Pipe and Pint Grape Notes – Vol.1/ Ch.2

2012 Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah Napa Valley

For our second review, I am following up on the theme of trying to find wines that bridge the gap between the new and old world. Petite Sirah in general and this staple wine from the Stags’ Leap Winery in particular does this very well. For those of you who are not too familiar with the grape variety, Petite Sirah is in fact not, as the name might suggest, a “smaller” version of Syrah. Mind you, there is nothing small about it whatsoever but I’ll get to that later. Petite Sirah is a distinct grape variety, also known as Durif. It is not entirely unrelated to Syrah however, being that it is a cross between that and Peloursin, a nearly extinct variety that can only be found in a few areas in the French Alps. And just like Syrah, Petite Sirah usually makes wines that are quite big and bold, yet doing so with a distinct sense of elegance. One of the best analogies I have ever read was comparing it to a guy who wears a tuxedo with cowboy boots.


Petite Sirah in Bloom

Despite having its origins in France, Petite Sirah is actually quite a rare variety and today is mostly grown in California (more than 90%). Some of the winemakers there have really embraced it though and as a result consistently make some tremendously good wines with it. Stags’ Leap Winery located in the Yountville, in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley is a great example of a producer that embraces Petite Sirah. Its top-of-the-line Ne Cede Malis Petite Sirah continues to gather amazing reviews from the critics but it also has the price tag to go along with those reviews. And that heritage also shows in the 2012 Napa Valley Petite Sirah, wine we are looking at today.

Stag's-Leap-2012-Petite-SyrahThose who have read my first review might remember that I very much enjoy powerful wines that also shows a certain level of finesse and elegance. Well, this falls right into that category. It’s a fabulous example of a Rhone-Style blend that offers so much of what I find appealing. I say Rhone-Style blend because despite being made up of mostly Petite Sirah, it actually includes small percentages of other grape varieties as well which only enhances its character. Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Viognier are all grape varieties that are commonly used in wines that originate from the Rhone region in France. So here we have a wine that is based on a grape variety which is predominantly grown in California yet produces a wine that closely resembles a distinct region in France. Do you see what I meant when I opened up by saying this wine continues our theme of bridging the gap between new and old world?

The 2012 Stags Leap Petite Sirah is a lovely wine which opens up with incredibly balanced aromas of blueberry and sugary, ripe plums. In fact there is almost a faint hint of a port-like character to the nose which is nicely rounded out by a touch of vanilla and pepper. Once you get past the fruit, there are also some leather and tobacco notes which complement the softer, sweeter aromas very well and give the wine its complexity and richness. It also drinks beautifully and the soft tannins give it structure, yet again in a well balanced and never overpowering kind of way. In fact the mouthfeel and texture of the wine support its flavor complexity and give it structure and backbone and also guarantee that you can put this wine into your cellar and even if you forget about it for a decade, you will be treated to a beautifully aged surprise with probably even more complexity in 2026. That’s not to say though that this wine can’t be enjoyed now. I for one enjoyed it tremendously despite its relatively young age and I am pretty certain you’d agree if you pick up and open a bottle of it right now.




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