On Not-So Petite

Petite sirah is a wine. Although some may spell it as petite syrah, it is not syrah. Nor is it the reference when Doris Day sings Queue sera sera.

Petite sirah is the wine for the people loving a big wine – one delivering a full flavor – one capable of handling a sturdy set of characteristics as big, bold, tannin, and earth within its dark color.

The only thing petite about petite sirah wines is the size of the individual grapes. Compared to other varietals, it is smaller, yet it is this high skin to juice ratio that delivers the big taste that some wine lovers desire. Although petite sirah as not the same as its namesake, syrah is one of the parents that growers crossed to develop this varietal.

Although it is found in other regions across the globe, petite sirah is more commonly grown in the US, France, and Australia. The grape, actually called durif, allows winemakers to transform this grape into a dark, firm wine delivering big flavors of black fruits, black pepper, and tannin with a tendency toward earth and game.

Its California roots date back to the late 1800s and a history centered on making bulk wines. In the United States, petite sirah is most commonly found in California, primarily Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Monterrey wine regions. Keep in mind that in terms of acreage, petite sirah occupies only 1.6% of California vineyards, thus a reason why one may not notice many bottles on the store shelves.

On the other hand, winemakers have successfully blended petite sirah with other grapes to add color, zest, and complexity. Ridge winery creates glee across my palate with the addition of petite sirah to some of their zinfandel-based blends.

I appreciate petite sirah, but I have to know my audience before offering them a glass. A good friend of mine loves big wines and feels that winemakers have transformed too many red wines into juicy, fresh fruit flavors. Needless to say, he loves petite sirah.

Here are some of my petite sirah recommendations.
Starters ($9-12): Foppiano, Bogle, Castle Rock, Concannon, Lot 205

A Step Up ($16-20): Foppiano, Lava Cap, Marietta, David Bruce, McNab Ridge

If you are ever in Paso Robles, CA and wanting to taste version with more fruit, less tannin, yet keeping the distinct petite sirah flavor, stop by the Pianetta tasting room and tell Caitlin that Frank from Cincinnati sent you to try the petite sirah. (She may remember us) Then ask to sample Tuscan Nights. Yum! Did you get that Debra?

A short overview about petite sirah by a winemaker

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69 thoughts on “On Not-So Petite

    • Guapo,
      Yep … it’s been awhile … so the timing is good. Too bad I don’t know enough about beer to write about it … but I do know that the variations are every bit as wide-ranging as wine. Thanks for commenting.

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  1. Frank, I love a petite sirah. I like the fruity/peppery flavors. I never knew it was considered to be a “big wine.” I’ve been to the Lava Cap winery. It’s not too far from my house. I love their wine.

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    • Bumble,
      Cheers to you for being another petite sirah lover and I assume other wines. I always wondered what part of the state you are located. We haven’t been to that wine region, but it’s on my visit! … especially because I like the zins from there. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. You should do wine lessons, Frank–you’d be great at it! I’d sign up for your classes in a heartbeat. I remember when I learned that petite sirah was in no way related to the syrah (which is related to the shiraz), it confused me for a long time. Still, it’s a very nice wine and I will look out for your recommendations!

    Like

    • Weebs,
      You’re too kind. Interestingly, for our church wine tasting group, I’m the one who provides a program each time we meet. Which reminds me, we have one coming up. Because I know you like zins, I love the ones where some petite sirah is added … just enough to come through … awesome! Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. It sounds wonderful. My sister has an excellent vineyard and winery in southern Australia where they make very good Pinot noir and chardonnay, which sells in all the top restaurants in Australia. My son is currently working at a vineyard on Long Island.

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  4. Like you, I’m also a Petite Sirah fan, Frank. I’ve had the Lot 205 with my bud, Martini Max. It paired very nicely with the steaks he grilled. I’ve also had the Castle Rock with a Special Friend, who liked that wine very much. That evening was a complete success.

