Bending Branch Winery, 2012 Reserve Petite Sirah, Shell Creek Vineyard, 14.8% Alcohol
Petite Sirah loves warmth. Its New World examples (California, Argentina, the subtropical regions of Brazil and Mexico, as well as some examples I’ve tasted in Texas) are giving the grape a fashionable image, changing the secondary status it has long held as a blending grape of importance in France. Read what is happening.
A stunning New World example
Bending Branch’s 2012 Reserve Petite Sirah is among the best I have tasted — balanced and polished, bursting with juicy flavors, and worthy of an honorable place in your wine cellar. Dark and opaque (as Petite Sirah must be) and with reasonably strong tannins, it is a palate experience you simply must have if you are a fan of big and bold. As a serious sipping wine or in the company of a bold and rich, flavorful steak or full-flavored barbecue, it will excel. Try this: a fatty cheese brings out the feminine side of this masculine wine. Surprised? Who said elegance can’t be found with strength?
Dark and tannic, but still supple and plush
On the nose, the palate, and with an excellent follow through, you wil find ripe blackberry, the full range of black currant flavors, dark chocolate, black Assam tea and hints of black pepper, almond and toast. All marry well in this fully extracted wine with distant reminders of its more rustic and earthy beginnings. When vinified in this manner, it can take its solo place among the truly noble varieties. While Bending Branch has taken it to its dark and tannic limits, it remains supple and plush.
A wine that declares itself with its character
Although six years old, it still possesses bold tannins and has many years to go. It is loaded with character. Such character is often missing in the wines that seek soft and smooth as their ultimate expression. Character is the individuality of the wine. And character does not bow to balance as the only goal. If it did, all wines would (as some winemakers produce) offer the same style and the same experience. But what we want is for a wine to declare itself and win our applause. What we find in this wine is a taste experience that pushes the wine all the way to its possibilities. By contrast, in Old World grapes assigned to blending purposes, they were presented as support elements to the major ingredient and were not explored for what they could offer on their own.
Art in winemaking: balanced, but with character through individuality
Thanks to this winery’s approach, you can experience what Petite Sirah can be and is: namely, strong in flavor, deep and dark with rich ripe fruit; complex, while still preserving rather than losing the flavor elements. Its character is in full flower. Marriage of flavors in wine should still honor individuality (just like marriage in human relationships should) and when artfully expressed, its multiple personalities become an intriguing unity. Balance must be a goal and have its place. But when overdone, the wine can lose what it is. This wine does not. As you drink this wine, think through how some wines want to make all elements equal, allowing no element to express itself.
Thanks for a wine whose acids, flavors, fruit, sweetness, alcohol, and tannins meet without canceling out each others’ character in the name of balance. This is art in winemaking — either deliberately sought or happily found. Although well-balanced, the magic of yet more marrying and honoring of its flavors promises great times now and in its future for us, the consumers. Why not follow it year-to-year and you will see why Petite Sirah (this one in particular) has climbed to the level of noble grapes. Its high level of antioxidants, when fully extracted, can’t do anyone harm, either.
This wine was tasted in February of 2019 at 59℉ and again over three subsequent days of extensive evaluations.
Rating a solid 92
C.S. Vin 2-18-19
(Check out the author’s course for wine evaluation, Experiencing Wine’s Wonders, at experiencingwine.com and make you own evaluation)