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Petit Verdot
The Orphan Grape of Bordeaux

Petit Verdot is a small, thick skinned grape known for its very deep purple color, strong tannic structure and floral aromas. It is generally thought of as a blending grape that is used in small quantities, like 1% to 3%, to add deeper color and more tannin to the Cabernet and Merlot based wines of Bordeaux. Because it ripens late in the season and is often lost to rains during harvest, it has fallen into disfavor in modern Bordeaux. In fact it appears to be following the other lost grape of Bordeaux, Carmenere, into obscurity and extinction in France.

However, Petit Verdot is still alive and thriving in California where the climate is better suited and more and more winemakers are including it in their blends. On our last trip to California in July, Linda and I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Joe Shirley, the winemaker at Trinchero Winery. For those of you not familiar with Trinchero, they are the family that owns Sutter Home, the inventors of White Zinfandel. Trinchero is their fine wine division producing highly acclaimed Cabernets and Chardonnays from the family's vast holdings in Napa Valley. These are wines made from fruit that has long since became too valuable to bottle under the Sutter Home label and are made in a separate state of the art winery completely devoted to the Trinchero label.

Joe Shirley, the lord of that domain, personally tasted us through his current releases while we were there. At the end of the tasting he produced a bottle of Petit Verdot, a wine I had never seen bottled as a varietal before. It seems they have 3 acres plated to Petit Verdot, and they often bottle what is not used in the blends. 1999 was a great year for Cabernet and Joe bottled all his vineyard designates as pure Cabernet Sauvignon and liked the Petit Verdot so well that he bottled 19 of the 20 barrels (about 380 cases) as the pure varietal.

We were struck with the density and floral quality of the wine and immediately thought what a fun wine for our Wine of the Month club - a unique varietal that almost no one has ever tasted by itself. It had not been priced yet but they thought it would be about $30 retail... too expensive for a club selection. When we got back I talked to the local Trinchero representative about the wine and my idea to use it for our wine club. A week later I got a call back, surprise, we could get 60 six packs and sell it for $20! Thanks guys, this is going to be fun...

Want to taste something really different? Here's you're chance. I have 20 six packs more than I need for the club.

Trinchero Petit Verdot 1999 Napa Valley California $20
What the Wine Critics thought: Way too obscure to be reviewed... What we thought: A rare varietal bottling of one of Bordeaux's most elusive blending grapes. It offers a floral, totally unique sweet nose of blackberries and nutmeg along with the floral scents of acacia and violets (we had to resort to the Nez du Vin scent kit for this one). Deeply colored, the palate is medium-bodied and supported by significant tannins but has surprising lightness and adds chocolate and black pepper to the blackberry and flowers. A unique wine well suited for red meat.

And, what part time Wine Guy Tom W. thought: Took home a bottle of the Petit Verdot we discussed late Saturday afternoon. Just wanted to let you know that this is an excellent wine, especially for anyone who likes Bordeaux and particularly Cab Franc. Wonderful robe with velvety mouth coating texture. Beautiful floral and earthy aromas with refined fruit and wonderful tones of earth on the palate. A unique tasting experience.