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Girard Petite Sirah 2005
Today, Girard is experiencing a similar rebirth of sorts. Longtime California vintner Pat Roney purchased the winery shortly after the new millenium. Pat’s career in wine began as a sommelier at Chicago’s renowned Pump Room. Later he returned to his native California, where he ultimately became president of Chateau St. Jean, in Sonoma Valley.
At Girard, Pat continues a tradition of making Chardonnay and Cabernet-based wines. But he is also expanding Girard’s varietal focus to Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, grown on century-old vines that dot the Napa countryside. As it has been in the past, Girard’s goal is to highlight the flavors of Napa Valley and its rich, ripe grapes. A small portion of the winery’s portfolio also comes from grapes grown in Sonoma’s upscale Russian River Valley, where cool weather offers ideal conditions for Chardonnay.
With the right grapes from the right locations, Girard offers a lineup that features both power and finesse—key words in California wine.
With a distinctly Mediterranean climate featuring warm days and cool nights, the Lodi AVA in California’s Central Valley provides growers with ideal conditions for grape-growing. As most of the rain falls in winter months while vines are dormant, the risk of disease and pest problems is low and irrigation can make up for the dry conditions during harvest.
By a wide margin, Zinfandel is the most successful and widely planted variety in Lodi. Often made from old vines, these wines are robust and fleshy with ripe, plummy fruit and represent excellent value at the lower end of the price spectrum. Over 100 other varieties are grown here, ranging from the classic (Merlot, Chardonnay) to the obscure and experimental (Portugal’s Touriga Nacional, France's Picqpoul).
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.