Weekend Wines: Try a deliciously fruity $10 California red

March 15, 2013 at 5:44 PM ET

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Petite syrah, a lesser-known California wine, is both versatile and affordable.

I was reminded this week of what may be the great sleeper among California wines. Amid oceans of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and even pinot noir these days, there is the “other” grape. We’re talking about petite sirah.

With its signature plum and spice notes, it offers a distinctive alternative to better-known varieties. And it can be impressive even at the value end of the spectrum, a fact that is demonstrated by two new releases from Concannon, the big Livermore Valley vineyard that pioneered this grape half a century ago.

Concannon’s 2011 “Selected Vineyards” Petite Sirah from the Central Coast is a real bargain at $10, not especially complicated but deliciously fruity with bright raspberry and blueberry notes and a touch of mocha. Soft and accessible, it will pair well with lots of meat dishes, including roast pork loin and lamb, as well as a variety of chicken recipes. It’s an excellent wine for everyday drinking.

For a step up, try Concannon’s 2009 “Conservancy” Petite Sirah from the Livermore Valley. This is a bigger and more complex wine with plum, blackberry and blueberry notes along with a touch of vanilla and good deal of spice. There’s more tannic structure here and a bigger oak influence. This one is also an excellent value at just $15 and will work very well with heartier meat dishes, including steak, short ribs and barbecue.

While so many inexpensive California reds don’t offer much dimension, Concannon defies that image with two wines that are interesting, affordable and versatile.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.

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