Like one of those hulking guys dubbed “Tiny,” Petite Sirah is just the opposite of its name. A big, brawny, teeth-staining red wine, Petite Sirah provided a stiff backbone to California jug blends before it was first bottled as a stand-alone varietal in the 1960s.
Although Zinfandel is usually considered America’s most successful immigrant wine grape, Petite Sirah also sprang from humble European origins. It came to California from France’s Rhône region, where it was called Durif. A pest-resistant but otherwise unremarkable cross between Syrah and the obscure Peloursin, it all but died out in its native country.
Fortunately, it has fared much better in its adopted land, thanks to patrons like Kent Rosenblum. A Minnesota-raised veterinarian-turned-winemaker, Rosenblum made a name for himself as a Zinfandel specialist, but he also has a soft spot for Petite Sirah. His Heritage Clones bottling from the San Francisco Bay region, with its robust chocolate and spice flavors, is anything but petite.