Non-Traditional Wines: Petit Verdot

Ladies and gentlemen...boys and girls...The Oregon Wine Blog brings to you the next varietal in our lineup of non-traditional wines from the Pacific Northwest: Petit Verdot!

About Petit Verdot

As always and to be as accurate as possible, we have decided to consult the most accurate source of information in the world: Wikipedia. Did we mention how accurate it is?

Petit verdot is one of six red wine grapes typically used in bordeaux-style blends. Typically used as a blending grape, petit verdot tends to ripen much later than other grapes in southern France and typically used in only small amounts. While this may be unappealing to French winemakers, those of us in the United States have benefitted from a varietal that is known to ripen much more consistently and requires less attention to grow.

Fun fact: "It is also planted in a small way in Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Missouri, and Washington."

In short, making pure varietal petit verdot is a relatively rare practice. The temperance of this grape in its native region made it inconvenient at best, but brave winemakers in many of the New World regions have discovered that this grape can hold its own at times.

The Wine

Mike Conway from Latah Creek Winery in Spokane, Washington was kind enough to send us the only sample of Petit Verdot we received for this series: 2006 Latah Creek Winemaker's Reserve Red Petit Verdot. You may be thinking to yourself: "But wait, I thought Latah Creek did dessert wines?" Well, that is probably because 50% of their production annually is dedicated to an excellent Riesling and Huckleberry d'Latah; however, to not delve into their would be to deprive yourself of a some excellent small-lot production wine.

The Petit Verdot is the first in Latah Creek's series of Winemaker Reserve Reds, a grouping of "intriguing, small lot, reserve quality wines" commemorating the 25th anniversary of the winery. That's right, 25 years in Eastern Washington! Conway was one of the early founders in the Pacific Northwest, starting as the winemaker at both Latah Creek and another little winery you may have heard of -- Hogue Cellars.

Immediately upon pouring this 100% Petit Verdot, we noticed a dark black cherry color. The nose fell somewhere between that of a cab and syrah, giving off notes of dark red fruit, blackberry, and currant. It was "yummy", although the tasting notes also indicated espresso on the nose that we couldn't pick up. Probably one of the most prominent, awesome qualities of this wine is the luscious mouthfeel. Silky is the word that encapsulates this wine, and we felt a bit misled by the nose (in a totally good way) by the smoothness of the verdot. With flavors of mixed berries and a spice on the finish, this wine was a very pleasant surprise. Pleasant enough that I'm getting ready to pour another glass.

As we had a spicy korean dish for dinner tonight, we decided to do the wine solo -- and it totally worked. As good by itself and it would certainly be with food, we can see this pairing well with a savory meat dish such as herbed lamb. Its big enough to stand up to strong flavors but the flavor doesn't overpower the palate like a syrah or merlot can.

Latah Creek hit a homerun on this wine. With only 340 cases, we'd advise picking some up before it's gone at $30 per bottle. If you miss out, though, don't worry -- Latah Creek has a nebbiolo, cab franc, and temparnillo coming up.