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New reviews, mainly Petite Sirah

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The wine still comes in, not the tsunami like when I was working, but apparently, some people still value my reviews. Here are two new wines from Adler Fels that show this venerable winery still knows how to roll, at a fair price.

Adler Fels 2015 “The Eagle Rock” Chardonnay (Russian River Valley-Monterey County); $20. A union of two appellations 200 miles apart, but both cool climate. The wine is made in the popular style, with its array of ripe, forward mango, pear, peach, vanilla and honeysuckle flavors. The texture is creamy, the acidity vibrant. Easy to drink. Score: 88 points.

Adler Fels 2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills-Russian River Valley); $28. Another union of far-flung AVAs, but why not? The results speak for themselves. The wine is precocious at first. “Rude” is the first word that popped into my head. It will be better by, say, 2018, when the parts begin to meld. Raspberries, cola, red currants, licorice, spices and smoke are the flavors. The mouthfeel is delicate. Score: 89 points.


PS I Love You, the trade and marketing group, has sent me a bunch of Petite Sirahs for review, so here goes. But first, what do I look for in a proper “Pet”? Petite Sirah must be exuberant and robust. No wimpiness allowed! Among the fullest-bodied of red wines, it wants to feel Rubensesque in the mouth: voluptuous, big-boned, and curvy. At the same time, it wants to be red-carpet elegant. No mean feat! The wine is always going to be somewhat rustic, a word too often misunderstood to mean “cheap,” that derives simply from the Latin word for “agriculture,” and refers to the honorable ancient tradition of providing quality provisions from the earth. Columella, whose first-century book, “De Re Rustica”, gives us an accounting of Roman life, actually includes the first recorded recipe for olive tapenade, a dish with which a good Petite Sirah would be happy to conjoin. Petite Sirah used to be impossibly tannic; modern growing and production techniques have tamed it, but tannins—as well as dark color—remain mainstays of its personality. And it will always be heady. I am suspicious of Pets with alcohols below 14.5 as they may have been manipulated. Where does the variety grow best? Warm climates! If it’s not entirely ripe, it will reek of the veggies.

Stanton 2014 Petite Sirah (St. Helena); $45. Alcohol 15.3%, 300 cases produced. They grow really good Petite Sirah in St. Helena, where the grapes get ripe and the growers can afford the best viticultural practices. This is a remarkable wine, but be forewarned, it’s almost as heady as Port, although it’s entirely dry. Pitch-black in color, with a muted aroma, it wants a little time in the bottle, or in the decanter. The blackberry jam, cassis, chocolate and vanilla shavings, beef teriyaki, graphite and pepper flavors are deep, intense and long-lasting. In a word, delicious. Score: 93 points.

Kokomo 2013 Petite Sirah (Dry Creek Valley); $32, alcohol 14.5%. Inky-black. There’s quite a bit of new French oak here (30%), but the wine is so voluminous, it easily handles it. It’s big, jammy, thick in glycerine, and the winery has done the consumer a service by holding it back this long from general release so that it’s juuuuust beginning to soften. Tiers of blackberry jam, cocoa dust and crushed white pepper, with meaty, salty notes: beef jerky. As huge as the fruit is, the finish is entirely dry. These sorts of wines will age forever, but there’s no point in hanging onto it when you can drink it now with barbecue. Score: 92 points.

Page Mill 2014 Estate Vineyard Petite Sirah (Livermore Valley); $??. Another dark, thick, tannic Petite Sirah, flooded with blackberry jam, cassis, toast, beef jerky, cocoa dust and crushed white pepper flavors. There’s also quite a tang of acidity. The wine is a little clumsy now. Try stashing it for three or four years, then drinking it with barbecue. Score: 87 points.

Barra of Mendocino 2014 Petite Sirah (Mendocino); $22. Alcohol 14.5%. Inky black: check. Full-bodied: check (you can tell from the glycerine stains). Blackberry jam and chocolate shavings: check. Big tannins: check. Dry finish: check. This wine offers classic Petite Sirah personality, but it does turn a little overripe and raisiny in the finish, which is a problem. The wine is from inland Mendocino, in the Ukiah hills. Score: 84 points.

Bogle 2014 Petite Sirah (California): $11. Alcohol 13.5%. This wine isn’t very good, but it’s drinkable, and the price is everyday. The problem is ripeness and concentration. Both are compromised, so the blackberry flavors have a raw, veggie note of asparagus. Score: 82 points.

More reviews in coming days.

  1. Thanks for the update, Steve. The Adler Fels 2015 sounds like something I’ll probably have to pick up.

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