Reviving a star
Why petit syrah is worth another look
By Tim Protzman†email@example.com
Ever think about someone and 10 minutes later they call?
Or out of the blue you think about a celebrity and the next time you turn on the TV, there they are? That happens to me quite often. This weekend I told one of the wine rookies Iíd find money and six hours later there was a $10 bill in the grocery store parking lot. I know, I know I should have turned it in, but whoever dropped it probably didnít even know it was missing. My son once found an envelope with several hundred dollars in it. The little good citizen turned it in. Then 60 days later the police called and said he could have it. No one had claimed it.
Lately Iíve been thinking about Michael Keaton. Remember him? He was Batman. And a new Batman is coming out. Could that be causing his energy in our collective consciousness to vibrate at a higher frequency? Or is it that the Abu Dhabi Fund just bought the Chrysler Building like his 1986 film Gung Ho where a Japanese carmaker buys an American car plant with hilariously predictable results? Anyway, I wasnít afraid of the Japanese buying car plants and Rockefeller Center back then, and Iím not afraid of Abu Dhabi buying the Chrysler Building. Foreign investment is good. And in a few years theyíll be looking to unload it. Iím not even nervous about InBev buying Anheuser-Busch. They make Stella Artois, Becks, Hoegaarden, Leffe and 72 other brands. Beer is what they do and they do it well. Michael Keaton was a good actor but then he kind of disappeared from the famoscope. He had such promise. Just like Petit Syrah.
When I first tasted Stagís Leap Petit Syrah I was very impressed. Its richness and fruit were so warm and spicy. It was an obscure grape, and like most I made the mistake of thinking it was syrah. Not a big mistake because Syrah and Petit Syrah are very closely related. The grape is actually the Durif, a mildew-resistant hybrid that might be part Peloursin and part syrah. It was developed because it was more resistant to powdery mildew, which covers the grapes in a slate-colored fuzz that inhibits ripening. But donít get too hung up on the pedigree. The ampelographers (from ďampelography,Ē the study and classification of grape vines) at University of California at Davis have found that most Petit Syrah vineyards have some Carignan, zinfandel, Peloursin, Mourvedre and Grenache mixed in because itís so hard to distinguish them and many of the vines are so old. Letís just say that Petit Syrah is delicious, and it tastes like syrah with a little Grenache, which makes it Rhone-like, but there arenít many syrah-Grenache combos from France. The Spanish come a little closer to the mark in blending the two into something that tastes like Petit Syrah, with their Los Dos produced in Campo de Borja by Almira, but in Provence they do make a nice rosť with Grenache and syrah. Itís called Ninet de Pena 2003 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes Rosť ($8.99) and itís bracingly crisp.
Now petit syrah will never gain the cult status that pinot noir from Burgundy gets, but itís a great medium-weight summer wine that goes really well will barbecue sauce and grilled meat. Itís also fine with salmon, tuna and bluefish.
Here are some petit syrahs that should grace your summer picnic blankets:
ē Bogle ($12.99) Nice and genuine tasting.
ē David Bruce Central Coast Petit Syrah ($17.99) A little pricey for a wine thatís got love handles (flabby) but itís worth trying. Iíve bought this wine several times.
ē Delicato Clay Station Petit Syrah ($11.99) from Lodi in the Delta country. Tannic when young and mellowed and cinnamon-y when aged. Iíd drink this one just because itís from the Lodi AVA.
ē Frey Organic Petit Syrah ($14.99) from Mendocino County. Nice, but virtually indistinguishable in taste from the non-organic. Great price for a biodynamic product.
ē Seghesio Alexander Valley Petit Syrah ($32.99) Big, plummy and hints of grape jelly and blueberry.
ē Trentadue North Coast Petit Syrah ($17.99) Trentadue is a middle-aged vineyard that consistently produces an above-average wine. Not stellar, but above average.
ē Guenoc North Coast Petit Syrah ($13.99) One of my favorites. Guenoc is another winery that produces very good wine but, like Michael Keaton, stays out of the limelight. Who wants a Paris Hilton of Perez Hilton wine anyway?
These wines reflect the uniquely Californian style of the Petit Syrah grape (sometimes spelled Petit Sirah).
Here are some wines I tasted last week:
ē 2003 Marchese Chianti Classico ($32.55). Dry, but not tannic. This was the main attraction I had to this wine. Strawberry, licorice, plum and prune and a touch of vanilla spice.
ē 2006 Agiopiko ($15.99). This Grecian wine came in a Mateus-shaped flagon bottle. Very nice. Interesting. But the finish had that typically leaden flavor of a rosť.
ē 2006 Can Blau ($16.99). From Montsant, Spain. Deep and rich with a Californian taste that seemed puffed up. I loved it, but, like that blue juice you get in gallon plastic containers, it seemed otherworldly.
We drank a few blue cocktails this week. Itís called a Tidy Bowl:
1 oz Malibu rum
1 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
Shake. Pour over ice and garnish with orange slice or a little man in a boat. Other variations include using Ouzo instead of Malibu rum.