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A Rich, Expressive Pleasure
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Feb 26, 2013
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Mettler Family Vineyards, Lodi (California) Petite Sirah 2010 ($20):  When was the last time you drank Petite Sirah?  It’s a wine that some wine drinkers are passionate about, but a rare experience for others.  Apart from the dark pleasure that Petite Sirah wine can deliver, this grape variety is part of classic California Americana. 

In a recent blind tasting of California reds, this Petite Sirah from Mettler Family vineyards stood out from the usual varietal wines and compelled my attention.  Mettler Family, a winery that is new to me, is an operation run by a family that has grown grapes in California for six generations, since 1899.  Although its winemaking for now takes place in Ukiah, in Mendocino County, its agricultural roots are in Lodi, where it farms more than 800 acres.  In the middle of the last century, Carl Mettler supported viticultural experimentation into local growing conditions for various varieties and earned accolades for his work, as has his son, Larry.  The family did not begin producing wine until the 2001 vintage, however.

Mettler Family Winery today makes about 15 thousand cases annually.  For its own wines, Mettler Family chooses grapes from particular, small vineyard blocks that represent approximately 10 percent of its crop; it also sells grapes to numerous other wine producers.  The family’s vineyards are certified organic.

In the range of styles that Petite Sirah wines can embody, this 2010 Petite Sirah is on the big end in terms of weight and richness, but it is a refined wine, with nothing rustic about it.  The wine’s aromas suggest dark berries and jam as well as notes of red berries, and spicy accents; all of the fruity notes are fresh and vibrant rather than suggestive of sun-dried or baked fruits.  In your mouth, the wine is huge, with pleasantly soft texture offset by dusty tannins.  The wine is dry, but the ripeness of the fruit and the hefty alcohol (14.9 percent) create a welcoming impression of sweetness on the entry, which gives way to rich flavors of blackberry, tobacco and black pepper spice.  These flavors carry through in the wine’s finish.

This is a big, flavorful, innately Californian red with intense, juicy fruitiness nuanced by spicy and earthy notes.  It has the unmistakable personality of Petite Sirah polished into a rounded, harmonious style.

In addition to Petite Sirah, this wine contains 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 percent Cabernet Franc, which contribute to the wine’s finesse.  It aged for 21 months in French oak, 50 percent of which is new.

This wine requires no further aging, and is delightful now with grilled meats, steak, breaded chicken or veal, or spicy Mexican fare.  It should continue to drink beautifully for another five years or so.  Give the wine a large glass so that its expansive personality can express itself.

89 Points