PICK of the RACK: Sheldon Wines | Petite Sirah | “Deviant Velocity” | Ripken Vineyard | Lodi AVA | California | 2007 | $28 | 90 pts

SheldonAromas: lushly aromatic, with notions of black raspberry, vanilla bean, black tea & lavender
Character: dry; medium-full bodied; lean & elegant; moderate acidity & tannins; unfiltered; 13.6% ABV 
Flavors: earthy, with notions of blackberry, cured tobacco, cocoa & graphite
Food Pairing: medium to sharp cheeses; roasted meats & vegetables; dark chocolate

Sheldon’s Deviant Velocity may very well be the most unusual Petite Sirah we have ever tasted.  Unusual, that is, in that it belies the profile that is typically associated with New World renditions the variety — fruit-driven, dense, intense, and rustic. This wine stands as a counterpoint to that style, as it is earth-driven, lean, temperate, and elegant.  Particularly noteworthy are the wine’s aromatics, which all but leap from the glass; and on the palate it somehow feels more Old World than New.  The wine’s character just may have something to do with where the grapes are grown.  Sheldon derives its Petite Sirah from the “Guard Road” block of Ripken Vineyard in the southwest corner of the Lodi AVA, at 19 feet below sea level in sandy soils rich in iron and calcium.  The site is around 10 degrees cooler than other growing areas of the Lodi appellation.  The wine’s nurturing merits some mention, as well.  After cool fermentation, Sheldon ages the wine in neutral French oak barrels and bottles it without fining or filtration — methods that allow the fruit to express itself naturally.  We highly recommend Sheldon’s Deviant Velocity as a delicious deviation from the norm.

Availability:  Sheldon produced only 325 cases of the 2007 Deviant Velocity, so national distribution is limited.  We were fortunate to have found it at The Grape and Ale wine shop on Oak Island Drive in Oak Island, North Carolina (www.thegrapeandale.com).  The wine is also available directly from the winery, of course, so we encourage you to visit them virtually at www.sheldonwines.com, call them at 707-865-6755, or drop by their tasting room at 1301 Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa, California.

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