Dark and Delicious 2014 – A Petite Sirah and Food Extravaganza!

One of my favorite Bay Area food and wine events, the 8th annual Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah is coming to Alameda in February!  Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) is the preeminent annual Petite Sirah event in the world.  It’s put on each year by  P.S. I Love You, an association of Petite Sirah growers, producers and winemakers.

Image courtesy of P.S. I Love You!

In a nutshell, it’s 40+ wineries pouring Petite Sirah (“P.S.”), collaborating with 25+ fabulous Napa and Bay Area restaurants and/or food caterers for a food and wine extravaganza.

For the uninitiated, 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 (increasingly it seems) referred to as Durif

What makes this event special for me is…

  • It’s a”one-stop” tasting of P.S. from the finest producers throughout Cali.  It’s a great chance to experience the diversity of P.S. both geographically, and stylistically.
  • It’s a great opportunity to get to know P.S. as a food partner beyond the typical steak and BBQ because you get a chance to try all manner of gustatory delights from savory to sweet and everything in between.
  • It’s offers great value! For the price of a couple of Napa Valley wine tastings, you can eat and drink (responsibly of course;-) to your heart’s content.
  • It has the most evocatively appropriate name of all the wine events I attend…it put’s a smile on my face whenever I think “Dark & Delicious”!

I’ve been the last several years and it’s gotten better year. I expect this year will be the best yet! The foodie in me has already circled Hella Lumpia, Gators Back Porch BBQ, and A Fork Full of Earth Organic Catering as a few of the new food purveyors to check out this year!

The event web site has a list of the wineries pouring this year. And the list of food vendors signed up so far for this year is more impressive than ever.  

P.S. I Love You Dark and Delicious Tasting
February 21th, 2014
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Rock Wall Wine Company
2301 Monarch Street
Alameda, CA 94501 (map)

Tickets are $65 per person (free parking).  There are also discount tickets available ($55) for group of 6+.  The more the merrier!

The event has sold out in the past so put some pep in your step!  For more details and tickets click here.

If you do decide to go, I recommend you:

  • Wear dark clothes
  • Don’t wear perfume/cologne
  • Since there’s plenty of food, grab a bite when you (they’ll be plenty of food
  • And SPIT!

Related posts you might enjoy:

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This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Which Are The Best Types Of Wines For Barbeque?

Summer is officially here, and you know what that means! It’s time to start grilling, planking and smoking your favorite foods. While beer is probably the top of mind beverage for barbecues for most folks, don’t forget about wine! A glass of wine alongside your grilled favorites can elevate a meal from mundane to memorable.

Here are some of the things you need to know to successfully add wine to your list of favorite adult barbecue beverages!

  • If your meat, or vegetable has a sauce, salsa, chutney, etc. that dominates the flavors of the dish, let the sauce dictate which wine to pair with the food. BBQ Chicken is a good example. If you follow the cliché white wine with white meat “rule”, it could be a challenge to find a white wine to stand up to the bold flavors of the BBQ sauce. It’ll be much easier to find a red wine, or even a Rosé that will complement BBQ chicken. In other words, think of the meat, or vegetable as a “vessel” for the sauce. Pair to the sauce, not the “vessel”.
  • Smoking, grilling, and blackening all transform the flavors of food, so that will dictate which wines to serve with the food
  • Spicy (hot) foods like sweet. Pair spicy hot foods with wines that have low to moderate alcohol levels (less than 14.5% generally), no or minimal oak, and some residual sugar (sweetness)
  • BBQ wines should be inexpensive

With those tips in mind, check out these lip-smacking wines for your barbecue!

Can't claim credit for this cooking, my friend...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Dry Rosé

I like Rosé because it’s served chilled, which make it refreshing, while at the same time being “bolder” than the most popular white wines when it come to pairing with grilled, and smoked foods. I especially like a Rosé with grilled salmon. Try the Bonny Doon 2011 Vin Gris de Cigare, or for sparkling, Gruet Brut Rosé.

2. Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a wine that loves charred foods topped with barbecue sauces. Look for the Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel. And if your barbecue sauce is on the sweet side, consider an off-dry White Zinfandel. It’s great with barbecue chicken sandwiches. I recommend Beringer White Zinfandel.

