Varietal: Petite Sirah

Merisi

Where: With a rich family history tracing back to the 19th century, Diener Ranch is a prime site for Petite Sirah. Located in the Red Hills sub-appellation of Lake County, the vineyard is perched at an elevation of 1,700 feet and is subject to hot days and cool nights.

Who: Mandy Donovan started Merisi in 2013, while she was working as assistant winemaker at Cain Vineyard and Winery. “I said that I would never start my own brand,” she says. “Famous
last words!”

When she was offered some quality fruit, she decided to start experimenting. With an aim of “passionate realism” in the cellar, Mandi named her label Merisi after the artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. She writes, “His pursuit of authenticity and distinctiveness from his peers became our [winery’s] beacon of truth telling and excellence.”

Why: Let’s face it, Petite Sirah just doesn’t get enough love. This one was naturally fermented with minimal intervention and aged for 21 months in 50 % new oak.

Theopolis Vineyards

Where: Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County

Who: Theo “Theopatra” Lee, descended from Texas cattle ranchers and newspaper owners

How: Cultivated in the upper elevations and full sun of the Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County, this Petite Sirah has an ideal growing environment. The fruit was aged in 25 percent new French oak for 23 months, then bottled unfiltered.

Why: Oooh, let us count the reasons… It’s not just that 2013 was an ideal vintage. It’s not just that this wine has earned rave reviews, scores, and medal. And it’s not just that the winery is run by the unstoppable Theo “Theopatra” Lee, one of the only black women farming grapes in the United States.

Drinking this wine is like sipping a seamless skein of silk. Its tannins have had time to mellow so that the wine comes together like a dream.  Even in the midst of summer, when it can be hard to imagine drinking a bold red wine (much less a Petite Sirah) this one stands the test.

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