Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wine tasting : Shiraz and Petite Syrah

Friday night, DH and I went to a wine-tasting at Christopher’s Wine and Cheese – I won two tickets in a drawing from their Facebook fans. Christopher’s does tastings every Friday and while we’ve done some tastings at a couple of places around town, we had never been there. This tasting was of Shiraz and Petite Syrah. The short version is that we had a great time, tasted some promising wines, and will definitely go back. Christopher and his partner Scott were entertaining and unpretentious. Unlike many of the tastings I’ve attended, I found a couple of bottles that I will definitely buy and learned something about pairing Shiraz and food that I know I will use.

We started not with a Shiraz or Petite Sirah, but with a Spanish white that is being discontinued by the distributor so the remaining bottles are being sold for $4 each. DH and I are not big white wine drinkers – if we open a bottle for cooking, we drink the rest of it – but at $4 a bottle, we'll buy a half-case to have on hand.

We drink a lot of red wine, tending toward Zins and Cabs if we are spending much money. Lately, our favorite budget wines have been Malbecs. For whatever reason (ignorance?), we’ve never much been into Shiraz or Petite Syrah. So this is the first thing I learned: a shiraz and a syrah are the same grape, but a petite sirah is a completely different grape.

We tasted three different bottles of Shiraz. Unfortunately, I left my notes at the tasting so I don’t have all the details I would like. One was from a French vineyard, Tortoise Creek (not sure about the vintage). This was the first red we tasted, and the last I tasted. Because we are accustomed to drinking big America wines, I often find it hard to appreciate the more subtle French wines. I liked the Tortoise Creek much better the second time around – either because it had more time to breathe or I was more tuned into its qualities having tasted a number of other wines. My favorite of the three hands-down a Chilean 2006 Echeverria Reserva Syrah. Since I am really lousy at describing wine, I cribbed someone else’s description that sums of what I think: “… highly aromatic with berry fruit combining with chocolate, tobacco and peppery spice. The complex flavours carry through to the palate, which is rounded and juicy, with a long, well-balanced finish.”

Of the two bottles of Petite Syrah we tasted, I loved the Cedarville Vineyards 2007 Sierra Foothills El Dorado Petite Sirah. Once again, I have cribbed someone else’s description with which I agree: “…filled with aromas and flavors of freshly cracked black pepper, dark cherry and minerals, along with hints of cedar and cocoa. Juicy acidity and refined tannins complete a concentrated and textured wine…”

The Cedarville is a bit pricy at around $30 a bottle, but I would buy it in a nice restaurant for $60, if that makes any sense. The Echeverria is around $15 a bottle – what DH and I call a step-up bottle and definitely doable. Interestingly, I was in a Fresh Market yesterday – on the coffee aisle – and came upon a display of Echeverria wines. I bought a Cab (around $15) and a Carmenere (around $9). We drank the Carmenere last night and were not impressed. I am looking forward to trying the Cab.

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