3. Merlot

Merlot is a great choice for grilled, planked and smoked foods. This is especially true if you throw some herbs (rosemary comes to mind) into the heat source. Try the Bella Serra Merlot.

4. Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah, a plump wine saturated with berry flavors, and moderate acidity levels makes a great companion a range of grilled and barbecued meats. Look for Maggio Petite Sirah.

5. Shiraz

Wines made from the Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz) grape, and Syrah blends are a natural with all kinds of grilled foods because of their fruity profile and acidity. Look for Rosemount Estate Shiraz.

6. Malbec

Loads of dark plummy fruit, and a touch of peppery spice make Malbec a natural for grilled burgers and steaks. Look for Dona Paula Malbec.

7. Sangria

Sangria, the wine punch so popular in Spain and Portugal, makes a great barbecue wine! You can make it either red, or white. There are lots of recipes on the web. Try a few, and find one you like. My favorite is called “Best Sangria,” from Cook’s Illustrated.

8. Riesling

Think Riesling when your foods incorporate aromatic spices (such as Indian spices), or has a sweet and spicy marinades or sauce such as sweet and sour. It also pairs well with grilled sausages like brats, along with grilled pineapple, and veggies. Look for Navarro Riesling.

9. Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a wine that works well with grilled seafood, and shellfish, along with corn on the cob slathered in butter. Look for Clos du Bois Chardonnay.

10. Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine for a wide variety of foods. It works especially well with dishes emphasizing fresh herbs, such as fish or chicken marinated in citrus, or vinaigrette. And if you’re grilling fish or vegetables featuring fresh herbs such as dill, it’s hard to beat. Look for Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.

11. Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer offers a nice balance of spice and moderate sweetness that make it an excellent partner with foods smoked/grilled over aromatic woods such as apple or almond. It’s fantastic with fruit based salsa too. Look for Columbia Crest Two Vines Gewürztraminer.

12. Sparkling Wines

Last, but certainly not least would be sparkling wines like Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy. Because they are served chilled they offer refreshment. And that, along with their palate-cleansing effervescence and acidity, prepare your palate for the next bite of your favorite barbecue dishes. I recommend Mionetto Prosecco.

What are your favorite wines to serve with barbecue?

Value Alert! – An(other) Enjoyable Everyday Petite Sirah for under $10!

I’m a big fan of Petite Sirah.  It’s one of my favorite grape varietals.  The challenge though for many Petite Sirah (a.k.a. “Pet”, “PS”) lovers, is that the wines can be pricey.  If you’re willing to pay $35 and up, finding a very good to excellent PS isn’t hard to do.  It’s a much bigger challenge to find one  in the $20-25 range, and an even bigger challenge to find one for less than $15, much less $10!

I was introduced to this wine when it was brought to our wine-tasting club’s  blind tasting – Petite Sirah night-Round 2 ( The Round 1 winner was the 2010 Redtree Petite Sirah - check out the posts below!). Stay tuned for the Round 2 results later this week!

This wine is produced by Oak Ridge Winery, which was founded in 1934 as a winemaking cooperative of local growers in Lodi, California. Oak Ridge is the oldest operating winery in Lodi.  In fact, the original winery’s 50,000 gallon redwood tank has been converted to a tasting room!  Over the last 8 years,  the historic landmark has been transformed into a state-of-the-industry winery.

Winegrower Rudy Maggio and his partners, Don and Rocky Reynolds, purchased the Oak Ridge Winery in 2001.  According their website…

Under the leadership of General Manager Nicholas Karavidas, along with Senior Winemaker Chue Her, Oak Ridge Winery is fast becoming a beacon for Lodi’s future. The winery produces small lots of its own hand-crafted wines, including its signature Old Zin Vines (“OZV”), and offers custom winemaking services to a growing list of wineries and custom brands. Each of our wines and all of our relationships reflect our passion, commitment to quality and uncompromising integrity.

In addition to this wine, Oak Ridge produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Old Vine Zinfandel,  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio under the Maggio label.  I’m going to have to give a few of those a try!

