Continuing the Conservancy Tour: Concannon Petite Sirah

It’s been awhile since we’ve shared some music here, hasn’t it? I shared this band recently on Twitter on my personal account, but I didn’t link to a full song by them. They’re called Glacier Hiking, a straight-up mellow rock side project by adult pop artist Tommy Walters, frontman for the band Abandoned Pools. They’ve only released a 5-song EP in their history, but if you want more in this style, definitely check out Abandoned Pools as well.

Concannon 2008 Conservancy Petite Sirah

2008 Concannon Conservancy Petite SirahThe wine’s color is the most striking aspect, a deep, inky reddish purple, not quite as much purple as you’d typically expect from a Petite Sirah.

The nose hits you first with its alcohol heat, a bit strong but not noxious. The more subtler notes on the nose are very juicy, dark fruits, blueberry and blackberry, and there’s even a hint of coffee there.

The mouth feel of the wine doesn’t really impress, more watery than round. The flavors are a bit woody and green as well, with blackberry and milk chocolate as the prominent notes. The chocolate smacks of a certain oakiness as well, but it doesn’t feel saturated with the oak flavor overall. I might not have minded a little more oak in this wine just to round it out a bit… The finish is short, chocolately, with a touch of graphite.

This wine is emblematic of what might not go right for a Petite Sirah. The tannins are lacking, both in strength and fullness, the acidity a bit too high even for a Petitie Sirah, and the flavors very subdued. It’s far from the juicy fruit-bomb you’d expect from this grape in California, with more delicate flavors and an astringency delivered from the imbalance in acidity and tannins.

It’s difficult to get Petite Sirah just right at this price point, but there are still a few better options out there at this price point for this style of grape. 4/10

This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review.

On Second Thought

The wine’s still got a good base structure from the alcohol and acidity, it just needs some extra flavor. After I finished my tasting, I used half of the bottle to create a mulled wine. I set up my crock pot and poured the wine in, then cut it with about 5 more ounces of water. I tossed in a pack of mulling spices and about a half of a third of a cup of brown sugar, let it heat on medium heat for about 1 hour, and had an absolutely delicious experience for the evening. I imagine you could also do a good sangria with this one.

The Wine: Conservancy Petite Sirah

Producer: Concannon Vineyards

Vintage: 2008

Region: Livermore Valley, California, US

Varieties: 100% Petite Sirah

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: $12

Going Against the Grape: Wine-Based Mixed Drinks

What we are about to embark upon will surely offend the sensibilities of the more fastidious wine critics in the world. We are going to taint the purity of fine wine with the basest of mixers and bourgeois liquors. We are going to desecrate months of hard work and careful planning by treating a glass of wine like a shot of tequila. Is everyone ready?

The Wines

2008 Traza RiojaThe two victims of our experimentations are the 2008 Traza Gra2, a 100% Graciano Rioja, and the 2009 Walnut Block Wines Sauvignon Blanc.

The Traza Gra2, crafted by David Sampredo of the collective Vinos Sin-Ley (translated as “wines without laws”), is a rich, perfumey red with a very deep, complex purplish-red color. Red and dark fruits accompanied by just a touch of spice accent a relatively full body. Good balance, bone-dry, and velvety tannins make it a good, pleasant Rioja experience for around $15.

The Walnut Block Wines Sauvignon Blanc is a bright, juicy, prototypical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Rich grapefruit, lime zest, and very prominent herbal undertones match very well with just a touch of sweetness and a ripe acidity. The color is striking, with an almost colorless silver luminosity, just a tinge of greenish-gold. It’s $11 and worth every penny.

Both wines were purchased from Hillsborough Wine Company in Hillsborough, NC.

Now that we’re acquainted with the victims, let’s look at the mixed drinks we will be attempting to create in the mad mixologist’s lair:


The first drink we tried was the Kalimotxo (pronounced Cah-lee-moh-cho), which is a fairly simple concoction with Basque origins. The recipe is as follows:

3 parts red wine

1 part Coca-Cola

Pour the red wine over a glass of ice, then add the Coca-Cola. Stir. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge. Simple.

We tried this in the tasting with the Rioja, but there was just something slightly off about the flavor. After a second attempt at making this cocktail with a 2007 Mr. Black’s Concoction Shiraz, I came to the conclusion that a stronger, fuller, juicier wine makes for a more delicious cocktail, and at 15.9% with bountiful dark fruits, Mr. Black’s Concoction was exactly what I wanted. Avoid lighter reds and avoid adding too much cola to keep this drink in check. The lighter the red wine you use, the less cola you should add to compensate for the more delicate flavors. Too much fizz, and the drink will devolve into a bitter experience.

White Wine Mai-Tai

While not a true Mai-Tai (a Mai-Tai is neither pink in color nor this simple to create), this drink is nevertheless a delicious and surprisingly potent addition to your bartending repertoire. Here’s the recipe:

1 part clear rum

1 part white wine

splash of grenadine

Mix all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker. Pour over a glass full of ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge or a maraschino cherry.

Because the rum flavor is so heavily featured in this drink, you need to splurge and go one step above Bacardi to get the full experience. For the white wine, go with something full, dry and juicy, something along the lines of a Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, or Picpoul de Pinet would work well here. If you go off-dry, the sweetness combined with the grenadine will overwhelm the delicate wine flavors in the drink and turn it into a syrupy mess.

Take it easy with this one. Because you’re mixing alcohol with more alcohol, it’s going to be a lot more potent than most mixed drinks, up near 30% alcohol, and you won’t hardly be able to taste it. One or two of these will be good for an afternoon on the beach.

A Pleasant Surprise

While preparing for this experiment, I of course paid a visit to the local ABC store. There, I happened upon one of the biggest surprises of my alcohol-consuming life. The clerk saw me browsing the rum section and asked me if I needed any help. When I told him about my plans for the tasting, he handed me this bottle, saying that it was by far the best rum in the shop. There were 2 or 3 rums at a higher price point, but I took him at his word on it.

It’s lucky that I’m such a trusting person because this truly was one of the best rums I have tasted. This is a rum that’s built for sipping. I almost felt guilty blending it with the wine because of how pure and clean it tasted. Flavors of sugarcane, vanilla, banana, and molasses. It’s perfectly suited to tropical mixed drinks, especially if you’re looking to go heavy on the rum. I wouldn’t waste this rum on mixing with cola. Leave that to the Bacardis of the world.

I paid about $40 for this rum, and it’s freely available online at that price if you’d like to give it a try. For another look at it, hop on over to the Drinkhacker review. I don’t have much experience with liquor tasting, and a more trained palate can provide a better review than mine.

The Conclusion

What I learned from this experiment is that, despite the thirst for purity in the wine industry, there are other alternatives for wine use outside of cooking. Depending on the descriptors of a wine, it could make a pretty tasty cocktail. Now I turn to you, dear readers, for help. I’ve only scratched the surface of mixing wine. Have any of you given these a try? What other delicious concoctions have you heard of or produced with your favorite wine? My weekend is in your hands.


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