With the fortune of fair weather The Varietal Show was able to visit with Ken and Susan Piters at Petried Forest Vineyards: As an added bonus I recently reviewed a collection of their delectable wines, some are posted below, others you can read about on this previous blog post. Find them HERE to taste for yourself!
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PETRIFIED FOREST VINEYARDS: TOTEM RIDGE MERLOT 2013-2017
As a bigger, richer and more mouth-filling alternative to the smooth, showy, and easy to drink styles of Merlot commonly made with fruit grown on the valley floor areas of Napa and Sonoma, the dynamic hillside setting of the Totem Ridge in Knights Valley has earned a reputation for producing high-quality fruit with bold flavors, structure, and true mountain fruit character.
Petrified Forest Vineyards 2013 Merlot, Totem Ridge Estate, Knights Valley
In Northern California, the 2013 vintage will be remembered for producing a wide range of rich, flavorful and firm-structured wines that are fascinating to follow as they age. One of the magnificent offerings in the Merlot category is this limited release from Petrified Forest Vineyards, a boutique brand based in the Knights Valley appellation in Sonoma County. Crafted with ultra-premium fruit from the original vines that PFV proprietors Ken and Susan Piters planted at 800-feet on Mount St. Helena in the 1990s, the distinct mountain character of this wine offers a complete sensory experience that begins the minute the cork is pulled and lingers long after the last sip is savored. Guided by an elegant dark garnet color and silky texture, the wine opens with striking aromas of ripe berries, dark fruits and fresh baked blueberry pie, intermixed with lively scents of espresso, almond rocca, and cigar box. To complement the rich flavors of dark cherry, black plum, ripe raspberry and strawberry preserve, the palate is caressed with decadent notes of black truffle, wild sage, chocolate bark and clove. As the depth builds, the earthy tannins are accompanied by hints of toasty oak and almonds dusted with rustic spice on the finish. While the complex nature of this wine shows now, the firm structure makes it worth laying down for another 5-10 years as well.
Food Pairings: Artisan salami, rich cheeses, risotto with wild mushrooms, pan-seared Ahi Tuna with espresso rub, roasted wild boar, prime rib, chocolate truffles with sea salt.Sawyer Somm Score: 94 points
Petrified Forest Vineyards 2014 Merlot, Totem Ridge Estate, Knights Valley
While the seductive scent of ripe berries, interlaced with hints of earth, mineral, cocoa, and toasted oak are comparable to top Merlot-based offerings from the Left Bank in Bordeaux. The deep, dense and stately flavors interwoven with wild mountain herbs and minerals are reminders that this wine is made with world-class grapes grown on a special high-elevation site overlooking Knights Valley in Sonoma County. Rich and powerful with a creamy texture, the dynamic core flavors of dark cherry, black raspberry and wild strawberry are well-integrated with notes of toffee, allspice, silky tannins, and lingering hints of smoke, sandalwood and spice on the long, dry finish. The end result is a complex red wine with true mountain character that over-delivers for the price.
Food Pairings: Hard cheeses, rich soups, wild rice salad with fungi, gnocchi with creamy pesto, gourmet sausage, grilled inch-thick pork chops, slow-roasted veal, juicy steaks, Beef Bourgogne. Sawyer Somm Score: 95 points
Petrified Forest Vineyards 2015 Merlot, Totem Ridge Estate, Knights Valley
Deep, dark and delicious, this is a great example of a high-class Merlot from the 2015 vintage. Although the memorable drought limited grape yields for many growers in Northern California, the maturity of the vines planted in 1990 and attention to detail in the cellar paid off with the intensive, full-bodied flavors that take time to develop in the glass. With a dark crimson hue, this statement wine is graced with scents of ripe red fruits, wild berries, rose petal, raw tobacco, and rustic spices. Dense and concentrated, the palate is filled with robust flavors of black plum, wild strawberry, ripe raspberry and cranberry. With air, the softer, sexier aspects of the wine reveal subtle hints of licorice, cardamom and clove, as well as classic hillside notes of fresh sage, mineral and toasted oak on route to a lingering dry finish. As the flavors evolve, the profile is balanced with a velvety texture, bright acidity and firm backbone, which make the wine taste confident when young and provides the resilience that will allow it to age gracefully for another decade.
Food Pairings: Tangy blue cheese, grilled salmon, lamb sliders, rabbit raviolis, spicy Korean BBQed ribs, juicy steaks, cassoulet, dark chocolate truffles, fine cigars. Sawyer Somm Score: 93 points
Petrified Forest Vineyards 2016 Merlot, Totem Ridge Estate, Knights Valley
From a splendid 2016 vintage, the strength and generous attributes of this Merlot, crafted with world-class fruit from vines planted in volcanic soils on Mount Saint Helena, come to life with attractive aromas of crushed violets, ripe plums, wild red berries and fresh blueberry that mingle with equally enchanting nuances of roasted espresso beans, vanilla, chocolate truffle, and spiced nuts. Deep, dense and sexy, with a dark garnet hue. As the full-bodied flavors become more opulent in the glass, the generous notes of ripe blackberry, black currant, blueberry, licorice, ripe nectarine and fresh herbs are wrapped with earthy tannins and a rich, chocolaty texture. Powerful and showy at first, the profile becomes more elegant, refined, and dense as the savory mountain nuances and hints of cassis lead to a long, pleasurable finish. Decant and enjoy, or cellar for 10 years.
Food Pairings: Gourmet mac n’ cheese, pulled pork sandwiches, spicy meatballs, eggplant parmesan, beef stew, rack of lamb, decadent chocolate desserts. Sawyer Somm Score: 97 points
Petrified Forest Vineyards 2017 Merlot, Totem Ridge Estate, Knights Valley
As a rich and complex expression of the Knights Valley appellation in Sonoma County, this small-production Merlot is crafted with ultra-premium fruit from the original vines planted at 800 feet at Totem Ridge Vineyards in 1990. In the glass, the natural energy of this noble varietal and the personality of this high-elevation site merge seamlessly with lofty floral aromas of potpourri and fresh lavender layered on top of deeper scents of ripe berries, red fruits, fresh currants, licorice, tobacco, leather, and smoked hickory smoke. On the palate, the rich and luxurious notes of blackberry, ripe plum and dark cherry harmonize with hints of mint, black trumpet mushroom, bittersweet chocolate, and a kiss of oak leading to a long, savory-spiced finish. As the bright acidity lifts these flavors; the chewy tannins become more supple and elegant to make the wine approachable when young; while the firm structure provides support for the profile to continue developing in the bottle for another 15 years.
Food Pairings: Earthy cheeses, charcuterie, juicy tri-tip sandwiches, fresh pasta with spicy ragu, grilled salmon, pan-seared duck breast with blackberry sauce, lamb kabobs, slow roasted stews. Sawyer Somm Score: 95 points