A Weekend Treat: Flying Horse Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2006

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IMG_4577I have one more post to go in the Southern Italy series, but I wanted to write up this little treat I have been sipping on for a few hours now. I feel compelled to do so because this is not only a great value wine, but it represents the difference between thought, care, and passion on one side, and mass market, simplification, and dumbing down on the other.

Petite Sirah is a tough grape to make really well. It’s hard to ripen at high altitudes, but it can get flabby and weak in endless heat. Add to that the tendency of producers these days to add a tremendous amount of oak treatment to their wines, ripen the grapes to obscene levels, and generally burn or manipulate all of the original and beautiful rustic character of Petite Sirah out of it, and you have a grape with great potential but little realization. This bottle of wine shows the possibilities of the variety in California. It could be the next zinfandel.

Petite Sirah, when done right, actually does not have high alcohol, massive fruit forwardness or even simple approachability. Rather, Petite Sirah is rustic just like, say, aglianico is rustic or tempranillo from warmer regions in Spain. Petite Sirah is a very small grape with a high skin to flesh ratio, and therefore a tremendous potential for tannin and extract. But it’s unique because all that great flavour and ageability comes, in California mind you, with the simple pleasure of a wine under 14% ABV. I can’t push this variety enough, as long as you taste the right example.

So, it seems that John Clerides over at Marquis has found THE textbook example of petite sirah. I say this as a PS lover who has had many many expressions of the grape when I lived down in California. The Flying Horse is special. With classic blackberry and plum on the nose, this is a classic kind of wine that doesn’t need manipulation. It is pure in itself. The palate brings tons of berry fruit flesh, and is really alive. You can taste the life in the wine. There is proper acidity here, along with a great mouthfeel. I think this also has a ton of structure that gives this wine the potential to age into something that would equal a $100 bottle of wine. It’s also great because it can clearly pair with food that is made in a more french style rather than the pure fat bbq stuff that most petite sirah needs. The restrained oak does not cover over a fundamental rusticity that keeps the wine real and true to the grape. This is getting more and more uncommon these days. Absolutely wicked. Textbook petite sirah.

NB: The last wine I wrote up this well sold out the day after my review, so please save some for me, I need more of this.

Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
$36 at Marquis


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