Viewing entries in
Petite Sirah


Girl Scout Cookies Pair Just Fine With Domestic Wine

Girl Scout Cookies are a distinctly, happy, American phenomenon - one of those great traditions from everyone's youth you get excited about all over again each year. If your community is predisposed to the door-to-door Saleschild, first you order them. Then you wait. Sometimes a couple of months as the orders get processed. Then, finally, said child returns bearing gifts at your door. This happened to us last week. And it was a wondrous moment!

But as it was late on a Friday afternoon, we thought why not enhance said tradition with something other than a glass of milk, that also further celebrates their All American-ness?

Today we offer findings from our taste-enhancing research, to further your own on-going enjoyment of this sacred tradition and this Classic line-up of Girl Scout Cookies. Cheers!

thin mints® |  Cabernet Sauvignon.  This grape is predisposed to notes of eucalyptus and mint, particularly when made in Lodi, California+ the dark chocolate on these cookies is ever-more Cab-loving!  (Of course an old vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah or Syrah won’t disappoint either.)

shortbreads|  Chardonnay.  This grape is a no-brainer for these buttery cookies! Try a classic California style like Chateau St. Jean, or experiment with some great Chards coming out of lesser-known states, like Ravines Wine Cellars (Finger Lakes, NY) or Westport Rivers Winery (Cape Cod, MA). Domestic sparklers made from the Chardonnay grape are also a great match! J Vineyards (California) or Gruet (New Mexico) have Brut (dry) selections that would be decadent with these cookies.

samoas|   Roussanne orViognier. These cookies have evolved since the '80s, now incorporating caramel and coconut, but we didn't hold it against the Girl Scouts of America; some change is good! Here try something a little bit more “exotic” like the Stolpman Family Roussanne or White Knight Viognier. Whoop!

peanut butter sandwiches|  dry Gewürztraminer or dry Riesling. In the right hands and even more so when vinified dry, these grapes are a terrific match for these delightfully cloying, lingering, slightly salty cookies. The wines will meet their match, delivering a touch of unctuousness met with a wonderful, mouthwatering pop of acidity to cut through the ‘fat’ of these cookies. Seek out memorable, dry Gewürztraminer from either Gundlach Bundschu  or Navarro Vineyards. Dry Riesling from Dr. Frank (New York) will do the trick, too.



wines for fall: the fiesty and fabulous!

Today the rain and leaves are swirling and the sun isn't due to show itself.  On burly fall days like these, there's nothing better than an awesome bottle of wine to hunker down with and lift your spirits! The last few weeks I've broken down the nerdier nuances of cool red varietals perfect for fall. While fabulous on their own, sometimes the best of the best are actually blends of a few - or several - different grapes. Given the circumstances outside my office window, it's only appropriate that we start exploring these finds with the 2005 SNAFU red blend.

SNAFU? Yep! That would be translated as Situation Normal All F***d Up. This wine is the brainchild of both Paul Moser (Winemaker) and the Local Wine Company, a group dedicated to bringing us some of the coolest blends from the Pacific Northwest and California. I get the sense that the Chicago-based wine geeks at LWC get an idea for a wine and then send their general, and no doubt entertaining, musings to one of the folks in their winemaking contingency....

I can't help but think for the 2005 SNAFU red wine the LWC Powers That Be gave Mr. Moser notes that said something like, "we want a wine with tremendous chutzpah that sources as many grapes from as many subregions in California as possible - and still maintains a sense of place.... You know, the wine you want to come home to at the end of a long day that reminds you of something familiar, but gives you a little something more, too."  Moser did their 'request' justice, though from the sounds of it, what's tucked inside that bottle wasn't necessarily what was originally planned; they did call it SNAFU, after all!

