There is something inherently satisfying about Petite Sirah, the under appreciated red variety that is usually relegated to footnote status by California wineries, if they bother with it at all.
It’s a big wine grape that yields chewy dark fruit flavors and strong tannins, but it often comes into its own sooner than Cabernet Sauvignon — a great alternative to California’s leading red variety.
One winery that has made Petite Sirah the star of its lineup is Barra of Mendocino, which has been bottling it since the brand was launched in 1997. (The Barra family has been growing grapes in Mendocino, on California’s North Coast since purchasing 175 acres of vineyards in 1955; they have been certified organic for more than three decades.)
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The 2019 Petite Sirah, which includes 11 percent Zinfandel, will stand up to just about any meal, from chicken with a spicy ajika seasoning to grilled skirt steak to a hearty ratatouille. Roasted turkey, with its myriad accompaniments, also comes to mind as we look forward to Thanksgiving.
The $26 wine is dense and dark purple, with tastes of cassis, blackberry, and blueberry, a black olive note, and a hint of graphite. Although the alcohol is a relatively high 14.8 percent, lively acidity keeps the wine refreshing, and even more so with just a slight chill.
Petite Sirah, not to be confused with the much more widely planted Syrah, is also known as Durif after Dr. Francois Durif, who discovered it in France’s Rhône around 1880. It was found to be a cross between Syrah and the now almost extinct Peloursin grape. It found a foothold in California, where it thrives, producing wines that deserve more attention.
Barra’s 2019 Petite Sirah is an excellent place to start.