I have a soft place in my heart for off-the-beaten-path wine regions. Of course, they have to make good wine! I've been to the Jura in France and vineyards on Greece's Crete, and I'm planning to drive through the Somontano district of northern Spain on my next vacation. My home state of California has plenty of qualifying districts also, and one that I know fairly well is Lake County.
This region, located north of Napa Valley, has vineyards set in a beautiful landscape framed by volcanic uplands, and its valleys (where the vines are planted) are dotted with oak trees and fringed by coniferous forests. A real piece of old California. One of the historic producers is Langtry Estate (founded by actress Lillie Langtry in the late 1800s), and when hunting for a good red from California last weekend, I purchased its Guenoc label's 2006 Petite Sirah for just $14 a bottle.
Petite Sirah first came to California in the late 1800s and was once commonly planted along with other red varieties such as Zinfandel and Mataro (Mourvèdre) to make field blends. More recently, plant geneticists have uncovered the fact that Petite Sirah is actually the French grape Durif.
The Guenoc bottling was rich and Zin-like, with a fruit aroma that led into blueberry, kirsch and dark plum flavors that were accented by spice and oak notes on the finish. Unlike the Petite Sirahs of my youth, its tannins were in control, and with some air it really blossomed in the glass. The wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak, and it should age nicely over the next few years. It's a bit of old California with a modern twist. I rated it 88 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah 2006 (86, $20)
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Petite Sirahs.