Recap of 6th Annual Dark & Delicious – The Petite Sirah Event Of The Year!

I attended the 6th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) last Friday.  D&D is an excellent opportunity to take a walk on the “dark side” for  Petite Sirah (“P.S” – a.k.a. “Pet”.)and food lovers.  The event is put on by an advocacy group of P.S. winegrowers, and producers knowns as P.S. I Love You.  This year’s event featured 58 wineries, and 36 food companies.  Petite Sirah tends not to be top of mind when it comes to red wine (or actually in the case of P.S., mostly inky purple-black wine) but for those of us who love P.S. this is the event of the year.

Here’s a quick 411 on P.S.

  • Created by François Durif, it is the love child of a noble grape, Syrah, and an obscure peasant grape Peloursin in 1880
  • 90% of the world’s P.S. vineyards are in California
  • Produces big, masculine, typically ink-colored wines that tend to be tannic with moderate to high-acidity
  • Sometimes referred to as Durif

P.S. I Love You Does Sound Better Than Durif I Love You!

It was a great night of wine and food.  And for the first time I came across a winery that referred to one of their P.S. as Durif – Berryessa Gap. My favorite wines were Aver Family Vineyards (2008 Blessings), ClayhouseBerryessa Gap (2006 Rocky Ridge Collection Tradition), Robert Biale, Rosenblum, and Stage Left Cellars (2006 Russell Family P.S),  along with Ondonata, and Ridge Vineyards, newcomers to the event.  I attended the event last year, and there seemed to be a bit more diversity of style this year.  I tasted more exemplars of P.S. showing more restraint and balance, than last year.  Petite Sirah can be an overly exuberant, jammy wine.  Perhaps that’s why I saw more chocolate vendors than I have at any other wine event.  And that style has plenty of fans, but I welcomed the change of pace.

Paella Struesel

In addition to the great P.S.  there was plenty of food.  I was impressed by diversity of food.  There were dishes like, Paella strudel, Sous-Vide Pork Belly with Umeboshi Plum Sauce with Micro Greens, and my dish of the night Bhel Puri, an “Indian Street Food” of puffed rice, garbanzo flour noodles, wheat crisps, Russet potatoes, Jazz apples, Sweet onion, Zante currants, mint cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, and blackberry chutney which was just fabulous with Petite Sirah.

Er…I had one or three too many of these…Amazing!

After tasting sampling the P.S. with a variety of foods, I gave it try with chocolate.  Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel, the varietals most often paired with chocolate has something to worry about.  I generally prefer dessert wines with my chocolate, ,and P.S. with my meal, but for fans of dry red wines P.S. works quite well too.  That lead to my favorite chocolate and P.S. pairing of the night – Bacon Salted Caramel (made with Zoe’s Meats applewood smoked bacon, organic sugar and an English dark cane syrup dipped in 72% E. Guittard chocolate and finished with applewood smoked salt) from Nosh This and two Petite Sirahs from Stage Left Cellars.

It was a great event.  Dark & Delicious will continue to be circled in red on my calendar of “must attend” wine events.  It’s a purple-teeth stained great wine and food event!

Petite Sirah Paradise…Dark and Delicious!

Last Friday, the 5th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) Food and Wine Tasting was held at the Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. D&D, a showcase for Petite Sirah, is put on by P.S. I Love You. There were 47 wineries (click here for list) pouring at Dark and Delicious 2011, along with 30 food vendors (click here for list). It’s an event that first came to my attention in 2010, but I’d just missed it, so I’ve been waiting about a year of so for it to come back around.  I’m so glad I did.  The sell-out event delivered on both the wine, and food fronts.

On the wine front, it was my intent that this would be first event where I would attempt to taste like a pro.  That is taste “x” number of wines (and “x” was definitely an unknown for me), and write detailed tasting notes on each wine tasted.  Well, as Colin Powell once said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”.   Such was my experience “D&D” in terms of memorializing my tastings with tasting notes.  My plan?  I decided it would be best to prioritize the wineries because there would be no way for me to taste at them all.  I did so by cross-referencing the list of D&D wineries to the P.S. winners in 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (“SFCWC”), which was bifurcated into P.S. up to $19.99, and P.S. $20 and above.  There were 15 winners from the SFCWC at D&D, and probably 20 or so wines to taste.  Plus I figured, I’d throw in a few more since that wasn’t even half of the wineries representing at the event.  Alas, the crowd, and my lack of preparation (My hands weren’t free to easily take notes, but I think mostly I underestimated the challenge in tasting so many wines and keeping detailed notes – my hat goes off to the professionals that do this, it’s very challenging – I’m not there yet) conspired against me.  I was forced to abandon my plan, take the night off and simply enjoy the bounty of wine, and food. I ended up tasting at 27 of the 47 wineries (liberal use was made of dump buckets).  My favorites were as follows (there’s not in order of preference):

Robert Biale - 2008 Thomman Station P.S.(Napa Valley/St. Helena) -$36, and 2008 Royal Punisher P.S.(Napa Valley) – $36

Tercero2007 “The Climb” , 50/50 blend of Syrah and P.S. (Central Coast/Santa Barbara)-$28,  and 2007 P.S.(Central Coast/Santa Ynez Valley) – $28

Miro Cellars, 2008 P.S. – (Sonoma/Dry Creek Valley) – $23

Harney Lane 2007 P.S. (Central Valley/Lodi)- $24

Stage Left Cellars2007 P.S.(Central Coast/Paso Robles) – $36, and 2008 Ex-Pat a blend of 51% Mourvedre blend/49% P.S. (Central Coast/Paso Robles) – $24

For value(<$20), my favorites were:

Turkovich Family Winery 2008 “The Boss” P.S.