My tasting notes follow:

Violet color with smoky, earthy dark fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, with good acidity  and fruity with blackberry, vanilla, cacao, and spice flavors.  Medium finish. – 88pts

Recommendation: I enjoyed this wine even more than the Redtree (which is lighter-bodied style wine). It’s a great value at $10.   If you’re a fan of Petite Sirah, (or for that matter Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah) and are looking for an everyday wine, give this one a try.


  • Alcohol: 13.0%
  • Residual Sugar: 0.46%
  • SRP: $9.99 (purchased for $7.99 at World Market)
  •  Click here to find

Wine Of The Week – 2011 Ridge Lytton Estate Rosé

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for June 9-June 15 is the 2011 Ridge Lytton Estate Rose

The Winery

Ridge Vineyards  is a California winery with two estates, Monte Bello in Cupertino, and Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  They are best known for producing single-vineyard premium Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay.  Ridge was established by three engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI).  They produced its first commercial wine in 1962 after purchasing the winery in  1960.

It wasn’t too long after that, that Ridge gained an international  rep when the  Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper , took fifth place in the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 against nine other French and California wines.  Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

This isn’t the first Ridge that is my WoW (and I’m sure not the last either;-) In case you missed it, I previously featured the 2009 Ridge Buchignani Ranch Carignane in this post

The Wine

This wine is an alluring blend of Zinfandel,  Mataro (a.k.a. Mourvèdre), Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Carignane from the Ridge Lytton Estate Vineyard – the same vineyard source of the iconic Lytton Springs Zinfandel blend.  The lion’s share of the vineyard was planted in 1901, and 1910.  The vineyard is registered with the Historical Vineyard Society (click here for details).  According to their website:

This vineyard used to be part of the estate of Captain William Litton, who during the last half of the 19thcentury developed the springs in the area and built a hotel and spa for San Franciscans who arrived by train to “take the waters.”  Paul Draper saw these old vines in 1972 and made the first Lytton Springs bottling that year.

I enjoyed this wine with a Mediterranean Couscous Salad topped with Feta cheese.  It was a great pairing!

Summertime in a glass – 2011 Ridge Lytton Estate Rose

My tasting notes follow:

Light-red pink color with a distinctive lovely orange hue with cherry, citrus and watermelon aromas. On the palate, it approaches medium-bodied, and is dry, and well-structured. It shows a zippy acidity with vibrant fruit flavors of cherry, watermelon along with hints of citrus and spice. An outstanding Rose. Medium finish.- 90pts

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.  From time to time, a wine induce one to savor its flavors and/or aromas long the bottle has been finished.  This was one of those wines for me!


Alcohol: 12.9% alcohol.

Closure: Cork closure.

AVA: Dry Creek Valley.

Varietal(s): 48% Zinfandel, 36% Mataro, 7% Petite Sirah, 5% Grenache, 4% Carignane.

Production: 3 Barrels produced

Media Sample

Petite Sirah Smackdown! 12 Petite Sirahs – 1 Winner!

The most recent Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club meeting featured Petite Sirah (“P.S.”).  There was a diverse selection of P.S.  from wine regions throughout Northern, and Central California.  There were three from Sonoma, 2 each from Napa, Mendocino, and Paso Robles along with Livermore, the Sierra Foothills and Santa Clara Valley.  It was big night in that not only were there 12 P.S. to taste, there were also 18 tasters!  The taster’s experience with wine was a diverse as the regions.  There were a few hardcore “winos” who have lots of experience with wine, but the majority of the tasters are less experienced.

As always, before we got down to the business of  tasting the wines, we had plenty of good eats,  thanks to our gracious host who served up all manner of grilled meats.  Additionally, everyone was asked to bring a dish that would pair well with P.S., so there was a bit of everything!   It’s always a pleasure to get a bite to eat, and catch up with everyone before our tastings!

The wines were blind-tasted in the following order. My tasting notes follow (click on the link for my detailed Cellar Tracker reviews and ratings):

The wines bagged and tagged. A couple of more were added later!

2008 Guglielmo Family Winery Petite Sirah Private Reserve - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Clara Valley
13.2% alcohol. $25 Retail 405 cases produced

2008 Clayhouse Vineyard Petite Sirah Estate Show Pony Red Cedar Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
14.2% alcohol. Retail – $35

2008 Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah Conservancy - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
13.5% alcohol. $15 Retail. 6,000 cases produced

2008 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
13.8% alcohol. $16 Retail.

2009 Kent Rasmussen Petite Sirah Esoterica Chavez-Leeds Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford $40 Retail

2009 Rock Wall Wine Co. Petite Sirah Gamble Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
15% alcohol. Retail $35 291 cases produced

2008 Field Stone Petite Sirah Staten Family Reserve - USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
15.5 % alcohol. Retail $35. 636 cases produced.

2007 Barra of Mendocino Petite Sirah Mendocino - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
Retail $22. 390 cases produced

2010 Redtree Petite Sirah - USA, California, Sonoma County  12.5% alcohol. $8 Retail. 3,416 cases produced.

2009 Viña Robles Petite Sirah Estate - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
15% alcohol. $26 Retail.  3,352 Cases produced

2009 Lava Cap Petite Sirah Reserve Granite Hill - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
Alcohol 14.8% Retail $30. 447 cases produced

2009 Artezin Petite Sirah Garzini Ranch Mendocino County - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
14.2% alcohol. Retail $36.

Group results:

Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong

After the scores were tabulated here’s the winner!…

Yes…an $8 wine bet out all the rest!  By now, the results don’t surprise me, especially when a blind tasting is involved.  This wine is a great value, and at $8 it could make a great everyday wine!  I’ll definitely be looking for this one!  You should too!

The order of finish for the runners-up was as follows:

  1.  2008 Field Stone Petite Sirah Staten Family Reserve
  2. 2007 Barra of Mendocino Petite Sirah Mendocino
  3. 2009 Lava Cap Petite Sirah Reserve Granite Hill
  4. 2009 Viña Robles Petite Sirah Estate
  5. 2009 Rock Wall Wine Co. Petite Sirah Gamble Ranch 
  6. 2009 Kent Rasmussen Petite Sirah Esoterica Chavez-Leeds Vineyard 
  7. 2008 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah
  8. 2008 Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah Conservancy
  9. 2008 Clayhouse Vineyard Petite Sirah Estate Show Pony Red Cedar Vineyard 
  10. 2009 Artezin Petite Sirah Garzini Ranch Mendocino County
  11. 2008 Guglielmo Family Winery Petite Sirah Private Reserve
NOTE:  All wines were media samples

The “Bonus” round!

After the main tasting was finished, we paired this “Port-style” dessert wine with two blue cheeses, Castellano Creamy Blue Cheese, and Trader Joes’s Aged Blue Cheese…

and two types of dark chocolates (one with 72% cacao, and one with 85% cacao) to see which pairing we preferred.

The wine was a hit! Here are my tasting notes:

2008 Barra of Mendocino Petite Sirah Bella Dolce Mendocino - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
Deep dark garnet color with dark fruit, roast coffee aromas. Jammy decadent blackberry/blueberry cobbler and vanilla flavors. Long finish 18.5% alcohol. Made with organic grapes. Retail – $28 (87 pts.)

It was a toss-up between the Castellano creamy blue cheese, and the Valrhona Le Noir Extra Amer 85% cacao chocolate as to which of the chocolates and cheeses it worked best with.  I can tell you that both disappeared rather quickly.  For many it was their first time trying a blue cheese with red wine, and they found it to be a surprisingly delightful pairing!

All in all, it was a great tasting – with purple teeth all around! P.S. We Love You!

Look for Part 2 of the Petite Sirah Smackdown – Coming soon!

Value Alert! Great Everyday Petite Sirah for $8!

I’m a fan of Petite Sirah.  It’s one of my favorite grape varietals.  The challenge though for many Petite Sirah (a.k.a. “Pet”, “PS”) lovers is that the wines can be pricey.  If you’re willing to pay $35 and up, finding a very good to excellent PS isn’t hard to do.  It’s a much bigger challenge though to find one  in the $20-25 range, and an even bigger challenge to find one for less than $15, much less $10!

That’s where Redtree, the maker of this wine comes, comes to the rescue.  According to Redtree’s website:

Redtree offers consumers fresh, fruit forward, distinctive varietals of consistent quality and exceptional value that are ready for immediate consumption. These wines are ideal as an aperitif and complement everyday meals as well as special occasions

Redtree is one of three Cecchetti Wine Company brands (along with Line 39,and Backhouse).  To the wine!

