Dark ruby, staining, with no edges. Tight and closed in, requiring gobs of air to blossom into a flowery nectar of dense fruit and base forest-floor nuances. Initial petrichor becomes round vegetal while mountain minerality gleams from all sides. Glowing readily of dark fruit and buttery pastry, everywhere are signs of uncomprimising structure and a balance of alcohol defying the apparent ripeness.
Long-time readers will see a Petite Sirah and wonder where I will go with it. One of my favorite varieties, and have watched it morph across several forms over the years. Two decades ago, it was de rigueur for PS to be tannin-wracked and un-opening, requiring a patient palette and many years to unfold into a remarkable drink. Think: Cornas. Lately, the trend has been to capatalize on the glowing fruit-FWD-ness of the grape, eschewing ridiculous tannic structure if favor of softer, rounder examples destined for early-drinking. It seems almost as current somm-belief is to pigeon-hole varietal-correctness towards something quite opposite of what I cut my teeth on–Dry Creek Valley’s and Contra Costa County’s–pitch-black and concentrated, muscle-bound with tannin and glowing acidity, quite un-welcoming to the casual consumer. This bottle brings me back to the early days.
In the mouth, teeth-staining raw brilliant fruit, encapsulated in dry, tongue-shredding structure. You have to wipe and cleanse your mouth to grasp the copious black cherry, raspberry and dark plum nuances. Thin across the middle, still with background Kool-Aid and unsweetened black tea swollen-creek, amber with detritus tannin and cool mountain run-off. Vegetal glimpses–both soft and swollen, green and firm–resound throughout, though blustery tobacco, wet leather, oak and the firm sweetness of ripe fruit triumph.
Quite possibly the most perfect example of what Petite Sirah can offer in the world.
2009 RETRO CELLARS Petite Sirah Howell Mountain Napa Valley 13.2