Friday, August 21, 2009

Brassfield Volcano Ridge High Valley Petite Sirah, 2005

When I was first getting interested in wine, I bought and drank a lot of Petite Sirah, mostly from Foppiano, Stags' Leap and Caymus. I was impressed by the inkish color and the extraction--qualities highly prized by many wine drinkers during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I soon lost interest in these wines because I could never find anything worth looking for underneath the huge tannic structure. I still have a few bottles of Caymus and Stags' Leap Petite Sirah from the mid-1970s that I open from time to time, and I have yet to find one that has gone over the hill, even though the range of flavors is still somewhat constrained by the limitations of Petite Sirah. This grape, incidentally, is known as Durif in France and is not related in any way to Syrah.

This Brassfield Petite Sirah was presented to me as an aperitif at a Taster's Guild dinner at Cosmo's Cucina in Kalamazoo. As to be expected, the color is deep and dark. Blueberry-tinged fruit flavors are much more apparent than in Petite Sirahs I remember from years ago, and aromas, more complex. The wine has benefited from a blend that includes 8% Zinfandel, 5% Syrah and 5% other (Carignane or Mourvedre?). It has spent 18 months in French, American and Hungarian oak, and, for my taste, this may have been a bit much for such tannic grapes. There is decent fruit concentration, but it's still too big and tannic to ring my bell--particularly as an aperitif to accompany brie cheese, fruit chutney and herb-roasted almonds. I would have preferred a Vouvray, Alsace Pinot Gris or a Barbera Piemonte.

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