My tasting notes follow:

Inky purple-black color with earthy, baked dark fruit aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied,  smooth, and fruity with soft tannins,  and blackberry, black cherry, and vanilla flavors. Short finish.  Great price-performance, especially for P.S.! – 86pts

Recommendation: I enjoyed this wine, particularly as a value play!  It’s fruit forward, but not jammy, and an easy drinker.  And at 12.5% alcohol, it’s lower than most Petite Sirah you’ll come across.  If you’re a fan of Petite Sirah, (or for that matter Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah) and are looking for an everyday wine, give this one a try.  Media Sample

Here’s the wine geek stuff:

  • Appellation: California
  • Alcohol: 12.50%
  • TA: .62
  • Ph: 3.78
  • Winemaker: Bob Broman
  • Cases Produced: 3,416
  • Suggested Retail: $8.00
  • Release Date: Nov. 2011

What Are Your Five Favorite Styles of Wine?

While out to lunch, one of my co-workers asked me a question that caught me by surprise.  It was a simple question…”What are your 4 favorite wines? (I’m taking editorial license and expanding it to 5 for purposes of this post because…well it just feels right;-) As my mind started to race through the possibilities, I decided to clarify the question (and stall for a second or two).  I replied, “Do you mean by variety or style”?  He replied “Either”.  Next thing you know, like the kid Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” when asked by Santa what he wanted for Christmas, I blurted out my answer!

You’d think, being the wine drinking fool I am,  I’d have given this some thought prior to being asked the question, but I hadn’t.  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by my lack of decisiveness in this matter.  My response would be the same if you’d ask me for my 5 favorite ice creams, cheesecake, or dream cars.  It would likely depend on when you asked me and the answer would be subject to change…

When I got home, I asked my wife the same question.  Her answer, a bit to my surprise, was relatively swift and sure – Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah.

So what are my 5 favorite style/kinds of  wines? They are:

  1. Pinot Noir
  2. Rhone Blends
  3. Bordeaux Blends
  4. Sparkling Wines
  5. Rosé

Your turn!  What are your 5 favorite types, or styles of wine (and “No” you can’t respond with the name of an entire country;-)  Leave me a comment and let me know!

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!

Recap of 2011 Family Winemakers Tasting in San Franciso

Last week I attended, as a media guest, the Twenty-first Annual Family Winemakers of California (“FWC”) tasting held at Fort Mason. The event was held over two days, August 21st, and 22nd. Alas, duty (work) called on Monday, so I opted to attend Sunday only. This was a huge event, even bigger than Sonoma InThe City, which to date, had been the largest tasting I’ve attended. There were over 300 producers (probably about 1000 different wines would be my guess) from throughout California pouring at the event. On Sunday, the event was from 1:00-6:00p (trade/media from 1-3p, open to the public thereafter), so I needed a plan to maximize my time there. After considerable teeth gnashing, I decided to focus on red Rhône wines.

Red Rhône wines are primarily comprised of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (a.k.a. “GSM”) sometimes as a blend, sometimes on a stand-alone basis (for a PDF of red Rhônes click here). Red Rhônes are certainly on the rise in California, with Paso Robles leading the way. I once saw Rhônes described as the vinous equivalent of a “primal scream”. That’s what I love about them, along with their affinity for food.

I thought the event was very well organized, although there was a bit of a challenge with a long line, and a bit of chaos getting in when the doors opened at 1. The wineries were arranged alphabetically, which made it easy to find the wineries I was looking for. There was good news and bad news about the tools and resources provided by FWC. The good news is that the FWC had a helpful website that included a list of participating wineries, and a sortable Varietal map showing who was pouring what. There was also a very informative brochure with details about the participating wineries. The not so good news is that the Varietal map wasn’t as accurate as I hoped. As I worked my way through my red Rhone list, I discovered some wineries listed as pouring red Rhônes were in fact pouring either a Rosé made with red Rhône grapes, or red wine blend that may have included red Rhône varietals. Additionally, wineries pouring Petite Sirah were counted as red Rhônes, when technically Petite Sirah isn’t considered to be a Rhône varietal (at least not in France, though the California based Rhone Rangers list Petite Sirah as a red Rhone varietal) That didn’t create any heartburn for me because I enjoy Petite Sirah, and I consider them to be spiritually akin Rhône, if not genetically, or otherwise deemed to be Rhônes. In fact, for the first time, I came across a few “GSP” (Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah) blends which I found quite enjoyable! Purists…you have been forewarned ;-).

