My first experience with this small Sonoma producer came as a result of a conversation with a family friend and fellow wine lover. I was drinking a lot of Zinfandel at the time, and while not his forte, there were bottles of Wild Hog in his holdings. After receiving a half-case of the Porter-Bass Zinfandel from him as an engagement gift, I jumped on the Hog train myself and turned tracking down loose bottles of past vintages into a bit of a hobby—my latest find, an ’04 Petite Sirah from the Dunnigan Hills AVA in Yolo County, CA.
[FYI to the history buffs: photo in background is amazing shot showing a slave standing in the tobacco fields of Richmond, Virginia, in the exact spot that is present-day Monument Avenue.]
I was excited to open another Petite Sirah so soon after my recent Dancing Coyote review, which I was crazy about. This bottle is in a slighly higher price range, about $24, and is the first Nova Vineyard Petite Sirah released by Wild Hog. Wild Hog is a producer that really appeals to all my sensibilities. Known mostly for being a Pinot Noir and Zinfandel producer—a somewhat atypical combo—and my 2 favorite American reds, they also venture into Italian varietals, Barbera and Dolcetto amongst others. This can only mean one thing—they are passionate about food. This works out well, because the ascetically awesome Wild Hog labels just look better sitting on a dinner table than stowed away in a cellar somewhere.
The menu for tonight: sushi. Spicy tuna and dragon rolls. Sushi and wine pairing is the definition of a vinous grey area. There are more opinions than rules. While sushi seems conceptually delicate, the flavors are often bold and exciting, varying immensely from piece to piece, roll to roll. On the red front, Pinot Noir might be my first instinct, being naturally the most food-friendly red wine and comfortable with spice. What I am not looking for is something heavily jammy, oak seasoned, or leathery. I prefer something clean, cool, dark, and mineral laden.
From my notebook:
Incredible nose of blackberry, spice, and exceptionally developed lavender—or as Carey put it, bath beads. She has a way of describing aromas in the form of memories or experiences—this one being the lavender-scented bath beads next to her grandmother’s bathtub.
I don’t know if there is another varietal that expresses the purity and concentration of black fruits as well, and exclusively, as Petite Sirah. Blackberries and blueberries reign supreme and a hint of pine, coconut, and licorice brace the midpalate and finish.
A granite-like core—a quality difficult to describe, but consistent with other Petite Sirah’s I’ve had—reminds me of the inside of an old coal bin. I know this because we had one in my house growing up—a decorative throw back to the Mary Poppins-era of dirty-faced chimney sweeps and soot-filled skies. It’s a dense mineral presence, cool and rocky, almost as apparent as the fruit on the midpalate. The oak is subtle at first, becoming more identifiable (American) as the wine breathes—delicious.
Let’s be real: a big ass wine that will cellar for years.