Digging Into True Grit
The words “True Grit” call to mind the late 1960s Western movie starring John Wayne. Wayne was a tough guy. In each John Wayne movie you can expect him to deliver a right hook onto the bad guy’s chin, sending the villain crashing through the saloon window.
He was rugged. He was tough. Mendocino County winery Parducci knew what they were doing when then dubbed their reserve Petit Sirah True Grit. It’s big and bold with plenty of heart.
We’ve had three bottles of True Grit for a couple months, just waiting for the proper time to stage a vertical tasting. That time finally arrived when we returned to Ohio to visit friends and family. An over-the-top wine dinner was the perfect setting to taste the trio of Petite Sirah.
The meal was hosted by our good friends and tasting team members, the Cabernetor and Glorious T. We were house guests, so not only could we enjoy fantastic wine – but we wouldn’t have to drive home, just navigate a flight of stairs.
A vertical is a tasting of the same wine but at least three different vintages. This enables you to really understand the character of a wine and appreciate the nuances that differentiate harvests. If you can believe it, the vertical was just a part of a magnificent wine dinner, which I’ll share more about in the days to come.
The vertical wines were the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Parducci True Grit Petite Sirah. Parducci is the oldest winery in Mendocino County, founded in 1921. Their pre-Prohibition Petite Sirah vines are some of the oldest in America.
Our first task was to uncork the wines, which was easier said than done. The 2004 was the first to face the corkscrew. Cabernetor plunged the lever of the corkscrew and then withdrew the cork – or should I say half of it. Crumbling remains of the cork were still in the bottle. We tried the “ah-so” corkscrew with flat prongs that slide outside of the cork. You’re supposed to twist the tool and the cork will come out. But it didn’t.
We ended up pouring the wine through a mesh filter into the decanter. The 2006 uncorked easily, but we had the same crumbly cork for 2005.
I wasn’t sold on the need to decant a 14-year-old wine, but it was a good call. Petite Sirah in its youth can be bold and brash. Even after more than a decade, these wines displayed hearty flavors that benefited from time in the decanter.
Duet With A Trio
After mingling and munching with appetizers then enjoying a carefully crafted salad course, our party of 10 was ready for the main dish: a duet of salmon and steak with asparagus and a cauliflower/potato dish. The food was lovingly prepared by Glorious T and Green Dragon (my wife). Cabernetor and I had been tasting each of the Petite Sirah vintages as they were opened just to make sure they would pair well with the entree. Despite the gritty reputation of Petite Sirah, age had mellowed the Parducci and we felt it would match superbly with the steak while not punching out the salmon.
We started with the 2004, not wanting a more aggressive 2006 to overshadow it. In a nod to Rhone winemaking, the 2004 actually has 2% Viognier, a white grape. The age and decanting had smoothed the rough edges from the wine. Instead of a lumbering John Wayne in a 10-gallon hat, it was light and nimble with notes of pepper and vanilla. Just right with the salmon.
When others zig, we zag, so for a reason not completely known to me now, we poured the 2006 next. The ‘06 was going strong, with robust flavors of blackberries and chocolate. This displayed lush flavors and was still firing its six-guns in the air shouting “yee-haw.” (Wait a minute, that might have been us!) This vintage has 4% Grenache and 2% Syrah. It has more intense flavors than the 2004.
Circling back, we served the decanted 2005. This has 8% Grenache and may not have undergone the same 25-month oak aging as the 2006. It was lightened by age and mellowed by integrated tannins. Black fruit and traces of caramel were present as we enjoyed our delicious meal and chatted about everything under the sun. The 2005 is my favorite, I declared. The rest of the table voted 2004 as the standout. While no one professed 2006 as the best, its decanter was bone dry by the end of the night.
The ability to age is a hallmark of good winemaking. These are exciting wines made even more enjoyable by the aging process. Whereas a current vintage of Petite Sirah is all swagger and strength, aging adds finesse. The rounding of the tannins makes the wines suitable for a wider range of foods, too.
Usually when we review wines this old, we have to say “sorry, but they are no longer available.” This time, they are! Parducci is making these three wines available singly and all three as a vertical. Each is priced at $50. The vertical of three is priced at $140. If you prefer a more current vintage, the 2015 True Grit Petite Sirah is nicely priced at $30.
Time to saddle up for a tasting at the Vertical Corral!
Editor’s Note: As of this writing, the largest fire in California state history is burning in Mendocino County. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents and firefighters there.
Full Disclosure: We received these wines as a marketing sample.