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Chiarello Family Vineyards Roux Old Vine Petite Sirah 1999
Chiarello is a passionate advocate for great wines surrounding a great meal and he has always sought perfect wines to complement his own culinary style. Little did he suspect that he'd find a gem of a vineyard in his own backyard. As he tended his property, he found long neglected 94-year old vines, waiting to once again produce great wines.
To create these wines, Chiarello enlisted one of the top "old vine" winemakers in Napa Valley, a master at creating rich, dynamic wines from the ultra-ripe fruit of older vines. The 94-year-old Petite Sirah and Zinfandel vines were revived by Michael and Thomas Brown ("2010 Winemaker of the Year," Food & Wine Magazine) using head pruning and dry farming. These two time-honored methods historically used for both Zin and Petite Sirah in California allow the vines to ripen grapes evenly and flourish in the absence of water.
In its first several years, Chiarello Family Vineyards was named Editors Pick, Top Scoring California Sirah (Wine Spectator) with a 92 Rating; Editors Pick, Top Scoring California Zinfandel (Wine Spectator) with a 90 Rating; Top Ten Bottle From Napa (Food & Wine Magazine) and In Napa, Zinfandels Show Off Their Grace, (New York Times, Frank Prial, 11/13/02). It has continued the high scoring tradition, as 10 years later Chiarello Vineyards receives consistent ratings of 90+ scores.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
With its deep color, rich texture, firm tannins and bold flavors, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The variety, originally known as Durif in the Rhône, took on its more popular moniker when it was imported to California from France in 1884. Despite its origins, it has since become known as a quintessentially Californian grape, commonly utilized as a blending partner for softer Zinfandel and other varieties, but also finds success as a single varietal wine. It thrives in warmer spots, such as Lodi, Sonoma and Napa counties.
In the Glass
Petite Sirah wines are typically deep, dark, rich and inky with concentrated flavors of blueberry, plum, blackberry, black pepper, sweet baking spice, leather, cigar box and chewy, chocolaty tannins.
Petite Sirah’s full body and bold fruit make it an ideal match for barbecue, especially brisket with a slightly sweet sauce or other rich meat dishes. The variety’s heavy tannins call for protein-rich and strong flavors that can stand up to the wine.
Don’t get Petite Sirah confused with Syrah—it is not, as the name might seem to imply, a smaller version of Syrah. It is, however, the offspring of Syrah (crossed with an obscure French variety called Peloursin), so the two grapes do share some genetic characteristics despite being completely distinct.