Petite Sirah: Varietal of the Month

Marcy Gordon on Sep 28, 2019

While Petite Sirah might sound like a diminutive version of Syrah, it’s a distinct variety also known as Petite Syrah or Durif, named for the French botanist Dr. François Durif. Petite Sirah is not a hybrid but true Vitis Vinifera — its parents are Peloursin and Syrah.

The grape even has it’s own fan club devoted to its cultivation and appreciation – PS (Petite Sirah) I Love You—an advocacy organization dedicated to the grape. Of note is Foppiano Vineyards, in Healdsburg, whose Petite Sirah’s are cited in the famed tome, WINE GRAPES by Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson.

Bottles of Petite Sirah in the sun on a wine barrel with a red corkscrew

Petite Sirah is a full-bodied red wine rich in dark fruit flavors with firm, robust tannins. Its dark inky-purple color is opaque in the glass and full of antioxidants. Petite Sirah thrives in California and it’s often used as a blending wine, but 100% Petite Sirah is a special treat all it’s own. Its great tannin structure makes it a prime candidate for a bit of decanting a few hours before drinking. But it’s also age worthy, with a drinking window up to 20 years for well-produced bottles.

Petite Sirah is a great complement to hearty dishes like casseroles and braised meats and of course it can hold it own beautifully with barbeque of any type. But don’t forget the cheese platter! Petite Sirah is a fine pairing to aged cheeses including blue cheese, gouda, goat cheese, Monterey jack and many smoked cheeses.

Check out the capsule reviews for Petite Sirah producers you can find along the Wine Road.

A wide selection of Petite Sirah on a glass table looking down from above.
A wide selection of Petite Sirah’s from producers along the Wine Road

2015 Petitte Sirah, Gianna’s Block, Russian River Valley
2016 Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley
Both vintages of the Foppiano Petite Sirah, 2015 Gianna’a Block and 2016 Estate from Russian River Valley are textbook examples of the beauty and finesse the grape can express. The nose on the 2015 is full of rose petals and violets with gobs of black fruit on the palate and a long pleasing finish. The 2016 leads with an aroma of cocoa and plums and firm elegant tannins support a pleasing mouthful of licorice and spice and everything nice! Both drinking great now but also age worthy for the next 10-15 years. I say buy a case of each and try them at various stages of age.  

A glass of Petite Sirah in front of a bottle of Foppiano Wine.
Tasting J.Rickards, Foppiano, and Portalupi.

2017 L. Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino
A graceful nose of chocolate and cigar box with a touch of thyme sets the tone for a delicious juicy hit of black and ripe red fruit, particularly plums and mulberry on the palate. The taut, gripping tannins may be tamed by decanting first, allowing it to fully open to is full luscious potential. 

Dutcher Crossing
2015 Petite Sirah, Proprietors Blend, Dry Creek Valley
Deep and dark, the Dutcher Crossing Petite Sirah has bewitching nose of blueberry, black olive and crushed marigolds. The firm tannins deliver a long seamless finish with spicy top note of nutmeg and tobacco that yields to exciting and satisfying flavors of brambleberry, blackberry and a hint of and zinnia.

2016 Petite Sirah Reserve, Dry Creek Valley
On the nose the Hawley is a garden of earthly delights with dusty rose, spicy carnation and faint lavender. The structure is balanced yet substantial and supports the rich flavors of blackberry pie, deep earthy brambles and a hint of clove. The long lingering tannins glide on velvety rails to the finish.

Bottle of Petite sirah on a barrel with rocks and a red corckscrew
The many expressions of Petite Sirah.

2015 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley
Earthy dusty nose of leather and rose. An ample body full of bright raspberry and black cherry with medium firm tannins and a long unwavering finish. Drink now or cellar with aging potential of 5-7 years.

J. Rickards
2016 Brown Barn Vineyard, Alexander Valley
Dark and inky in the glass the J. Rickards delivers a muted nose of fig and dark bittersweet chocolate. On the palate an abundance of blackberry and blueberry mingles with a touch of oak and tobacco, surfing a flavorful wave of generous tannins. 

Bottles of Petite Sirah on a table with corks
Petite Sirah from Collier Falls, Dutcher Crossing, Cast, and Foppiano.

2015 Petite Sirah, Grey Palm Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
The Cast Petite Sirah from the Grey Palm Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley is a charming example that escapes the Petite Sirah norm. The soft, light floral nose bellies its grape parentage with a lyrical balletic tannin structure that’s quite light on its toes. But raspberry, licorice and fennel on the palate confirm that it is firmly in the Petite Sirah kingdom of flavor.

Collier Falls
2014 Petite Sirah, Hillside Estate, Sonoma Coast
Coco puffs, oiled leather, and a complex bouquet of coffee and brambles are evident on the nose of the Collier Falls Petite Sirah. Soft plush tannins deliver a deep and juicy mouthful of blackberry and ripe blueberry with a subtle note of graphite. Age potential of up to 7 years.

Posted by Marcy Gordon

Marcy Gordon is a freelance wine and travel writer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma Magazine, The California Travel Guide, and Forbes Travel Guide. In 2017 she was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. She is the co-host of the award winning Wine Road Podcast.

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