p.v. i love you?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Jo Diaz has a very successful marketing organization called P.S. I love you. It’s dedicated to the promotion of petite sirah – the mission statement reads “to promote, educate, and legitimize petite sirah as a noble varietal, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness.” And the organization has moved this writer’s chess piece a long way down the road toward appreciating the grape as a stand-alone varietal.

Now I’m thinking it may be time to consider a similar advocate organization for petit verdot. This once-obscure blending grape has suddenly blossomed, at least here in Washington. An early experiment at Red Willow failed, but a few scattered plots of PV in the Walla Walla valley and Horse Heaven Hills began to thrive in the 1990s, initially used to beef up Bordeaux blends. Leonetti was a leader here, and others soon followed. Varietal petit verdot (at least 75%, and often 100%) is a more recent phenomenon. The first good bottles I recall tasting were very limited offerings from Januik and O•S.

But recent months have brought a relative deluge. What has surprised me, looking back through my notes, is how much these varietal petit verdots have impressed. They are big wines, dark wines, tannic wines, but so well made that I have given them outstanding reviews and scores. They are often sold only through the winery mailing list, and they are not cheap, but for anyone interested in charting some of the most interesting new directions in Washington wines, they are essential. Here are four to get you started:

Gifford Hirlinger 2007 Estate Petit Verdot
Walla Walla Valley; $26
All estate-grown, and blended with 11% merlot. This is aromatic and complex, weaving together scents of cassis, licorice, tobacco and smoke. Flavors follow, with plenty of black cherry fruit in the concentrated core. The merlot seems to soften up the tannins a bit.

Gifford Hirlinger

Olsen Estates 2007 Petit Verdot
Yakima Valley; $37
Pure varietal; the fruit is sweet, tangy, grapey and young, with plum and cassis filling out the mid-palate. The acids are juicy and natural, and the tannins – often aggressive and herbal with this grape – are polished and smooth.

Olsen Estates

Watermill 2006 Estate Petit Verdot
Walla Walla Valley; $28
Sourced from McClellan estate vineyard, this smooth and sexy PV includes 20% cabernet sauvignon. It remains remarkably accessible – the tannins reined in, the color a deep garnet, the nose loaded with violets, chocolate and cassis.


Zerba Cellars 2007 Petit Verdot
Walla Walla Valley; $38
Despite alcohol topping 15%, Zerba’s new PV is a beautifully proportioned and detailed blockbuster of a red. Along with the ripe blackberry fruit you’ll find tar, toast, cedar and chocolate, layered nicely and unfolding through a long finish.

Zerba Cellars


Plymale said...

I must say, the PV that we tasted from barrel at Zerba in December of 2008 was Palatially Voluptuous. How about a Petit Grenache, PG?

Jason G. said...

Matt Albee at Eleven Winery also makes a delicious Petit Verdot from the Elerding Vineyard. Super rich, but balanced.

Jason G. said...

Forgot the link for the Eleven Petit Verdot: http://www.elevenwinery.com/store.html#pv

Judy Phelps said...

Love Petite Verdot!Thanks so much for these four recommendations. At Hard Row to Hoe we made 12 barrels of it for the first time in '09 (grapes come from Lonesome Springs Ranch) I am happy with it so far, dark and tannic but when I taste it, I want more.

Jo Diaz said...

Thanks for a great intro. All PV needs is someone who will devote him/herself to the cause, and away PV will all go toward better recognition.

I'd suggest someone who produces it and will allow his/her PR/marketing person to advance the variety; thereby, advancing that brand, too (hidden benefit). The rest will fall into place.

Like all non-profits, it must be driven by passion. Membership drives are the hardest part, because they take away from the original intent of advancing the recognition for the cultivar... But with time, it will all come together.

Thanks again, Paul, for the plug. More thoughts for the PVers out there to chew on.

Mike said...

We are making PV from high-altitude grapes in the Sierra Foothills for 3 vintages now and the results are very encouraging. The wines have aspects of tar and tannin with a cedary pencil sharpener hint. The vineyard site seems to add a spruce element. A very popular wine for us at Cyrstal Basin Cellars. http://www.crystalbasin.com/store/products.asp?cat=20&pg=2
We'd support the idea of a dedicated marketing organization for PV - anyone game?

Sean P. Sullivan said...

I have to say the Olsen Estates wines was an eye opener for me about the possibilities of Petit Verdot as a varietal bottling in Washington. Made me look forward to seeing what other folks are up to.

Bob Bentley said...

Isenhower Cellars did a 100% Petit Verdot bottling in 2006 that was distributed to their wine club members. According to my notes, the grapes were sourced from Elerding Vineyard in Mabton. I haven't opened my one-and-only bottle yet, but it's probably about time. Anyone have any food pairing suggestions?

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