To realize the potential of the property sourced fruit, Chiarello enlisted one of the top "old vine" winemakers in Napa Valley, Thomas Brown, named 2010 "Winemaker of the Year," by Food & Wine Magazine.
Brown has been recognized as a master at creating rich, dynamic wines from the ultra-ripe fruit of older vines. From those old vines they craft award winning Zinfandel and Petit Sirah based wines.
Not to be confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah is a cross of Syrah and another grape varietal, Peloursin. Despite its popularity, this grape is quite rare with less than 10,000 acres planted worldwide, mostly in California.
Petit Sirah was long thought to be related to an obscure French grape called Durif. After DNA studies by Dr. Carole Meredith, a Napa Winery wine producer at Lagier Meredith on Mt Veeder. Carole was educated as a geneticist at the University of California at Davis and went on to work in the wine business at Mondavi. She specializes in growing Syrah varietal based wines at the Lagier Meredith estate high atop Mount Veeder. We met Carole when we visited Lagier Meredith during our Napa Valley, Mt Veeder Wine Experience back in 2011.
Today, Petit Sirah is often added to Zinfandel wines for backbone and deep color, but more and more it is produced standalone. Petite Sirah is increasing found in the stores, and it often commands a higher price than what might be considered a more pedestrian Zinfandel which may have a broader following. Because Petit Sirah may be the more nuanced and complex of the two, it has gained notoriety and captured a wide following and is becoming increasingly popular. Subsequent more recent releases of this label have received enviable ratings and scores and command prices above $50.
The Chiarello Family Vineyards 2008 Roux Old Vine Petite Sirah (St. Helena) A was awarded 93 points and was noted as "a beautiful wine, just what a Napa Petite Sirah should be: Dark, dry, tannic and muscular, showing leathery, meaty flavors, with hints of blackberries, chocolate and violets, and a sprinkling of pepper," by a leading critic.
Ironically, our selection tonight is the second wine in a row that we pulled from our cellar to drink that was crafted by winemaker Thomas Brown, following the Schrader Double Diamond Mayacamas Range Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon that we drank Sunday night.
Thomas Brown has become one of the most sought-after consulting winemakers in Napa Valley. Brown moved to Napa in 1996 and went to work for All Seasons Wine Shop in Calistoga. There he met Ehren Jordan, winemaker for Turley Wine Cellars. He joined Jordan in 1997 helping in the cellar and learned the craft.
After three years, Brown ventured out on his own, beginning with clients he inherited from Jordan, Outpost where he produced Howell Mountain Zinfandel, and Chiarello where he produced this Roux Old Vine Petit Sirah, He went on to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Nicholson Ranch and the Cabernet Sauvignon we drank Sunday night from Schrader, and others for Tamber Bey and Frank Family. Brown went on to produce his own Pinot Noir and became managing partner of Ridgetop Partners, a project that in 2001 purchased 40 acres on the Sonoma coast near Annapolis and planted 14 acres of Pinot Noir.
Chiarello Family Vineyards Roux Old Vine Petite Sirah 2003
Consistent with our last tasting notes for this label, "This was dark inky black/purple colored, big full bodied, rich, concentrated but nicely balanced and polished blackberry and black cherry fruits with layers of mineral, licorice, Asian spices, hints of smokey creosote with nicely integrated oak on the lingering clinging tannin finish.'
"At fourteen years of age, this 2003 was drinking well and seemingly still at the apex of its drinking window, although certainly not likely to improve any with further aging."
Tonight this was still holding its own at seventeen years of age.
RM 89 points.