Petite Sirah, like Zinfandel, is one of the few wines that California has taken to itself and produced something special. Originally from France (you know its cousin, Syrah, already) this grape with a feminine name really produces a wine quite on the brawny side with a dense blackberry fruit character, mixed with black pepper notes, licorice, smoked meats and tar.

And there’s a real following among us Californians who just go crazy over this stuff. It’s what a red wine drinker desires when meeting up with a large steak & potato.
It’s historically big and powerful but, a fine bottle of Petite Sirah can also show an elegance like we find in a Cabernet Sauvignon. It has those great mouth grabbing tannins and is somewhat high in acidity that all work to make it a wine with the ability to age. It’s a winner of a red wine and the trend is to produce the best it can be.
For a number of years in California, Petite Sirah was primarily used as a blending grape, thanks to its deep color and heavy tannins. And it is still frequently blended into Zinfandel for added complexity, body, and to tone down the tendency of Zins toward “jammy” fruit. The famed Ridge Vineyard’s Zinfandel out of Santa Cruz will always have a nice dose of Petite.
Those of us back in the day who enjoyed Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, really were enjoying a good portion of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah—it was tasty and inexpensive. (I don’t recommend it now—it’s not the same blend).
So many wine enthusiasts remember their first great bottle of a single-vineyard Petite Sirah because there is so much going on with the wine and the synergy of the food pairing. Of course enjoying a glass of the Petite on its own is a treat as well—the wine’s complexities and popping dark-fruit flavors make it a lovely tasting affair.
Those inquisitive will want to compare the Syrah wines to the Petite. Like their spellings—they’re different. California Syrahs and Australian Shiraz’s have a different flavor profile. The “tar” notes that all of the wines share, are different as well. The Petite’s “tar” is much more subtle.
The “cousin” relationship of the two is best reflected in a French Northern Rhone Syrah. But Petite Sirah is really a California beauty. Feminine in stylishness, masculine in clout. It is definitely a sexy wine. Anyone thirsty yet?


The last time I wrote about Tulip Hill Winery, I started out trying to locate the winery tasting room that I had heard was situated somewhere in Rancho Mirage. A winery tasting room out here in the desert!? Yeah—Eureka! I had found it—at The River shopping mall, off Bob Hope Dr. and Highway 111. I ducked in from the heat of the day to enjoy an entire line of wines—white, red, and dessert: a memorable wine-love fest.
I remember Tulip Hill having a great line-up of Petite Sirah, so last week my son Paolo and I met up with Jean, one of the lovely tasting room personnel, and we savored our way through some tasty Petite. Everyone is now on notice: Locally, you will not find a better array of Petite Sirah to taste and compare.
We began with the 2006 Napa Valley. Produced from their Pope Valley vineyard off the northeast slope of Howell Mountain, this refreshingly “aged” wine carries a combination of blackberry, dark chocolate, espresso, and tobacco. This wine is currently on sale for only $19.99: A great deal! I don’t think you can find any 2006 Petite Sirah on any store shelf in town, let alone a bottle that exhibits complexities, well-integrated tannins, and a bouquet that resonates Petite! I personally wanted to purchase a lot more, but I was thinking of you readers—you should all be enjoying this before it sells out.
Next, the 2007 Reserve Napa Valley. From the same Pope Vineyard a year later, as with most reserves, it portrays a complex but heftier fruit profile. At the same time, this bottle reflects Petite’s great underlying & juicy acidity which is perfectly balanced here. Stronger tar notes than the 2006 but with a more floral backdrop. This is a great dinner wine.
Tulip Hill’s 2009 Petite Sirah is from Lake County, specifically from the Canino Ridge Vineyard which is named after the 100 year old Canino olive trees that line the ridge overlooking the vineyards. I just love the air and the area of Lake County; its unique soil and microclimate allows the grape to be all it can be, producing lush and voluptuous wines featuring black fruit, licorice, and allspice along with the expected chewy tannins. It’s still a “baby” but I especially recommend this to those new wine lovers who have not yet enjoyed a yummy Petite.
The crown of the tasting was the 2008 Budge Brown Petite Sirah. Winery tasting notes: “This fabulous black, purple wine is intense, rich and of great depth. Huge aromatics of lavender, anise and violets carry through to the palate with some notes of blueberry, blackberry with hints of vanilla. Aging in French and American oak barrels for 18 months has given this wine its structure. This is a rich, soft, gorgeous wine.  Only 221 cases produced.”
I wish to add that this wine has joined the ranks as one of my favorite great California Petite Sirahs. It’s definitely the bold & the beautiful.
Tulip Hill Winery is a family-owned winery devoted to making “wines that let the fruit do all the talking”. Since they control everything from vine to bottle… they are able to create handcrafted products at an amazing price point. Their wines are made in a boutique style in small lot production.
The Tulip Hill Winery Tasting Room is located at The River at Rancho Mirage, 71800 Hwy 111, 760.568.5678. They’ve got a great website that will bring you up to speed with a photo gallery along with info on all the unique gifts, wine accessories, exclusive lines of specialty food and chocolates that complement the wine tasting experience. Go to and click on to the Tasting Room
And I see that we will all be in good company as Tulip Hill will be pouring at CV Weekly’s 2013 Award Show & 1st Year Anniversary Bash on April 6th. Cheers to that!
Rick conducts & entertains at private wine tastings. Contact



Previous articleThings I Learned From Granny
Next articleNOW PLAYING: