July 24, 2008

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Reviving a star
Why petit syrah is worth another look
By Tim Protzman†letters@hippopress.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.


7/17/2008 Champagne staycation

7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage
6/26/2008 Leftover wine
6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One
6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world
5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures
4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesnít sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Gin
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
Mondovino
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olť! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends ó really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
Whiteís OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wineíll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce