WINE by Wohlert: Petite Sirah

It’s like a TARDIS: bigger on the inside than on the outside

Todd Wohlert

One of the regular questions I receive is, “What is your favorite wine?” That is a tough question for me. I enjoy wine with my food, and I rarely eat the same food every day, so I rarely drink the same wine every day. I do have some favorite rare wines and, if I had deep pockets, I would drink those wines all the time, but alas not. I live a normal Midwestern life, so I drink on a normal Midwestern budget, and there are plenty of great wines that fall in to that budget. So let’s get to it!

A favorite that most people are unfamiliar with is Petite Sirah. It’s a small grape with huge flavor (hence TARDIS). This is generally a blending grape, but you can find it on its own. My first introduction to this grape was from Alan at JavaVino, one of the best cooks in La Crosse and someone who hates having attention drawn to him (which means I will probably get an angry text from him about this. Worth it). He suggested this wine with steaks on the grill, and the rest is history for me.

Petite Sirah produces dark, inky-colored wines with firm texture and mouthfeel. The bouquet can be minimal, sometimes with herbal and black pepper overtones, and it offers flavors of blue fruit, black fruit, plums, and especially blueberries. Compared to Syrah, Petite Sirah is noticeably more dark and purplish in color (almost inky) and typically rounder and fuller in the mouth, and it offers a brightness that Syrah lacks. Depending on the producer, this wine can be big and dense, requiring some decanting and/or aeration, or it can be lighter and a bit on the sugary side. There are not a lot of choices in the market, so you can tear through the available selections pretty quickly before you find a favorite.

Our featured wine this month is Plungerhead Petite Sirah. This is a new release for them, beyond their Cabernet Sauvignon and classic Zinfandel. Opaque in color, this Petite Sirah bursts with aromas of muddled blackberries, fresh caramel, and smoky oak. At second swirl, there is a distinct tobacco leaf aroma with other subtle notes of dried vanilla bean, brambly blueberries, and coriander seed, finishing with an earthy Lodi terroir stamp.

Flavors of intense blackberry, dried cherry, and wild strawberries glide across the palate. The finish lingers back toward the earthy nuances of forest floor with a hint of mocha. It’s a go-to wine for barbecue. Pair this Petite Sirah with anything off the grill, especially ribs or sausages, or try it with soy marinated portabella mushroom caps grilled and served on a potato roll. This is a great wine on its own, too. Something to warm you up after some winter activity. You can find Plungerhead Petite Sirah in local grocery stores.

Todd Wohlert  author

Todd Wohlert works for Purple Feet Wines, a member of the Winebow Group. He is the most requested wine advisor in the Seven Rivers Region, making weekly appearances and spreading the gospel of good wine. He is available for private events but does not do any of that Magic Mike stuff anymore.