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Hendry Petit Verdot Block 15 2001
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production and tourism, the Napa Valley is the AVA that brought worldwide recognition to California winemaking. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two are St.-Helena and the valley's newest AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, and Mt. Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
A highly desirable blending grape originating from Bordeaux in the southwest of France, Petit Verdot adds bold color, lovely floral components and earthy tannins to its blends. While it is commonly added to other Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec in quantities typically less than 10% of the total, it can also produce phenomenal single-varietal wines in some subregions of Australia, Chile, Spain, California and Washington State.
In Bordeaux, it is showing a small revival given its resistance to rot, thick skins and capability of yielding a wine concentrated in color and tannin.
In the Glass
Petit Verdot makes an intriguing wine with aromas of black fruit such as blackberry, plum, blueberry or black cherry as well as violets and dried herbs. It can be deliciously rustic but is most often oak aged to soften its inherently bold tannins, a process that softens and gives welcomed hints of vanilla, coffee and hazelnut.
Roasted pork or grilled lamb kabobs, as well as barbeque and Mole dishes are wonderful. Hard and salty cheeses such as Pecorino, Manchego or aged cheddar can be fun to have alongside Petit Verdot.
When it ripens fully it is a valuable contribution of richness and spice to some of the best blends, but in a cool year it can add a distinctly raw, under-ripe note to any blend.