Two off-character lumps

Let’s say it is your dream to drive an exotic or classic sports car. You have spent a lifetime yearning for the smell of leather and oil, the wind in your hair, and most of all the unique exhaust note echoing off the hills as you roar along some lonely road. A Ferrari 275 GTB/4 with it’s shrill high-revving small-displacement V-12. An E-type Jaguar with that distinctive growl of its big-bore, long-stroke inline six. You know instinctively that every car has four wheels, an engine, a transimission, etc… but each has something about it that is unique. Sure, the packaging is all very different, but it is how it drives, and how it sounds that makes it truly unique.

Imagine then that you find out that somebody you know owns an old Ferrari or Jaguar and offers you some seat time. You meet him at the appointed place and time and as you stomp on the loud pedal instead of the exotic noise you have dreamt of all these years, the sounds that you have listened to countless times on Speed TV, various YouTube videos, you hear the generically common rumble of a small-block Chevy. Yep, the car has been “lumped” … that is had it’s original exotic engine replaced with a generic crate motor.

Now, not to say that an American V-8 makes an unpleasant noise. Not at all. It is just that it is common. Just about every Tom, Dick, and Guido you knew in high school made second-gear-scratches with his Camaro, so you’ve heard this sound a million times before. Every cop car, every SUV, every rental sedan, every muscle car you have ever known in your life made this very same noise. Sure, you are now in a unique package, but it has been blended with something .. well… DULL and your disappointment is palpable.

That pretty much sums up our experience with two bottles of Petite Sirah last night. Both were eminently drinkable, and in fact I’d say they were enjoyable and good. They just had been tamed by the introduction of some other grape. They’d lost their unique Petit Sirah-ness.

The first was a Ravenswood Vintners Blend Petite Sirah 2006. I’ve had their wines before, but never a Petite Sirah. I spotted this one out of the corner of my eye at the grocery store and of course, had to buy it. Petite Sirah is my favorite varietal and as I’ve said many times before I’d pillage your village for a single bottle. This one required minimal pillaging as it cost a mere $9.99.

Even Mrs. Barbarian was looking forward to drinking it. As she was finishing up preparing dinner she said “Oh, I like Ravenswood wines.”

I popped open the bottle and did not experience the hand grenade aroma I usually expect from a Petite Sirah upon opening. Hrmmm. Poured a glass. It was “okay” but lacking in something… perhaps that big two-by-four whack to the palette I love so much about my favorite varietal? Yeah, that’s it. This wine is smooth and tasty. It just drinks like a GENERIC RED BLEND. OMG, somebody swapped a V-8 into my exotic sports car! Damn.

Things were about to go from generic to uncertainty… as I pulled out the other Petite Sirah I bought that day. Uncertainty because it was so damn cheap. Crane Lake 2005 Petite Sirah… a mere $3.99. Yep three dollars and ninety nine cents. While I normally relish finding any red wine under ten bucks, and can’t pass up a bargain, it is always risky to go that low. After all this is a crafted agricultural product that takes months, if not years to produce. It should not be that cheap. But hey, I’ll try anything once!

Surprisingly the Crane Lake was pretty much the same as the two and a half times more expensive Ravenswood Vintners Blend… smooth, tasty, but far too lightweight and dull to be a true representative of a Petite Sirah.

So if you are looking for a reasonably cheap, or even a shockingly cheap, everyday drinking red, by all means pick up either of these two wines. They are not however good representatives of my favorite varietal. The winemakers have obviously thrown something into the mix to tone down the bigness of the signature varietal on the label. I am disappointed in them as Petite Sirah, but happy with them as wine. Odd I know, but in this case even a barbarian can put on airs.

You must be logged in to post a comment.