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Fife Redhead Vineyard Petite Syrah 1999
A standout region for its decidedly Californian take on Burgundian varieties, The Russian River Valley is named for the eponymous river which flows through the region. While there are warm pockets of the AVA, it is mostly a cool-climate growing region thanks to breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign supreme in Russian River, with the best examples demonstrating a unique combination of richness and restraint. The cool weather makes Russian River an ideal AVA for sparkling wine production, utilizing the aforementioned varieties. Zinfandel also performs exceptionally well here. Within the Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. The former, further from the ocean, is relatively warm, with a focus on red and white Bordeaux varieties. The latter is the coolest, foggiest parcel of the Russian River Valley and is responsible for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
With its deep color, rich texture, firm tannin, and bold flavors, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The variety was originally known as Durif, but 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. It has been commonly utilized as a blending partner for softer Zinfandel and other varieties, but has also found success as a single varietal wine. It is most commonly grown in Lodi and the Central Valley, and to an extent in Sonoma and Napa counties.
In the Glass
Petite Sirah wines are typically deep, dark, rich, and inky, with concentrated flavors of blueberry, plum, backberry, black pepper, sweet baking spice, leather, and cigar box, and chewy, chocolatey tannins. Notes of vanilla and coconut can be found in examples with significant amounts of new oak.
Petite Sirah’s full body and bold fruit make it an ideal match for barbecue, especially brisket with a slightly sweet sauce, and other rich meat dishes. The variety’s heavy tannins call for fatty protein and strong flavors that won’t get drowned out by 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 characteristics despite being completely distinct varieties.