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Petite Sirah Stars at Symposium

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Posted: Monday, August 2, 2010 6:03 pm | Updated: 10:13 pm, Mon Aug 2, 2010.

When kid-less guys get together, the conversation can turn to Ferraris, Porsches and BMWs, or some other brand that brings on that unmistakably desire for possession.

For the past couple of decades, the U.S. wine industry has been building collective brands out of winegrape varieties. I bet you could rattle off a few favorites that would include a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Chardonnay - the most popular.

If you choose bottles by varietal then I'd like you to consider adding Petite Sirah to your repertoire, especially if you're a Lodi Zin fan. In fact, you're probably already drinking Lodi Petite in many of your Zins, since it is Petite that can beef up the body of a wine and turn it nearly black in color.

A big advantage of growing Petite in our warm Lodi climate is that it naturally ripens a bit later on the vine than other varieties, allowing it to retain the firm tannins that most Europe-favoring wine critics require for taking a wine seriously.

Our long Petite growing season also means that the finished wines will readily show some nice black cherry, Boysenberry or blueberry flavors that are challenging to fully express in cooler climates.

Hopeful to one day have even more success than Zin's cult following, some of the most respected names in the Petite world congregated together last week at the 8th Annual Petite Sirah Noble Symposium.

Lavishly hosted by Petite pioneers Jim and John Cancannon at their historic winery in Livermore, winery owners, winegrape growers and the press were treated to an elegant luncheon, tasting, and a series of presentations on how to make Petite into a star player.

Some highlights: widely-followed Dr. Vino (Tyler Colman) gave tips on using the Internet to make Petite as much of an overnight sensation as the Old Spice Guy. Writers Dan Berger and Clark Smith offered standards for getting us all on the same page in understanding what characteristics make for great Petites from each growing region, while Lodi's own Larry Mettler described how to grow the best grapes.

Larry's Mettler Family Vineyards, Maley Vineyards and Michael~David represented Lodi at the "Best of the Pets" tasting where at least 40 wineries poured one or more of their Petites. Looking over my notes on the 25 wines I sipped in an hour and a half, apart from our Lodi contingent, wineries that made particularly exciting Petites included Concannon, Quioxte, Miro Cellars, Robert Foley, Vino Robles, Heringer Estates and Mounts Family.

Off the top of my head, if you're looking for other classic Lodi Petites, try Borra, Jessie's Grove and Harney Lane. If you like your Lodi Petite to be huge with sweet fruit, try Macchia, Peltier Station, and Dancing Fox's 2006 Late Harvest "Fauns Folly" ($25, 375 mL), a "Port-style" wine which just won Best of Class in the Dessert Varietals, premium price category at the Orange County Fair.

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