.

Winemaker:  Blue Fin
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: California
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Color on this one was a dark red/purple.  On the nose I smelled berries, oak, balsamic vinegar and a hint of caramel.  Acidity was good, tannins were gentle, and alcohol was at 12.5%.  On the tongue I caught flavors I of plum, berries, oak, quinine, touches of tar and ash as well a green herbal notes.  Not too bad for five bucks!  It may be missing some structure and finesse, but it definitely had a more complex flavor profile than I was expecting at this price.

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Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah 2012

I’m beginning to really dig the Petite Sirahs I’m tasting that are coming out of California.  Seriously.  I had the Concannon Selected Vineyards Petite Sirah several months ago.  I liked that one enough that I classified it as a “sipper.”  That means I’d be willing to swig it without any accompanying food and just enjoy the wine for the wine’s sake.  So when I saw what looked like their next level PS, I was more than happy to give it a try.

Winemaker:  Concannon
Wine: Conservancy Petite Sirah
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: Livermore Valley, California
Price: $15.99

Notes:  Color on this Petite Sirah was a dark purple.  On the nose I smelled vibrant berries, earth, a touch of mushroom along with a metallic mineral note.  Acidity was high, tannins were medium, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  I’d say the body was medium-light.  Core flavors I found were blueberry, dark raspberry, some pepper, oak, a hint of cinnamon, ash and tea.   I liked this one quite a bit.  I took another bottle to a dinner party where a few of my friends absconded with it for their own enjoyment, leaving me to drink a Bordeaux someone else had contributed to the evening.  I guess they enjoyed this Petite Sirah, too!

Concannon Petite Sirah 2012

Ever since my Xmas Eve experience with a Petite Sirah (Parducci Petite Sirah 2010), I’ve been keeping my eye peeled for that varietal in the wine retailers I frequent.  I have to say there aren’t that many.  Even so, I recently ran across this inexpensive offering from Concannon and grabbed a bottle.  Better yet, it was on sale at $6.64.

Winemaker:  Concannon
Wine: Selected Vineyards Petite Sirah
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: California
Price: $9.49

Notes:  Color on this Petite Sirah was a dark ruby.  On the nose I smelled pepper, dark raspberry, earth and menthol.  Acidity was good, tannins were medium, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  The wine had a bit of weight on the palate, so I’d say the body was medium-light.  Core flavors I found were currant, green herbs, pepper, and oak while the finish was moderately lengthy with pepper, herbs and dark raspberry.   I was quite happy with this purchase.  What would I pair it with?  Well, for me this is one for sipping all by it’s lonesome.  Of course, it has the structure and flavor profile to stand up to a meal.  In case you’re interested, this was purchased at my local Safeway.  If it sounds good to you, maybe it’ll be on sale at your area Safeway, too!

Oak Grove Petite Sirah Reserve 2011

I always appreciate it when somebody gives me a recommendation for a wine.  Even if it isn’t always my “cup of tea,” I can’t help but be grateful for another wine enthusiast’s impulse to share.

Those of you who drop in fairly regularly (he says hoping somebody DOES drop in regularly – lol) will know that I had a Petite Sirah over the holidays that I searched for – and found – in a Total Wine near my home town.  Because it’s a big store, I had to ask a very nice staff person for directions to the “Other Reds” section.  She not only took me to the wine I was looking for but said, “Have you had the Oak Grove?  If you haven’t, you should.”  So I did!

Winemaker: Oak Grove
Wine: Petite Sirah Reserve
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: California
Price: $8.99 at Total Wine

Notes:  In the glass this Oak Grove selection was a very dark garnet   It was so dark that it was nearly opaque.  On the nose I got scents of dark fruit, oak, and lotion (I think lanolin is the appropriate term).  Acidity was fine but maybe just a tad on the low side.  Weight on the tongue was on the lighter side of medium as were the tannins.  Alcohol was at 13%.  Flavors were grounded by a core of black raspberry with light notes of oak and a sweet green herb – let’s call it stevia.  The finish was very long with lingering black raspberry and violets.  It was a fine glass of wine.  Unfortunately, the perception of sweetness took away a little from my personal enjoyment of it.  But that really isn’t too terrible.  It just means I get to keep sampling Petite Sirahs in my search!  Search for what?  Oh, perhaps a Petite Sirah I can call my favorite (until the next vintage is released, anyway).

