Friday, February 22, 2013

PS I Love You Seventh Annual Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Event

Are you looking for a fun event with plenty of delicious food and interesting wine? We attended the PS I Love You Seventh Annual "Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah" wine and food event on February 22, 2013 in Alameda, California.  "PS I Love You" is the name of the organization that sponsored the event with  P.S. being the abbreviation for the wine varietal Petite Sirah. PS I Love You

PS I Love You was founded in 2002 by Christine Wells-Groff, Dan Berger and Jo Diaz while they were planning the First Annual Petite Sirah Symposium which was held at Foppiano Vineyards. Foppiano Vineyards bought the domain name and Rosenblum Cellars made initial payments to the Webmaster.

Geodesic dome with other tasting room on right

Thanks to  Jo Diaz for inviting us and providing VIP tickets as part of the media.  This allowed us to arrive an hour early for a tour of Rock Wall Winery next to where the event was being held.  The tour was conducted by Shauna Rosenblum the winemaker of Rockwall Wines.  Her family sold Rosenblum Cellars in 2008 and started Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. Shauna is listed in Women Winemakers of California. Shauna Rosenblum

Inside one of the Rock Wall tasting rooms

The tour was conducted with so much enthusiasm and passion that I kept wondering where Shauna got all of her energy.  Then I realized that she really loves being winemaker as much as she loves the winery. It was the first winery I ever visited that was in an airplane locker with an additional tasting "room" in a geodesic dome.  I can't even remember ever being in a certified authentic geodesic dome, although I did read much about them back in the 1960's when they were referred to as "Bucky Domes", because they were designed by Buckminster Fuller.  Sort of modern Fung Shway influenced buildings with an ecological slant.  I like them, although I'm not sure I would want to live in one.  But for tasting wine it was great.  Rock Wall Wines had some very good wines and we did not just get to taste their Petite Sirahs but one of their sparkling wine as well. Rock Wall Winery

Linda Vista Winery owner Charles Melver introduced Petite Sirah to Californiain 1884. The Petite Sirah varietal was originally known in France as Durif, although the Petite Sirah grown in the U.S. was not identified genetically as such until 2003.  It is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin.  The varietal is hardly known in France anymore but has become something of an all American wine similar to Zinfandel, even though neither originated in the U.S. 

Relaxed and friendly

My first introduction to Petite Sirahs was in  1974 when I went to a blind tasting of PS with friends.  It was the first time I ever tasted one and I was hooked.  They were big, bold, tannic wines, usually very dry, with pepper and substance.  I had found an alternative to Cabernets. I remember Ridge and Stags' Leap Winery making very good ones and, of course, Concannon.  My first visit to Ridge and Concannon was in 1975.  I've had a lot of PS over the past 40 years and am very fond of the varietal, even though I know it has some limitations.  It is often blended with other varietals but, like Cabs, the PS can handle that and often excels in blends, although I'm fine with it at 100%. This is a varietal I dearly love.

PS I Love You hanging sign.

One major advantage to these festivals is that you can taste wines from wineries that are not open to the public, small wineries with very limited production and distribution. I decided to focus initially on those few wineries that my research indicated would be especially interesting. I saved the better known wineries such as Robert Biale, Ridge and Concannon for the end.  I was disappointed that Kent Rasmussen did not attend with his Esoterica Petite Syrah, the 2007 being my favorite with his 2009 also being lovely.  Kent is making some of the finest and most interesting PS I've had recently.  Of recent vintages I also loved Gustavo Thrace's 2006 PS.  I was also disappointed not to see Stags' Leap Winery, who participated in this even last year and whose Petite Sirah I've been drinking and appreciating since the early 1980s.

Wine auction

I had eaten just prior to the festival so did not sample much of the food. I had my usual spit cup in one hand, wine glass in the other and notebook in my underarm. Instead of trying to juggle these to take detailed tasting notes or simply giving 100 point scale ratings to all of the wines, I decided to spend more time focusing on and learning about small wineries with which I was unfamiliar.  As usual I prepared a plan of attack by making a list of the wineries I did not want to miss. After visiting each winery on my check off list, I tasted other wines until the crowds were becoming thicker and the music seemed to be getting too loud.  We arrived there at 5 and the event was from 6 to 9, but we left by 8 to head back to Napa. Anyhow, while we were there, I felt like I was panning for gold, and I did find some gold nuggets.

Hardly any crowd at the beginning

My favorite Petite Sirah of the tasting was the Trueheart Vineyard 2010 Petite Sirah ($35) from Sonoma Valley. Only 324 cases were produced by winemaker Alex Beloz. Very deep, dark purple in color, this was incredibly well-balanced, with ripe blackberry, along with very nice PS pepper, a great mouth-feel and an intense but not overly extracted presentation.  It had great structure with well integrated tannins and eschewed the fruitier, sweeter presentation that is found in some Petite Sirahs these days.  It was so good I couldn't bear to spit it out and swallowed.  This is one of the very finest Petite Sirahs I've had in recent years and the sort of Petite Sirah that makes the varietal so dear to me. I plan to order some of this and take careful notes. Trueheart Vineyard
My second favorite Petite Sirah was the Aver Family Vineyards 2009 Petite Sirah Blessings ($49).  I even returned at the end as we were leaving because I wanted to taste more without having to spit.  It was the only Petite Syrah beside Trueheart that I plan to purchase and explore in more detail.  Aver Family Vineyard

I also really liked the Robert Biale 2010 Petite Sirah Like Father Like Son, a Syrah and Petite Sirah blend and the Robert Biale 2009 Thomann Station Petite Sirah.  I thought the Shadowbrook 2010 Double Trouble was very good, especially at only $25.  It is 65% Petite Sirah and 35% Petite Verdot with only 96 cases having been made.  And I enjoyed the Shadowbrook 2010 Petite Sirah Pre-release ($38). Rock Wall Winery also had some very good Petite Sirahs.  Although I am usually very fond of Ridge Petite Sirahs, I was less impressed than usual with their offerings this year.

San Francisco skyline as seen from the parking lot.

The Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah event is far smaller than ZAP or the Zinfandel Festival and has a much wider variety of food.  There was no waiting at all for the food and with most of the wineries (up until the last hour) you could simply walk right up and ask for a pour without having to push through a crowd. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and I saw many smiling faces. There was plenty of parking and Google provided very good directions. The main reason for attending for me was to sample wines from small, limited production wineries that are not open to the public. But most people seemed to be attending simply to have a good time and it appeared they were doing so. I highly encourage you to check this event out when it comes around again next year. 


  1. TJ,

    Wish I could have been there--sounds like a really cool event. It also appears that you get a little more elbow room at the tasting tables than at ZAP.


    1. Hi Nick, Earlier is better with most festivals. For most people crowds are not a problem. I have a glass, spit cup and notebook and am trying to taste carefully and take notes. That makes it much more difficult. It is my least favorite setting for reviewing wines but is great for discovering small, unknown wineries. And most people who are not spitting and taking notes seem to do just fine regardless of the number of people at the event. ZAP, of course, is far larger and better known. For ordinary wine lovers, both are wonderful events. Best wishes, TJ


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