My tasting plan included 38 wineries listed as pouring red Rhônes, and 8 of the wineries were new to the event. After I tasted through the red Rhônes on my list, I had about 30 minutes of “Taster’s Choice” time, and arbitrarily selected a few more wineries for tasting. I tasted 70 wines from 40 wineries. My favorites (I scored 90 points, or higher) including my detailed tasting notes follow. Note: The price range represents the range for wines poured at FWC. Cs/Yr = Annual case production.


Carica was established in 2005 by Charlie Dollbaum. I’ve visited the winery, which is one of several wineries at Rockwall Wine Company, a couple of times. In particular, I remember enjoying their Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, and Temptation Rhone blend. 975 Cs/Yr. Range: $18-$36. Nice QPR on these!

  • 2008 Carica Petite Sirah Kick Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County – Dark fruit aromas with rich blackberry flavors. Good balance with supple tannins and medium long finish (90 pts.)

Core Wine Company

This was a new to me winery out of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County. I’ve been to a couple of different wine festivals in Santa Barbara the last few year, but don’t recall seeing them pouring. My loss…very nice wines! Founded in 2001. 4,000 Cs/Yr Range: $19-$61

  • 2007 Core Elevation Sensation Alta Mesa – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red fruit, bittersweet chocolate, and spice aromas with intense dark cherry, spice, vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. 62% Grenache, 38% Mourvedre (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Core Grenache Santa Barbara County – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Cherry, plum, and spice aromas which follow onto a round palate. Long finish. 85% Grenache; 15% Syrah (90 pts.)

Enkidu Wine

This was another new to me winery. This one is located in Sonoma, and was founded in 2004. 5,000 Cs/Yr. Range: $20-$45

  • 2008 Enkidu Humbaba – USA, California, North Coast
    Blackberry, dark cherry aromas, and palate. Well structured and intense with medium long finish. 63% Syrah; 25% Petite Syrah, and 12% equal part of Grenache, Mourvédre, Counoise, and Tannat from 4 vineyards in Sonoma (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Enkidu Syrah Odyssey – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Intriguing floral, dark fruit, and spice nose. On the palate moderately complex with dark red fruit, currant, spice flavors. Round with a medium finish. From cool climate vineyard in Santa Rosa. Unfiltered and unfined. (90 pts.)

Grey Stack Cellars

Santa Rosa based winery established in 2005. 2,000 Cs/Yr Range: $24-$45

Harrison Clarke Vineyard and Winery

This is one of the wineries I stumbled upon during my “Taster Choice” time. They had several Rhone blend, but didn’t turn on my search for red Rhone producers. The winery is in Solvang. They produce about 800 Cs/Yr. Range: $18-$52. I tried their flagship wine, but would also have liked to have tasted their Grenache, and Estate Syrah.


This is one of the wineries I didn’t get to at the last large tasting I attended, Sonoma In The City. Fortunately, my fellow wine blogger Richard Jennings didn’t. After I read his recap, this winery hit my radar. They produce very good wines. The winemaker is Michael Browne of Kosta Browne. They are located in Santa Rosa. Range: $32-$65

  • 2007 Jemrose Syrah Cardiac Hill Bennett Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Dark fruit, sweet wood, and smoky aromas. On the palate, dark fruit, vanilla flavors. Full bodied anad supple with a medium long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Dark red fruit, oak aromas with plum, dark red cherry, and cocoa flavors. Round and elegant with a medium long finish. (91 pts.)

Justin Vineyards and Winery

This is a winery I sought out during my “Taster’s Choice” time. The winery is located in Paso Robles. I didn’t get a chance to go the last time when I was in Paso, but I’d heard nothing but good things about Justin. The wine I tried was a Bordeaux blend, and it lived up to the hype. The next time I’m in Paso, Justin will be a “must” visit. Founded in 1981. 50,000 Cs/Yr Range: $15-$62

  • 2008 Justin Vineyard Isosceles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red fruit, oak, cassis aromas with ripe dark cherry and cassis palate. Well structured with a long finish. Bordeaux blend – 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot (91 pts.)