SNAFU is a blend of 42% Petite Sirah (the monster grape) & 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 8% Merlot and Syrah, 6% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Verdot (the late-bloomer on the playground this fall). What's noteworthy about this wine is how well each of the grapes in this blend harmonize. It's tremendous, in fact! It's greatest component, Petite Sirah, is cold soaked for four days and then pressed to concentrate the fruit. This technique offers the wine fabulous depth (that "oomph" and backbone we spoke about earlier), but manages how much tannin (dryness) remains in the final product. The Cabernet, also cold pressed, offers classic flavors of currant, black fruits, and spice. I argue the Merlot contributes a softer, more elegant edge, and brings home the (similar) fruit flavors you get from the Cab. The Syrah adds a touch of earthiness and herbaceousness; the Zin provides berry sweetness, and the Petit Verdot offers its color and floral aromatics.

I know I don't offer my own wine notes that often on this site, but I do have quite a bit of fun writing them for myself and my clients and their guests. Here's what I came up with the last time I gave this wine a whirl!

This wine's name says it all: Situation Normal... and it is wonderful as a result! This is a killer blend of Petite Sirah (42%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), and other red varietals sourced from various vineyards throughout California. SNAFU opens with all the panache you can imagine, fresh blueberry and raspberry fruits explode onto the stage. Then you taste its earthier side, as if it had to take a quick walk through a wet forest to collect itself before the curtain went up. And yet it all comes together easily, delivering a well-executed, perfectly delightful performance. Buy your tickets to this show early!

What red blends are you a fan of this fall season?



the masked monster grape, aka wines for fall: petite sirah

What better way to continue our discussion about wines perfect for fall than to start the month of October with some banter about a monster wine? Petite Sirah (note the "i" in Sirah) is also a stealthy little operator, or the masked creature standing on your front steps in just 30 days time. Boo-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! "What the heck is she getting at today," you ask with incredible anticipation and a smile dancing at the corners of your mouth?

Most people have never heard of this lesser known, somewhat cloak-and-dagger varietal. Petite Sirah is a test tube grape that actually got its start in the Rhone Valley of France. It is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin, and was originally named Durif, after it's human father. Dr. Durif developed the varietal in the 1800s to resist Powdery Mildew, to which Syrah is prone. Unfortunately being a tightly bunched varietal meant it wasn't equally resistant to gray rot. In the humid Southern Rhone this wasn't exactly a recipe for success.

Not to worry! California's drier climate provided just the breath of fresh air this varietal needed. Petite Sirah is a high-tannin, high-acid, darkly-purple grape varietal used to add structure (aka aging power), oomph (body) and/or color to other wines. So how/why the dramatic name change from Durif to Petite Sirah? It wasn't until the 1960s and 1970s that folks in California started to get particularly concerned with labeling wines per the varietals involved. And because the grape's characteristics so resembled those of Sirah, it was called Petite Syrah. (The longer story of it's confused genetic background and resolution by Dr. Meredith can be found here, via the notes of Dennis Fife of Fife Vineyards.)

So why is it so poorly known? For whatever reason - and I'm truly uncertain as to why - Petite Sirah is just not grown in major quantities. Something like 3200 acres of vines in California are considered Petite Sirah today. And so it is a cult wine. Many wine shops don't even carry it as a single varietal offering. And I don't think I've ever seen it as such on a restaurant wine list, either. But somewhere along the way I was introduced to this great monster of a wine. I enjoy it even more in the fall because it packs such a great punch - particularly when the grill is going (yea meat paired with highly structured, deeply flavored wines) and the night's are cooler (and a little something extra to warm you up never hurts)!

I'll spare you my own wine notes this post because I want you to really seek out one of these big, blackberry-fruited, peppery, single-varietal Petite Sirahs this fall. If your shop doesn't carry a single varietal offering, see if they can bring in Vinum Cellar's Pets Petite Sirah (~$12), the Peltier Station Petite Sirah (~$17) or the Mettler Petite Sirah (~$23). Once you taste these on their own you'll unmask this monster of a wine and better understand what this grape contributes when blended into wines like Trentadue's Old Patch Red or Owen Roe's Abbot's Table.

Do you enjoy this bold, inky, spicy red varietal? Which Petite Sirah is your fall pick?