Michael David  – 2008 Petite Petit (Central Valley/Lodi)  85%  P.S./15% Petit Verdot – $18.

On the food front, what I really appreciated about this event,(besides the fact I came very hungry, and left very full) was that adjacent to most of the wineries were food vendors with foods that paired beautifully with the various styles of P.S. It was great to see that P.S. pairs well with so many foods other the oft recommended grilled steak, sausages, and chocolate.  My favorite food samples that demonstrated the versatility of P.S. as a pairing partner were Spicy Bacon Almond Caramel Corn (an interesting combination of savory, slightly sweet, and slightly spicy was a ), Pork Tartlet (Slow cooked pork with Pecorino cheese and pears), Paella, and Grilled Pork with Chayote, and Plantain with a smoky tomato sauce.  The most unusual pairing for me was Berry Tiramisu with a jammy P.S. from Ehrenberg.

Yes, indeed this one goes on my calendar as a recurring event!

Let me know what some of your favorite P.S. is from either D&D, or a recent tasting, by posting a comment.

Big, Dark, and Delicious

I was headed home Friday after another week of too many hours, and not enough rest. I decided to pick up a pizza on the way home because we’d opened a 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Richard Sauret Zinfandel (88pts) the night before. I decided to get a pizza topped with grilled chicken, sausage, linguica, roma tomatoes, red and green onion topped with a BBQ drizzle, which I thought would pair nicely with the pizza.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The Zinfandel was a good pairing with the pizza.

The next day, to my surprise, I discovered the pizza made it through the night and the next day (we have a 17 y.o. boy at home…enough said).  As fortune would have it, my wife had opened a 2007 Rosenblum Cellars Petite Sirah Pato Vineyards (90pts) the night before so a friend who’d never tried a Petite Sirah (“PS”) before.  While the pizza with the Zinfandel was a good pairing, the PS  with the pizza was a great pairing.  As I savored the PS/pizza pairing, I remarked to my wife “You know, I love a wine with some tannins in it”, which is why I love PS!

PS tend to be “big” wines, meaning generally rich, full-bodied, intensely flavored with a concentrated feel on the palate. It’s known for its dark inky red color, and firm tannins. PS characteristically have effusively fruity, wild berry, or plummy aromas and flavor, along with rustic spiciness that may bring to mind pepper, nutmeg, or cloves. And some would suggest it is the most intense red wine in the world.

For those of you who may not have tried a PS (Peh-TEET Sih-RAH), it’s a wine with an incongruous name because it’s neither petite, nor a Syrah.

In fact PS is the love child of the “noble” Syrah grape, and the little known Peloursin grape.  It was created by a French botanist, Dr. Francois Durif who crossed the flower of a “mother” vine with the pollen of a “father” vine, and named the offspring after himself. So, it’s possible you may come across a wine made with Durif grapes, which is synonymous with PS in the United States.  Ironically, though the grape originated in France, it is virtually extinct there today.

Like Zinfandel, PS has a long history in California, and in fact is the other American Heritage grape (along with Zinfandel) because of its long history here in the States, particularly CA where about 80% of worldwide PS vineyard acreage is planted.  Historically, like Zinfandel, PS was planted as part of a  field blend interspersed with other grapes such as Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Mission and Muscat.   And PS has long been used to add tannins and color to jug wines.  The first stand-alone PS wasn’t released until 1964 by Concannon Vineyards of Livermore Valley.

I was introduced to PS by a mutual friend, Zinfandel.  A few years ago while tasting through Zinfandel at Rosenblum Cellars; I learned that a particularly tasting Zinfandel wasn’t 100% Zinfandel.  Upon further inquiry, I learned that PS is added to Zinfandel to give it color.  But I also noticed that particular Zinfandel seemed “bigger” than the others.  After tasting through Zinfandel I tasted a PS.  I found that I enjoyed the dark fruit, but at the time found the tannins a bit off-putting.  Now, I enjoy and appreciate a wine that is “chewy” (i.e. you sense the tannins without them being overwhelming).

Now that we’re in Fall, with Winter approaching, it’s a great time to give PS a try.  It pairs well with cold weather savory dishes like pot roast and stews.  It’s also pairs well with the same foods that Zinfandel pairs with like burgers, BBQ, mesquite grilled steak, roast duck, and dark or bittersweet chocolate.

For a more detailed profile of PS, click here