One of the most robust red wines you're likely to run across is Petite Sirah.
Grown primarily in California, Petite Sirah is a French variety that is a cross of Syrah and Peloursin, an obscure grape. It gets its name because the actual grapes are small, even though the resulting wine tends to be big, bold and tannic.
As recently as a decade ago, it would have been difficult to find a Petite Sirah from the Northwest. Today, at least 20 different examples are made.
Here are a few examples we've tried recently. All are made in small amounts, so ask at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 Vineyard Series Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, $28: This opens with big, dark aromas of chocolate cake, espresso, black licorice and boysenberry. On the palate, it shows its strength with thick, dark flavors of ripe plum, coffee, maple syrup and dark chocolate.
Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, $40: Red Rhone expert Ron Bunnell crafts a big, plush wine that emphasizes richness over power. It opens with aromas of caramel, boysenberry syrup and toast, followed by a rich entry that gives way to flavors of sweet dark fruit, mocha, coffee and inky plum.
Smasne Cellars 2011 Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, $44: This opens with aromas that reminded us of fresh-from-the-oven brownies, rich plum and oak, followed by dark flavors of blackberry, allspice, mincemeat and chocolate cake.
Fraser Vineyard 2011 Petite Sirah, Snake River Valley, $30: There are a handful of Petite Sirah producers in Idaho, and this begins with a big, bold, thick, dark red with aromas of caramel, molasses, plum and blackberry. On the palate, it's loaded with flavors of plum, blackberry, boysenberry, coffee, black pepper and tobacco.
Northwest Cellars 2011 Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, $32: This rich wine opens with aromas of oak, licorice, leather and plum, followed by extracted flavors of dark plum and blackberry. Hints of allspice and green tea give way to a big finish.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company: www.greatnorthwestwine.com.