Winery: Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Product/Varietal: 100% Petite Sirah
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Craig Larson
How They Describe It
This is our third production of Petite Sirah but our first using natural yeast. Although young, it’s showing wonderful fruit expression. The varietal is well suited to our soil and climate. Deep inky, dark purple hues give way to hints of blackberries, blueberries, black pepper and spice. Harvested on August 29th with Brix levels of 24.8. This complex, decadent wine will be a fan favorite for years to come.
Composition: 100% Petite Sirah
Aging: Aged in French Oak barrels for 24 months (25% new French, 80% neutral barrels)
How I Describe It
Deep, inky magenta with prominent purple hues foreshadow just how big and bold the Callaway 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah is. Universally, a wine’s color intensity and hue aren’t great predictors of their nose or palate. However, when it comes to Petite Sirah, my experience says the deeper and purpler the wine is, the bigger its flavors tend to be. This wine proved the rule.
Blueberry, mulberry, ripe boysenberry, tart blackberry, and black plum envelope the senses from within the glass. Vanilla, toast, clove, and a bit of chalky charcoal indicate oak lovers will not be disappointed. Adding complexity, white pepper, lavender, and steel wool create depth.
At only three years old, this is a fairly young wine. With a few more years of aging, the Callaway 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah should reveal some very interesting aromatic development.
Similar to the nose, the most prominent flavors center on darkly colored fruit: blueberry, blackberry, plum, and a bit of fig. There is a distinct chalky minerality — a unique trait for Temecula’s decomposed granite terroir — which is amplified by very high, very young-feeling tannins. Oak aging and fermentation comes across with charred wood, vanilla, clove, and bread dough. Hints of asparagus, plus black pepper and lavender, round things out.
The Callaway 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah is a very dry wine, with very high alcohol (14.8% ABV), very high tannins, and medium-plus acid. When we say this is a full bodied wine, it is FULL bodied. Flavor intensity is very pronounced, and complements a long finish.
Why is This Wine Special?
As I’ve written before, Callaway Vineyard & Winery has a few local claims to fame. First, it was founded (though not currently owned) by the famous Callaway golf family. Second, it’s one of the two oldest still-standing wineries in the Temecula Valley AVA. Third, it is one of only two wineries to incorporate wild yeast fermentation into their wine portfolio — and among those two wineries, Callaway was the first by a wide margin.
When made well, Petite Sirah is one of the biggest, boldest wines out there. It bursts with rich dark fruit flavors, has a somewhat more viscous texture due to high alcohol content, and has tannins to spare. In all of these respects, Callaway hits it out of the park.
What makes the Callaway 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah extra interesting is, quite frankly, the wild yeast. With all the mass-produced wine on the market, it’s easy to forget wine is the product of organisms — plant and yeast — interacting with one another. It echoes of multiple life cycles contributing to the final product in our glasses.
Traditionally, winemakers lean on carefully bred yeast strains which produce specific flavors under certain conditions (e.g., sugar levels, temperatures, acid amount, etc.). Naturally occurring wild yeasts could impart delicious flavors and aromas, but could just as easily leave acrid byproducts behind.
Callaway produces a full line of wild yeast wines, including the 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah. While preserving the core flavors and aromas of the varietals used, these are wines truly unique to Temecula, with profiles found nowhere else in the world. These qualities, in addition to the wine’s scarcity and ageability, make them incredibly special and collectible.
When & How I Would Drink It
I can’t stress enough how big this wine is. Its flavors are huge, and the the alcohol content only intensifies things. The Callaway 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah is the kind of wine you’d want to pair with foods which have directly touched flame: grilled steak, grilled lamb, grilled zucchini, grilled asparagus, grilled Brussels sprouts, grilled (or mashed) potatoes, etc.
In short, if your plan is to enjoy this wine with a meal, expect a food coma and a bit of a buzz afterward. And that’s okay.
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $52 ($41.60 for wine club members)
Cases Produced: 834 cases
Have you tried the Callaway 2017 Wild Yeast Petite Sirah? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.