L’Aventure Winery

This is another wonderful Paso Robles producer. I had the pleasure of visiting last month. If you’re ever in Paso, this winery is a must. Founded in 1998. 6,500 Cs/Yr. Range: $50-85

  • 2009 L’Aventure Côte-à-Côte Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    GSM Blend. Dark red fruit, tea, hint of tobacco aromas. Vibrant dark red cherry, red currant, and vanilla flavors. Young, but smooth. Should just get better with time. Long finish.(92 pts.)

Orin Swift

I’m familiar with Orin Swift, having enjoyed their “Prisoner” Zinfandel blend a couple of years ago. They are a well known Napa based winery. Founded in 1998. 10,000 Cs/Yr Range: $25-$55

  • 2009 Orin Swift Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes D66 – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
    Dark red fruit, with subtle floral, and oak aromas. On the palate well structured with burst of ripe dark cherry, spice flavors. Medium bodied with a long finish. Inaugural release of new winery and vineyard in France. 80% Grenache, 12% Syrah, and 8% Carignan. Aged in 100% French oak, 25% new for 12 months. (91 pts.)

Robert Biale Vineyards

This is a winery that first came to my attention earlier this year, when I attended “Dark & Delicious”, the annual Petite Sirah (a.k.a. “Pet”, “PS”) put on by P.S. I Love You. I really like their Pets, and Zinfandels. They are definitely on the rise! 9,000 Cs/Yr Range: $40-$75

  • 2008 Robert Biale Basic Black North Coast – USA, California, North Coast
    Dark fruit, violet aromas with ripe blackberry, vanilla flavor. Fruit forward, nervy, and vibrant in the mouth. Medium long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Royal Punishers – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Blackberry floral aromas with ripe baked blackberry, vanilla and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. Young, but relatively supple. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Thomann Station – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Blackberry, dark red cherry, spice aromas with a blast of juicy blackberry, cherry, spice flavors on the palate. Well behaved tannins, and a long finish. (91 pts.)

Stage Left Cellars

Stage Left is an Oakland based “Urban winery”. They source fruit from throughout the state of California. I’ve been to their winery a few times, and am a fan. Founded in 2004. 1,200 Cs/Yr. Range: $22-$48

  • 2008 Stage Left Cellars The Globetrotter – USA, California
    Dark red fruit, dust, and spice aromas, with dark red cherry, black currant, and spice flavors with fine grained tannins, nervy acidity, and a medium long finish. 41% Syrah, 39% Grenache, 20% Mourvédre (90 pts.)

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Definitely one of the gems in Paso Robles! The winery is a partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas founder of Vineyard Brands. The wine I tasted is their flagship red Rhone blend. Their vine were imported from France. They make great Rhone blends. Founded 1989. 20,000 Cs/Yr. Range: $20-$55l

  • 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Intense dark red fruit, violet and spice aromas with intense dark red cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Balanced, and well structured with a medium long finish. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre, and Counoise (92 pts.)

Turley Wine Cellars

Another Paso based winery. They have a well-earned reputation for Zinfandel, and Pets so I was a bit surprised to see them pouring a Cinsault, which you don’t find a lot on a stand-alone basis. According to Richard Jennings it’s only distributed to restaurants. That’s a shame, because it was excellent!

  • 2010 Turley Cinsault El Porrón – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Earthy red fruit and spice aromas with vibrant red cherry, spice, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Dragon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Black raspberry, cherry aromas with juicy red cherry, red currant, flavors. Medium bodied, smooth with wonderful intensity and balance. Medium long finish. (90 pts.)

Earlier I mentioned trying several “GSP” wines. The couple I tried, and enjoyed were from Pierce Ranch (the best “value” producer I sampled), and Sycamore.

What I always enjoy about big tastings such as this, is finding exciting wines from producers I haven’t previously tasted. The “discoveries” for me at this tasting were Core, Enkidu, Jemrose, and Harrison Clarke. It was also good to check in on producers whose wines I’ve previously enjoyed as they continue their ascension. It was a great tasting, and next year I hope to attend both days!

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.