In Arlington Hts, IL during the mid-1980’s there was a wine store that sold only Petite Sirah from California. My wife and I were beginning our wine journey and willing to try most anything. We didn’t know much about the grape but happily tried the wines. They were always enjoyable and reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the store closed – it was a good idea – but well before its time. Yet the wines left an impression on me that I have not forgotten.
Isn’t Petite Sirah a kind of Syrah?
Petite Sirah and Syrah / Shiraz are different grapes but share some family ties. Originally named ‘Durif’ – Francoise Durif hybridized the grape as a cross between Peloursin and Syrah in the 1880’s. It was renamed Petite Sirah when imported into the USA a few years later.
The two grapes have been frequently confused… with some folks thinking that Petite Sirah is a ‘baby’ Syrah – it’s not. This varietal gets a bit shortchanged in the confusion. It’s often hard to find in your local liquor store. Many e-commerce wine sites misclassify the wine as Syrah / Shiraz. There is even an organization called “Petite Sirah – I love you” (www.psiloveyou.org) providing education and promotion for the grape to level the playing field.
Why you should try this grape!
It just tastes good, works well with most meats and spicy foods, ages and evolves for an incredibly long time, often 10-20 years. I like to think of it as Zinfandel with a PhD – big, bold yet very refined. The best part is that it’s hard to spend over $40 for a wonderful wine. There are always really great values in the $15-$25 range.
Many of the foodie websites offer fun pairings for Petite Sirah. Epicurious.com suggests a ‘Blue cheese crusted steak with red wine sauce.’ Bobby Flay from foodnetwork.com offers up a Smoked, Spice Rubbed, Texas-Style Brisket on Texas Toast. Huffington Post weighs in with Grilled Steak Tacos with Avocado Salsa. One of my favorites is this Chocolate Babka Recipe!
I am often predisposed to Petite Sirah where others might think Zinfandel. Think gourmet beef or lamb burgers, mesquite chicken, skirt steak and very soon – a Thanksgiving meal!
What to look for and where to find
It must be from California. You can find great choices from Napa & Sonoma through the Central Coast down to Santa Barbara. Try as many different types as you can. Drink a few now and put away some to see how they evolve over the next few years. If you happen to forget about one for 10 years, you may have a lovely surprise waiting for you.
Some of the wineries best known for their Petite Sirah include Parducci, Ridge, Michael David, Seghesio, J. Lohr and Girard. There are many more you can find including some selections at the Red wine gems under $35 pages.
The new ‘Petite Sirah Store’!
In deference to the Arlington Hts. Petite Sirah store that was 30 years before its time, there is now a Petite Sirah section on www.winebuyoftheday.com. You can buy the wines through links to our partners.
Enjoy the journey.
“It’s all about the wine experience” ™