A Petite Red via the Waldorf Astoria on Xmas Eve

I had the joy of spending Xmas Eve with my extended family this year.  Our hosts went all out making everyone feel right at home.  Brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, etc. gathered to chew the fat, graze the good food and holiday treats, trim the tree, and have an all-around great time.  And, of course, there was wine for those of us who choose to imbibe.

One of our hosts, Mary Ann, had taken a trip to NYC earlier in the year.  While there, she dined at the Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse in the Waldorf Astoria hotel where – besides having a wonderful steak dinner – she was introduced to Parducci Winery via their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  In her own words, it was “flavorful with a pleasantly big mouthfeel and restrained tannins.”  She enjoyed it with her meal so much that she was inspired to find it when she got home and share the experience with her holiday guests.

But fate intervened.  It was difficult for her to find any of the Parducci wines at her local wine merchants.  When she did find them, it was not their Cabernet Sauvignon but rather their Petite Sirah that was available.  Petite Sirah, as you may know, is a French grape (also known as Durif) that is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin grapes.  At any rate, although we weren’t able to revisit her NYC steakhouse experience, we did get the chance to share a brand new wine experience together.

Winemaker: Parducci
Wine: Small Lot Blend Petite Sirah
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Vintage:  2010
Appellation: Mendocino County, California
Price: $9.99 at Total Wine

Notes:  This was a pretty wine in the glass.  It was very dark – almost opaque – purple with a beautiful rich ruby around the edges.  It had a big bouquet.  I detected exuberant blackberry and pepper, hints of spearmint, and a plentiful earthiness I think of as barnyard.  I’m sure there’s a more elegant term, but hopefully you get the idea.  It was medium-bodied and silky with good acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 14%.  Flavors for me were a core of red licorice and cherry with occasional notes of strawberry.  It was quite peppery, too, with hints of dried green herbs.  It had a nice firm tannic bite without being overbearing.  On the finish I caught notes of moss and quinine.

When I got home, I also found it difficult to find Parducci wines at my area stores until I stopped at a Total Wine in a nearby town.  They didn’t have that Cabernet Sauvignon, but I’m glad they did have the Petite Sirah.

A Red Velvet Cupcake To Drink

Vineyard: Cupcake Vineyards
Varietal: Red Velvet (blend)
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $11.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   This pleasing and fairly complex red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.  It has a dark, almost purple color in the glass.  The bouquet is bountiful with lots of blackberry, blueberry hints, floral notes and an earthiness similar to that typical in many Chateauneuf-du-Pape selections I’ve had [but in a lesser degree].  On the palate the wine is medium-bodied with a good weight/viscosity that I enjoyed.  Flavors for me were plentiful blackberry – at first tart but settling nicely as the wine breathed.  Also a very present floral which I’d describe as purple clover.*  In addition I tasted plum notes and an earthiness.  Finally, there were hints of carob in the finish – not chocolate, carob.   This is a great wine for sipping and enjoying on it’s own.  I can also see it pairing well with a nice roast beef or a juicy mushroom and Swiss burger, etc.

I took this wine to a dinner party not long ago simply on the strength of it’s name.  I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I was taking a risk.  Turns out, it was no risk at all.  Even though the hosts had other reds open, the guests uniformly took to this wine and drank nothing else until it was all gone (before dinner was served).  Like them, I enjoyed this one and will certainly be having it again.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  Please see “About” for the full disclaimer.

* Purple clover?  Well, yes, what I remember of it.  When I was very young, my family lived next to a farm.  One of the fields actually abutted our yard, and in the spring there was purple clover everywhere – especially around the edges of the field.  The bees seemed to seriously enjoy the purple clover, so I gave it a try too.   That HAS been quite a long time ago, though.  lol