PS I Love You: Dark and Delicious Sierra Foothills Petite Sirah from Cantara, Kehret, Lava Cap #WinePW

Lava Cap, Kehret, Cantara Petite Sirah

Working at the outdoors tasting table at Ridge Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the mid-80s is where and when I first sampled Petite Sirah. While the wines might have come from Paso Robles or Sonoma, to my memory these juicy, rich, dark, delicious wines came from California’s “gold country” — the Sierra Foothills like Amador and El Dorado Counties. I also remember the wines being high in alcohol, and I had to be wary while working to make sure I’d get down the hill safely and to my job at Stanford Hospital in patient transport! 

Fast forward a few years, and a few adventures, and soon I was back in the wine business as a writer where, in 2009, I met Jo Diaz when we traveled together to Portugal’s Alentejo.

While I learned a lot about wine on that trip, I also learned that Jo Diaz is quite a powerhouse who published blog posts five times a week for many years in addition to writing for clients. But Jo is not just a powerhouse in wine PR. She worked in radio on the east coast, and then in wine on the west. She also managed and taught in a beauty school, and she did anything and everything she needed to do to keep food on her table for herself and her daughters as a single mom. I admire how nothing was beneath her– that you do what you need to do to accomplish your bigger goals. 

Dark and Delicious at Rock Wall Winery (Wine Predator in the purple cap)

In Portugal, I discovered Jo’s passion for family– and for Petite Sirah– a passion which fueled her work with her non-profit industry advocacy group PS I Love You founded in 2002, over 20 years ago (that’s also the year she founded In 2002, she also founded the Association of African American Vintners). For many years she organized annual P.S. I Love You events including the Petit Sirah Symposium held in summer, and Dark and Delicious, a tasting event held in February. 

PS I Love You

Read insights from the Petite Sirah Symposium

Since Que Syrah Sue is also a fan of Petite Sirah, we’ve enjoyed writing about and pairing Petite Sirah many times over the years.

So P.S. I Love You — and you too Jo Diaz! Happy Women’s History Month! Jo, you are definitely worth celebrating as one of the first women publicists in the world of wine and one of the original — starting in 2005!–and most prolific wine bloggers! 

Petite Sirah and pairings


  • 2017 Lava Cap Petite Sirah Reserve

  • 2016 Kehret Vineyards Petite Sirah

  • 2010 Cantara Petite Sirah, Lodi


In honor of the Italian immigrants who brought cuttings, planted grapes, and made wine in the Sierra Foothills:

  • cheese board 
  • citrus salad with fried prosciutto 
  • Watkins Ranch Italian sausage with red sauce 


2017 Lava Cap Petite Sirah Reserve

2017 Lava Cap Petite Sirah Reserve

ABV: 15.4%
Grapes: Petite Sirah
Sue purchased this wine when she visited and tasted there.

Lava Cap is a third generation family farm located at 2700′ in the Sierra Foothills with complex soils. Sue and I visited in 2021. 

Appearance:  Plum, ruby rim, looks youthful

Aroma: Blueberries, cloves Sierra spice (the garraigue of the Sierra Foothills) The land is infused with the food up there and influences how the wine smells and tastes. Baking spice, Sue found snickerdoodle cookies, I agreed and along with the cinnamon and sugar, I could identify cream of tarter. The alcohol is apparent on the nose, but because there are so many other things going on, it is not overwhelming.

Palate: Very tart blue fruit, big tannins, blueberry pie, the taste of the crust and the baked blue fruit is evident. The nose is much more intriguing than the wine on the palate without food being present. Pine needle finish. Very dry like pine needles. This is a very big wine, not intended for the faint of heart. 

Pairing: So funny that the almonds on our cheese palate did not do the wine any favors. It made the almond taste like it was green. Really good with the Coppa, Sue liked a bite of blue cheese and a bite of dried cherries with the wine, but it did not do for me. She explained that the salt and cream of the cheese combined with the tart sweet cherry brought out more fruit in the wine. I thought that I wanted a cheesey rich pizza with this wine wanting the richness and creaminess of the cheese. Sue felt that it needed a grilled meat like a dry rubbed rib. 

Kehret PS

2016 Kehret Vineyards Petite Sirah

ABV: 14.3%
SRP: $38
Grapes: Petite Sirah
sample for review

Grown high up on Mt. Aukum on gravelly, granite soils. Sue and I visited Kehret in 2021. What a view! 

Appearance:  Ruby on the way to garnet, mauve rim

Aroma: This wine changes even with a brief amount of time in the glass, like spin the bottle, each time you swirl something else comes around, blue fruit, cranberry, pine needles, earth, iron, 

Palate: Plum fruit, plum skin, a bit of blue fruit, the plum fruit and the tart plum skin plays on the palate from beginning to end. This wine is very drying on the palate. Big minerals in this wine, beginning middle and end, such an interesting minerality and the way that the minerality plays with the fruit and the tannins and the structure. 

Pairing: On our cheese plate, the espresso coated gouda was nice, good with the blue cheese. It brings out the salt in the cheese and the fruit in the wine. Nice with the raw almonds We immediately thought about how good the wine would be with a bacon wrapped filet topped with blue cheese. The Kehret becomes so assessable with food. The wine is so smooth with the sausage pasta. The wine loves the fresh fennel and the rich tomato soaked sausage. The entire dish tames the tart flavors of the wine making it a smooth rich pairing. 

2010 Cantara Petite Sirah, Lodi

2010 Cantara Petite Sirah, Lodi

ABV: 15.0%
SRP: No longer available
Grapes: Petite Sirah
sample for review came from Sue’s cellar 

Cantara‘s Mike Brown’s mom lived in Lodi where she had Chardonnay grapes on her property. One thing led to another and soon Mike and Chris were making wine in their garage located on a street called Cantara. Read my interview with Chris Brown here.

Appearance:  Very dense plum, like a Santa Rosa plum, the dark denseness of the skin is the body of the wine and the bright reddish middle of the fruit is on the rim. 

Aroma: Plum pie, vanilla, baking spice, Hooka plum tobacco, river mud, riverside, down in the delta, fresh plum, there are layers of aroma in this wine, the aroma is enhanced by food, the combination of the herbs and the fruit is even more apparent with food on the palate. 

Palate: This wine still has tannins, fruit and acidity, There is a lot of there there. Cocoa, mocha, espresso powder, blue  fruit, fresh blueberries at the front of the palate as well as a lingering blue fruit on the finish. 

Pairing: The blue cheese and the wine is so fantastic with the wine. The cheese melts in the mouth, the acidity and tannins tango with the cheese creating a fantastic experience. The combination of the two brings out the rich mocha creaminess. We also had some barely buzzed espresso coated gouda and that was fantastic as well marrying the flavors of espresso in both the cheese and the wine as well as bringing out a youthfulness in the wine. We had Coppa on our cheese plate which was great with the wine, if you can’t find Coppa serve it with a little pepper coated salami. The sausage enveloped with the umami of the tomato that has been stewed and integrated into the flavor of the sausage is just stellar with the wine bringing out the blue fruit. We thought about how great eggplant Parmesan would be with the wine loving the rich creamy umami of the dish to marry the smooth richness of the wine. 

Sue talked about how special the 2010 vintage was at Cantara. This wine definatibly  represents this. Amazing how an older wine has such vitality. 

For more Petite Sirah, check out these offerings from the Wine Pairing Weekend crew: 

No twitter chat this month; instead there’s ZOOM but you have to register in advance on the Facebook Petite Sirah event page. 

Next month, on April 8, Sue and I host “Local Wine. Local Food.” Stay tuned for the invite!

7 thoughts on “PS I Love You: Dark and Delicious Sierra Foothills Petite Sirah from Cantara, Kehret, Lava Cap #WinePW

  1. It’s too bad your photos didn’t transfer. I always enjoy looking at the gorgeous meals you share. I love the information about the PS I Love You organization. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m surprised the photos didn’t transfer. Sometimes the instagram links don’t load correctly and so you have two click on them. PS now you know why I wanted to use PS I Love You in the title– because I wanted to honor Jo Diaz and that history.


Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s