Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tasting Notes: Syrah vs. Petite Sirah

I apologize to those who have obsessively been clicking "refresh" since Thursday evening in anticipation of my review.

Before I talk about the wines themselves, it's important to operationalize our terms, which is a fancy way of saying, let's figure out what these things really are.

Syrah: aka Shiraz, a red grape grown in France's Rhone region since Roman times and that made its way to Australia in the 1830's, where it was found that when you have kangaroos hopping through your vineyards, good things happen

Petite Syrah: possibly related to Syrah, or maybe another name for a grape called Durif; a slightly smaller grape,

Petite Sirah: some sources say this is a pure varietal and another name for Petite Syrah, others that it's a name for a collection of grapes that grow well with each other and are bottled together under one name

So now that that's all as clear as an unfiltered red, on to the tasting! This one was billed as "Syrah vs. Petite Sirah," so being the geek that I am, I kept score. I enlisted the help of Hubby and tried to recruit my friend The Editor, but poor Ed had a cold and felt that his nose and palate were compromised. As always, others' experiences likely varied from mine.

Points were awarded based on nose and taste and were on a scale of 0 (blech!) to 10 (ooooh!). I was keeping score for color, too, but they were all pretty, and although color enhances the wine experience, it's not really something that most people would buy for. I also paid attention to when teeth turned purple, which finally happened after #5.

Syrahs (numbers indicate tasting position):

1. Abundance Syrah, '05, Lodi, California:
This one looked like a Pinot Noir with a slight orange hint to its reddish-purple. It was a really strong start to the tasting and might have scored higher if it hadn't been first.
Nose: 8, fruity as one would expect from a Lodi wine
Taste: 9, fruity, but not too heavy, and with a smooth, clean finish
Total: 17

2. Castle Rock Sonoma County Syrah, '05, Sonoma, California:
Nose: 3, kind of rough
Taste: 5, would have probably gone better with food, would drink if someone poured it for me
Total: 8

5. C.G. di Arie Syrah, '05, Amador County, California:
Nose: 9, inky black fruit
Taste: 4, very tannic and acidic, would have also gone better with food beyond tasting munchies
Total: 13

Varietal Total Syrah: 38

Petite Sirahs:

3. Castle Rock Russian River Valley Petite Sirah, 2005, Russian River Valley, California:
This one admitted to being a blend of 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Barbera, aged 12 months in French Oak.
Nose: 7, a slight hint of caramel
Taste: 7, tannins and fruit with an acidic finish
Total: 14

4. C.G. di Arie Syrah, '05, Amador County, California:
This one poured an inky dark purple, like liquid grape jam.
Nose: 9, all fruity, grape jam theme continues
Taste: 8, smooth and fruity, could masquerade as a light (not white) Zin
Total: 17

6. William Knuttel Petite Syrah, 2002, Dry Creek Valley, California:
I didn't write any comments for this one, just scores. It must've been pretty good, scoring strong in both categories.
Nose: 7
Taste: 7
Total: 14

"Varietal" total: 45

So it appears that the Petite Sirah won. My favorites tied with 17 points apiece, the 2005 Abundance Syrah from Lodi, and the 2004 C.G. di Arie Petite Sirah, also a Lodi. This observation drove me to my wine database, which, admittedly, has not been updated in a year, to see if the Lodi grapes have always scored strong with me. Of the 5 listed in there, 4 were Zins, and 3 had numerical scores, which means I really liked them. We'd tasted the 2004 Castle Rock Petite Sirah at a "Big Ass Reds" tasting and decided it wanted food, specifically steak, but was "better as it goes." We also tried the 2000 Abundance Syrah, which "wants food," so apparently that one is better in the 2005 vintage.

Hmmm, I should really update that database.


Anonymous said...

This was an interesting evening at JavaMonkey, over and above the S v. PS competition. The rain seemed to have driven off the cavalier, and the bar was packed with nothing but the hard-core regulars.

So conversation was in high-gear early...and it started, literature, wine (of course), and even one brief segment about the feasibility of Jess tap dancing on the bar.

What more can I add to such a scientific breakdown? Perhaps a couple of notes, at best...

Abundance: a standard quaff, fruity, mid-body, with a quick finish.

Castle Rock Syrah: Starts our like a fruit bomb, with a little cocoa as it progresses. Tasted young, but drinkable.

CG di Arie Petite Sirah, '04: I had this one as smooth berries, with some spicey notes. I liked the finish as well, also smooth and long. The most balanced wine of the night, it was my fav.

I also remember enjoying the William Knuttel, but failed to take notes on it...the discussion at that point clearly distracted me - alas.

- Nick

Cecilia Dominic said...

What were we talking about while drinking #6? Was that when you and Ed. were discussing politics in the far East? Or was that the bar-wide conversation about music? Hubby didn't have any notes, either, so they were obviously distracted by something at that end of the bar, too. Perhaps Dan can enlighten us.