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  5. Frank what a wonderful post about a very powerful wine – and my favorite. A wine I today chose when every I want red wine. Thanks for spreading the word about this wonderful wine.
    Big-BIG fan of Shirah wines …. the first one I ever had came from Israel and the best I had so far – must be about 20 years ago. Doesn’t matter where the Shirah is made .. is a great choice. In France it lives goes under the name -durif after the man that created the petite shirah – through mixing the shirah grape with a grape by name peloursin.

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    • Viveka,
      I surprised to see how many people here enjoy petite sirah. A few years ago I attended a wine tasting that focused on this wine from different regions, including France as not many of them make it to the US. Very interesting evening. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  6. Hi,
    A great post, and very good research. This wine does have a long history, and it’s great that it has been passed down in the family. As you know I don’t drink wine, but I still found the post very interesting, and the video as well.

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  7. I feel inspired to seek out a bottle and sample for myself. I never used to like wine until we started visiting vineyards for tours and tasting. Then I started to appreciate it. If you ever go to South Africa, you must visit the vineyards outside of Cape Town.

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  8. I reserve my right to sip, now and then though I must limit myself to special occasions. I love Petite Sirah’s, also love Old Vine Zins, when we were out in California for my youngest’s wedding we stopped into the Paradise Ridge Winery, small and wonderful. It is here where I tasted what remains one of my favorites of both. Though often difficult to lay hands on, when I do I always buy a bottle or two of each:

    Both the Petite Sirah and the Zin are from their ‘Rockpile’ slopes. Unique I know. But wonderful back story.

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    • Val,
      Wow … this post is the gathering place for petite sirah followers … and to think I didn’t think many would know about this one!

      Thanks for the Paradise Ridge tip. I see it is in Sonoma, a place I adore … so hopefully I will get there on my next trip. Cheers to combining zin and petite sirah. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  9. Thanks for taking me to the Petite Sirah wine tasting a couple years ago. It sure awakened me to the incredible subtleties of that grape. It’s also a favorite of my relatives who lived in France for many years and prefer the taste of French wines.

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  10. Great post, Frank. Petite Sirah is one of my favorite wines. I also love Zins. And I think one of the benefits of drinking big wines like Zins and Petite Sirahs is they’re not as popular and therefore not as expensive as Pinot Noirs or Cabs. One can get a great Petite Sirah in the $10-$15 range. Thanks for the great overview, Frank.

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  11. I got it, Frank! 🙂 And I’m excited! I’m sure we’ll be up that way sometime this year. In fact, my son is considering a destination wedding for the family…he and his fiancee enjoy the ambiance of the beautiful Central Coast wineries. I really enjoyed this post and learned a lot. I must admit that I overlook the Petite Sirahs. I will remedy that directly!

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    • Debra,
      I’m so glad you caught my note! I recall you mentioning your trips to the Paso area, so I couldn’t resist. And yes – a wedding around wine in that area (or north of Santa Barbara) would be great. BTW – I love the setting at Fess Parker. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  12. Your latest wine article on Petite Sirah caused me to browse through your earlier wine posts and you definitely got my attention. There are so many fine wines these days that I applaud your effort to get wine drinkers to look beyond the usual top five assortment of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Salud!

    Like

    • Mudge,
      Good point about most people sticking with the known. I’m in the minority when it comes to buying wine because I like to try wines that I haven’t had before … just love to discover. Thanks for checking out the other posts!

      Like

  13. I should have picked you for a Petite Sirah man. It’s also one of our favorites (WW is the vintner for our family and several of the bottles you named are in our mini-wine cellar). I’m the griller in the family and I grill a “mean” steak. The Petite Sirahs we drink marry nicely (thus the reason I will always remain slightly chunky).

    But my favorite take-away from your post is that your church has a wine tasting club–now that is my kind of church! Why haven’t I ever run into a church like that? WW and I usually have to hide the fact that we imbibe which is one of the many reasons we no longer attend a church in this area. I’ll look for the other wines on your list that weren’t familiar. Cheers!

