Dec 13, 2006

2004 Vinum Cellars PETS: Ain't for the Dogs

Years ago, I was having a nice romantic dinner with the ol' man at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack and we decided to splurge on a bottle of wine. I use the term "splurge" because Emmy's really isn't that much of a value as far as I'm concerned, and since it's cash-only the wine would have emptied our collective wallet. I may have been bartending at the time, but habit taught me not to walk around with a shift's worth of tips in my pocket.

We went for the Vinum Cellars PETS Petite Sirah. While pets is a nickname often given to petite sirah by winemakers, this bottle earns its moniker equally from Tanker, the dog pictured on the label. I loved the wine, then promptly forgot about it as snookums and I went home full of wine and spaghetti for a little more romance.

Fast forward to last month. I have no idea where I was shopping at the time, but lo and behold there was a bottle of the stuff. I was instantly reminded of low-lit Emmy's, with their reggae DJs and killer focaccia, and the warmth of the wine. I bought a bottle of the '05.

We drank it last night, and it didn't disappoint. It wasn't, however, as soft and luscious as I remember it. It poured almost black—an incredibly dark red, inky glass of wine—and almost knocked me out with its smell. The alcohol (14% ABV) and the fruits hit at the same time. Ripe red and black berries, some cassis and some spiceness hinted at what was to come.

I have to admit my heart sunk slightly as I took the first sip. Granted, I was drinking this first glass about ten minutes after opening the bottle, but the structure just wasn't what I'd hoped for. I wanted soft, round tannins but for that I would have to let this one rest for a while. Even after an hour, they were still a little sharp for my taste, although not surprising for the grape—really, I should have known better than to get my hopes up. Petite sirah is typically a tannic wine, and the best way to mellow it is to age the bottle substantially. Tannins are a personal preference, and I like mine present but soft.

For flavor, on the other hand, this bottle was fantastic. The jammy fruits I had sniffed earlier were still there, but more pronounced was the spice. That pepperiness may have been blown up by the tannins, but it made this wine ideal with my balsamic vinaigrette-dressed spinach salad. I would have liked a little more earthiness, I think, to anchor it and make it all a little easier to drink. As it was, I could only get through a couple of glasses (which is just fine on a school night these days). But next time, I think it needs food with a little more bite to it—too bad I don't eat meat.

There's something else about the PETS that really appeals to me, though. Remember that dog I mentioned, Tanker? A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this wine—and they've been making it for years—goes to the SF SPCA and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In fact, according to the Vinum website, they have managed to donate over $25,000 to these and other organizations to date. That alone makes this wine worth the price of admission ($12-$20), and you'll end up with a bottle of serious fruit and spice to boot.

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