June 6, 2008

Writer's Block Petite Syrah 2005

Winemakers in general are creative personalities. Although there is certainly science involved in fermenting the wine, the blending is all by taste. The most successful wines are not necessarily the best wines. Why you ask? The simple answer is that it takes more then the creative winemaker to ensure success of a label. It takes passion and business savvy. Behind every successful winemaker is a savvy business type.

Periodically, you find a winemaker that has been blessed with both of these necessary talents. Jed Steele is one of these winemakers.

Jed started his career at Ed Meades Vineyards in Mendocino County. He cut his teeth there, and moved when he was offered a position at Kendall Jackson. At that time Kendall Jackson was a newcomer. Jed was the Founding winemaker and VP of production for many years. When it was time, he went on his own to form Steele Wines. Located in Lake County, his operation has grown over the years and now bottles under at least three labels.

A friend recommended Writers Block Zinfandel to me this past fall. I was very impressed with the wine and wrote a positive review. The review made its way back to Jed Steele, who quickly called me to thank me.

RING!...... RING!...... Hello?...... Who is this?...... Jed who?......Oh, hello!...... Wow...someone is calling to THANK me for drinking their wine? (ALL OTHER WINEMAKERS TAKE NOTE!)

After the initial shock, I chatted with Jed for about 15 minutes. He told me about his wines, his philosophy and his passion. What I found so intriguing was his business sense. Like a good salesman, Jed picked up the phone to say thanks. Like a good consumer, I LOVED getting the call. Like a good salesman he told me how good his other wines were. Like a good consumer I told him I'd love to try them. Like a good salesman he sent me a box of his wines. Like a good consumer... You are starting to get the picture right?

I am generally a fan of Petite Sirah. For those who don't know, this is not Syrah, nor is it Pinot Noir. Petite Sirah is a completely different varietal. Sometimes called Durif, this grape was developed in France by crossing Syrah with the Peloursin grape in the late 1800's. The resulting hybrid was resistant to Powdery Mildew, a real problem for the Syrah varietal. It has adapted very well to the dry California climate and is now almost non-existent in France.

Steele blends his Petite Sirah with a bit of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot. It pours dark red, but not as dark and inky as many Petite Sirah I have tasted. It is lighter in color and viscosity. This lighter character may come from the higher elevation these particular Petite Syrah grapes are grown.

The nose was blueberry, black fruit, earth and a bit of violet (Unexpected). The wine has good mouth feel, but is not as fleshy or chewy as many Petite Sirah I have tasted. It has blue and black fruit up front with spice and pepper. There is a good bite from tannins that mellow as the wine opens. Overall, it is a good, balanced, easy drinking wine.

You can find Writers Block Petite Syrah at most good wine stores for under $20. I think we have to support winemakers that are thinking outside the box, and Jed Steele is one of these winemakers. Give it a try, and let me know what you think. Post a comment. I have it on good authority that Jed checks in to read my reviews from time to time!

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