P.S. You Were a Hit at the Dinner Party!

Without question, one of my favorite things about wine is how it brings people together.  From harvest to blending, tastings to dinner parties, community is central to the production and enjoyment of wine.  One community that has grown around the love of one grape in particular is P.S I Love You.  The producers and advocates of Petite Sirah formed the group in 2002.  Since then it has grown to over 100 members.

I was introduced to the group by Jo Diaz, the executive director and a fellow member of another group, Women Wine Writers.  I was recently the fortunate recipient of samples from P.S. I Love You.  This gave me a great excuse to bring a new group of wine lovers together to help me sample and learn more about Petite Sirah.

I taught in a multi-age setting and I still love the theory behind it.  Surround the learner with those that are farther ahead in one arena and those that are behind.  Ideas become solidified as you share and support others.  You are challenged to grow as you see new ideas practiced and applied.  All people have different gifts.  We excel in one area and need help in others.   These ideas don’t stop in the classroom.  Or perhaps our entire experience is one big “classroom.”  Either way, the same theories still apply.

Although the Petite Sirah gathering was only scheduled two days in advance, the group could not have been better planned.  One guest had more technical and production experience.  Another came with a palate trained through years of cooking.  Yet another spent years in Italy and fine dining so he brought his own unique angle.   I invited friends that love wine and the learning process and I learned from their unbiased perspectives.

I got a head start on the sampling the night before so that I could come into it with some prior knowledge.  Plus, it gave me the opportunity to try another pairing.  On Thursday, my brother-in-law made grilled Balsamic pork chops which I paired with roasted sweet potatoes and a kale salad.  We opened the 2011 Rock Wall Jack’s Dry Creek for the meal.  This wine was beautifully balanced with tons on blackberry and spice.  Hearty enough to hold up to the balsamic and pepper on the pork, smooth enough to drink by itself after the meal.  A very nice wine.  We also opened the Petite Petit by Michael David Winery.  Trust me, there is nothing “petite” about this wine.  Huge fruit, punctuated by the Petit Verdot, this one really needed some food.  Next time I plan on having some cheese with enough muscle to hold this one.  After a sampling of both ends of the PS spectrum, I felt more prepared for the full tasting.

petite sirah

I read a lot about pairings and asked the producers to share their favorites. We started with a cheese plate.  For dinner, I decided on venison meatballs with marinara, garlic bread and salad.  That way I could bring in the game and the hearty tomato in one dish.  Also, I could do all the work before guests arrived which is always preferred.  I chose six wines to taste that night.  I have found that, after that, my palate becomes saturated and I can’t properly evaluate a wine.  Plus, that leaves me a couple more to pair in the future.

In retrospect, I may have changed the order, but based on what I knew, courses, and price point, I put them in the following order:

1) 2010 Bogle Vineyards $11 Cheese course-Big black fruit, tar, spicy pepper, full-bodied

2) 2011 Concannon Central Coast $10 -Cheese course-Red and black berries, leather, medium-bodied. Would have served this before Bogle. A great value.

3) 2010 Stanton Vineyards $45- Served with Main Course-Absolutely delicious.  Complimented the meal nicely.  Perfumed nose. Integrated red and black fruit, balanced, big and complex.

4) 2010 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley$17 Served with Main Course-Super complex.  Red and black fruit, some eucalyptus and spice.  Hearty and rich layers. Full bodied and a fantastic value.

5) 2010 Wooden Valley Winery $19 Served with dessert. Cocoa and Cassis, round vanilla and almond notes.  With the addition of Zinfandel, this wine is fruit forward and approachable.

6) 2010 Earthquake $26  With a name like Earthquake, I assumed this wine would pack a big punch and needed to come last.  I was right.  Bold, hefty, in your face tannins and fruits that doesn’t quit.  Consider yourself warned and pair with something that would rank high on the Richter scale.

So what did we learn for our course in Petite Sirah?  Also known as Durif, this grape is typically used in blending, but is lovely on its own.  Depending on growing conditions and production techniques, the grape can produce very diverse wines.  We learned that this wine is made for food, specifically hearty foods.  We learned that there are some great values in Petite Sirah.  Layered, rich and under $20?  Yes, please.

The best learning is done is a safe environment.  When wine flows, conversation follows.  Questions arise, points of view differ, but, in the right setting, you all come away richer, and hopefully wiser.  Thank you P.S. I Love You for providing the opportunity to learn.  Thank you, dear friends, for teaching and learning with me.  Most importantly, thank you for creating an environment in which learning is possible.  Cheers!

Disclaimer: These wines were provided as samples by the producers affiliated with P.S. I Love You.  The opinions are my own and those of my dinner guests.

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Being a stay- at-home mom can leave one thirsting for a taste of the outside world, a world in which sentences are composed of more than three words. Being an educator means one is always seeking an opportunity to explore and learn. Being a woman with a need to connect can be a challenge when adult conversations are rare. In wine, I find the marriage of art and science, agriculture and storytelling provides limitless areas to explore. But it is the people that keep me engaged. The tenacity needed to keep the family dream alive, the risk to start anew, the trials and principles. I love the history of the vine, the impact of a season, the sentiment in the bottle. That is why I write. I write to tell their stories, to share a piece of mine. I write to learn as I teach others. I write to connect with new friends, to disconnect from the world. I write to celebrate what makes each of us unique, and that which ties us together.

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