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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

An Aged Petite Sirah Discovered in the Cellar

Markham Petite Sirah Napa Valley 1995

James Laube
Posted: October 20, 2009

This wine ended up buried in a bin of oldies in my cellar. But I expected Markham's Petite Sirah would hold up and had set it aside years ago to taste it aged. I was happy to rediscover it the other night when I was looking for a wine to go with pasta Bolognese. Drinking nicely now, this wine is Barolo-like with its tar, green and black olive, spice and dried herb notes, ending with firm tannins that give the flavors traction. I gave it 83 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Markham Petite Sirah Napa Valley 1995 (92, $17 on release).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Petite Sirahs.

Paul M Hummel
Chicago, —  October 20, 2009 7:29am ET
Why only 83 points? how did the wine change with age ?

Is it just a decrease in fruitiness?

I tend to keep things a long time.
Greg Flanagan
Bethel CT —  October 20, 2009 9:08am ET
Wow...love the retrospective work James!!! The more and more I learn/taste and the more and more I read (mostly your work) it becomes apparent that we should live in the moment and NOT hold onto too many wines....

I know this wine was outside the suggested window...but as Paul asks---what happened to it? Did the plum and cherry "turn" to the tar/black olive? Did the tannins fade to black? The acidity?...oh, and another question--what about the alcohol content? does that change that much over time? and if so---what happens?

The answers/explanations will help me (and numerous others) to better understand what happens to the fruit/flavors/color/aroma/etc.....thanks....
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 20, 2009 10:46am ET
This wine became less interesting and complex with air, making it merely a good wine and nothing special, and in the end not a wine worth cellaring -- for me. Greg, alcohol content remains the same, and depending on the wine and style, most wines begin to change from their initial fruitiness to more complex, or secondary flavors within a few years. It's important as a consumer to determine when you best like to drink your wines, earlier and fruitier (like me most of the time), or with more bottle development in hopes the flavors develop in a positive way.
Christopher Dunn
Hawaii —  October 21, 2009 2:38am ET
James, the comments in your blog ("Drinking nicely now, this wine is Barolo-like with its tar, green and black olive, spice and dried herb notes, ending with firm tannins that give the flavors traction") if published in WS would urge me go out and look for this wine. However, your response to other member comments ("merely a good wine and nothing special") is at complete odds with your original post. Why not include the latter unflattering notes in your blog post? How are we readers to take reviewer's comments when they can be so contradictory?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 21, 2009 11:51am ET
Christopher, I had mixed emotions about this wine and occasionally do with older wines. I certainly wanted to like it (having bought and cellared it for a decade) and found the initial aromas enticing. But with time and air it became less interesting, ending on a more drying note with the tannins I mentioned. At the end of the evening I found the wine fell short of being special, at one point fun to see how it had evolved with its tar and olive scents yet coming up short on depth on the palate.
Christopher Dunn
Hawaii —  October 22, 2009 1:28am ET
Thanks for the further comments, James.
LAKE SHERWOOD, CA —  May 10, 2013 8:06pm ET
Just read on SNOOTH site a most recent article from Fred Swan on a quite interesting PS tasting that included..... a 1965 Concannon from a private cellar.
His verdict: "This Petite stole the show.....the wine was mind-bendingly complex......the wine's intensity lasted all night in our glasses"
Wish we were there....
Though, he concluded: "Wines tend to be build differently today and few, if any, can last this long but the variety does have that potential.

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