Domestic Selection: Petite Sirah Nouveau, 1988; Cilurzo

In 1968, Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo planted the first premium varietal wine grapes in Temecula, CA. Then, in 1978, they started their winery. They were among the pioneers for this appellation that is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the better wine grape regions in the world. This, of course, is with all due respect to the high priests in Napa!

As of last month, I had said “Wow!” twice to Vince’s wines since 1978. They were his Gamay Beaujolais,’80. (WOMC selection 05/81) and his Fume Blanc ’81 (WOMC selection 08/82). The other day, this Petite Sirah Nouveau ’88 produced another “Wow!” from my lips. It was loud enough that by­standers at his tasting room won­dered who was this guy making such noises, but not even swal­lowing the wine!

Vince is an experimenter. Must be the influence of his real life work. You see, professionally he is a Lighting Director for television shows, notably the Merv Griffin show. Well, he experimented for this wine! who ever heard of a Nouveau Petite Sirah? Traditional­ly only a Beaujolais is made as a nouveau wine and even then mainly in France. A handful of California wineries make a Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau, and if you recall we had a Pinot Noir Nouveau as a selec­tion a few years back.

Well, it turned out great. He used Petite Sirah grapes from his ten-year old vineyard, picked on September 17, 1988. That is why he calls it Full Moon Nouveau! As if the moon had anything to do with this quality. But, who knows? He then fermented in the true car­bonic maceration technique. Whole bunches were carefully placed in a stainless steel tank without crush­ing. Yeast was added, and CO2 purged air from the tank. Ten days later, fermentation almost com­plete, the whole bunches were pressed. After filtering, the wine was bottled and released on Nov 15, 1988. The traditional release day of nouveau wines.

The wine is distinctly purplish red in color. It has a massive fruity aroma with that characteristic young wine overtone. Raspberry dominates. The taste is fresh, fresh, fresh! It’s a welcome change in a red wine. The taste is also rich. This is not often seen in a nouveau wine; the sirah grape must be re­sponsible for this. Perfectly bal­anced. A refreshing red wine, and rather long on the finish. Serve slightly chilled with a ham entrée, or with ham sandwiches. Great red aperitif wine too.


Cellaring Notes: Not for ageing. Use in 1989.

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