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    • E-Tom,
      I’m amazed with how many comments I’ve seen today from others who enjoy petite sirah. This actually surprises me!! Meanwhile, tell WW that I’m impressed … just not surprised! 😉

      Regarding our church wine group. Good news …. I’m being posting about it soon … possible next week! What the heck – gotta promote the success with hopes that others will follow the lead! Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

    • Sunshine,
      Thanks for returning 🙂 … Cheers to a fellow red-wine lover! BTW – see the sidebar for other wine topics as you may find something in there of interest. If you find a petite sirah you enjoy, let me know. Thanks for visiting.

      Like

  14. I agree with your statement that vintners try to produce fruit-forward wine. That’s because in my opinion they are much more appealing to the masses and therefore sell better.
    Personally I enjoy full-bodied wines. Vino Nobile di Montepucliano (Tuscany), Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) and Barolo (Piedmont) come immediately to my mind.

    Concerning your wine-tasting, I think could be risky to sample a Petite Sirah. But if the group of people that you will try the wine with are familiar with big body wines then they might enjoy it. Chances are that a “light” wine with more fruit will be appreciated by more people.

    Hope I could help you!

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  15. is this what is sometimes spelled “shiraz”? i wish i had the taste ability to detect these differences. i am taking a wine paring class next month, 4 hours long, and looking forward to it. the reason i can’t really taste the subtle differences is because, as a semi-tough italian, i had too much oven-hot pizza growing up and i believe it has seared my taste buds. when i order a slice a pizza, and they sling it at me from the oven, i am unable to hold back and wait for it to cool off. i know i’m going to get those blisters in my mouth, but i can’t help it. i sometimes remember to tell the pizza guy to take it out early, but when i don’t, i just can’t hold back.

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    • Rich,
      Now following me on this one … Syrah is not (petite) sirah …. shiraz is not sirah either … but syrah is shiraz … actually shiraz is the Aussie was of spelling & saying syrah … but not sirah.

      Ouch on that pizza …. limited taste buds would limit distinguishing flavors … then again, tasting has a technique … so I wonder if an improved tasting technique would help. Oh well … just a thought … and the class sounds interesting and fun! Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  16. Great post, Frank! I love Castle Rock wines; buy them for my guests. I, unfortunately, have developed an allergy to sulfites in wine, so my choices are limited these days. My all time favorite, when I can get it, is Our Daily Red, an organic varietal with no added sulfites. Here’s to a raised glass!

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    • Lynn,
      Bummer on the allergy development, but as we know, those things can develop at any time in life. BTW – my wife developed allergies to alcohol. Her ENT doc told her to try Zantec … which is actually an antacid … but somehow it works when she takes it 30-45 minutes ahead of drinking. It may be worth a try. Good look.

      Like

  17. oh my all these comments! Is it that your blog is popular these days or has the not so petite attracted everyone?
    I have severe food allergies and only recently was able to reintroduce small amounts of wine into my diet. Woohoo!
    While that hasn’t stopped Mr F from drinking wine – and red is his preferred variety – I don’t think he chooses Petite sirah. Well I don’t recognize the name. I’ll be sure to pass on this information to him.

    As for the central valley vineyards, sorry Frank when we went there last year we found it too full of people out to get drunk who were shouting and acting stupid.

    Like

    • Rosie,
      Being that I’ve seen many stats, I can’t believe the comments are due to be a popular blog on the block … but … the comments about petite sirah surprised me because I encounter so many who don’t know this wine. Bummer on you food allergies as that sure has to make life a tad uncomfortable. But I’m sure you’ve learned what is best for you to eat. A friend of mine is quite allergic too, and I’m amazed how active she is.

      You must have been to the Central Valley during a festival of sort … unfortunately, that behavior is not limited to the Central Coast … but when we were there, we were surprised on the low-key nature. Thanks for sharing so much!

      Like

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