by Fred McMillin
for November 2003
What Shall I Pour for the Holi-daze?
(And We Solve a Petite Sirah Mystery)
Wines for Your Holiday Meal...The Traditional Answer
Before the Meal—Lanson Gold Label Brut Champagne, 1996, $45
With Fowl or Fish —Sterling Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2001, $40
With the Red Meat Course —Sattui Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Morisoli Vineyard, $33
Wines for Your Holiday Meal...The Adventurous Answer
Before the Meal —Try a Spanish or an Italian sparkler. My class gave very high marks to both the Italian Iris Prosecco, $12, and the Spanish Cristalino Brut Cava, $9.
With Fowl or Fish —Try a wine from one of man's newest grapes, named and released only 13 years ago: Chardonnel, St. James Winery, Missouri, 2001, $12.
Or try Argentina's most promising white wine grape: Torrontes by Rincon Privado, 2002, $9.
Last, a bit more pricey but with outstanding oomph, the Rhone Valley's Marsanne by Rosenblum Cellars, Dry Creek Valley, 2000, $18.
With the Red Meat Course—Spain's fine Rioja reds depend on this grape, which shows plenty of potential in California: Tempranillo by Castoro Cellars, 2000, $16.
Or pour a wine from the grape that only in the 1990s became a prominent California red bottled with its name on the label: Cabernet Franc by De Rose, Cienega Valley, 2000, $18.
Last, try the grape banned in the land of its birth (France), but very much alive and well in California: The Durif or Petite Sirah. Look for David Bruce, Guenoc, or Bogle, all affordable.
POSTSCRIPT—We Solve a Petite Mystery
I own about two dozen books that tell how Dr. Durif, a botanist in the Rhone area, developed in the 1880s the grape that bears his name. But none give his first name. Several prominent members of the industry asked if I could find it. So, we rummaged through our very dusty old files and found it! Petite Sirah's creator was Dr. Francois Durif.
And there's another little Petite puzzle... What California winery in the 1960's was first to make a varietal Petite Sirah, that is, a wine named for the grape? Back into the dust. Answer: The first Petite varietals were not produced in the 1960s. Instead, in the 1940s Larkmead and Louis M. Martini wineries made a varietal, not called Petite Sirah, but Duriff [sic].
Note—If you want one of today's wines but can't find it, fax Fred at (415) 567-4468 and he will help.
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.
This page created November 2003