Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 7, 2021

2017 Theopolis Vineyards, Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise, Red Wine, California.
The extended aged deep purple/garnet 2017 Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise is surprisingly fresh and vibrantly spiced with a smooth full bodied palate of black fruit and showing a delicately perfumed nose making for a wine that was an easy, but serious companion to late meal and cheese plate, while watching the amazing tennis on display in New York for the US Open. This vintage, which was held back in barrel, was made from 50% Petite Sirah, the winery’s signature grape, and the main varietal of their iconic Theopolis terraced vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands, and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, which they sourced from outside their own vines and region, hence the California wine on the label, these Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise bottlings are helping fill out the small collection of hand-crafted wines made by Theodora Lee, which include her awesome estate Petite Sirah, a couple of Pinot Noirs and the rare and unique off dry estate white wine made from the Symphony grape, which is a California crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris that was originally developed back in 1948 by the late Harold Olmo, a noted professor of viticulture at the University of California, Davis. This 2017 flows densely across the palate with blackberries, blueberries, plum and creme de cassis leading the way along with a bright peppery note, subtle florals, mint, sage and anise, as well as a touch of fig, cedar and coco powder. Theodora, who’s fast becoming part of the fabric of the new California wine scene and a modern champion of the Petite Sirah grape, had told me this was a wine I didn’t want to miss, and she was right, I was very impressed with this special edition of her namesake Theo-Patra’s Cuvée, of which only 132 cases were made.

As mentioned and reviewed many times here at Grapelive, the Theopolis Vineyards Estate Petite Sirah is one of the best new versions of this grape in the state, grown in Mendocino County’s Yorkville Highlands. Petite Sirah or Petite Syrah is also known as Durif and originally comes from an accidental crossing of Peloursin and Syrah vines in the southwest of France. Named after the French botanist Francois Durif, who’s nursery is where this happened, the grape saw little success or admiration in its home country, but it has found a welcome home here in California, where it makes a dense and inky wine with incredible aging potential and is great in a blend or as a solo varietal wine. A long and conclusive of DNA study confirmed the grape’s history with a fingerprinting happening at the UC Davis in 1997, that identified Syrah as the source of the pollen that originally crossed with the Peloursin flowers, creating this separate varietal. The grape’s high natural resistance to downy mildew had encouraged its cultivation in the early 20th century in the southern part of France, but as stated, it never really took off there, in fact it extremely hard to find in France, while it has gained more excitement in places like Australia, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, as well as here in California. For the Theopolis Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise the Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon were fermented in separate small lots with hand punch downs and saw a full extraction of color and tannin before being blended and barrel aged a full 48 months before bottling to mature this ripe and powerful wine. Theodora, along with Ed Kurtzman, her winemaking consultant, who is famous for his efforts with Roar and Freeman, decide to use neutral French oak here as to not over toast this tasty wine, which proved an excellent choice and this wine is the better for it, allowing some rustic charm to shine through. Best to enjoy this expressive effort that lingers on with an aftertaste that adds sandalwood, kirsch and dried violets, with robust cuisine and while really delicious now, it should continue to improve over the next two to three years
($36 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive