What: Cloudlift Cellars Stratus Petit Verdot Columbia Valley 2012 $32
Why: Petit verdot is one of the five red grape varieties used in Bordeaux-style blends, with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, and cabernet franc being the others. The grape ripens late in harvest and in cool years doesn’t ripen at all. It is often known for its high acidity (think biting into a lemon) and firm tannins (think drinking a cup of black tea). For this reason, it is most often used as a minor blending component to give a wine some additional heft.
There are a scant 310 acres of petit verdot in Washington. The variety does extremely well here, with the Columbia Valley’s consistently hot summers ideal for ripening the grape. However, as in France, it is most often seen in Bordeaux-style blends rather than as a standalone wine.
An exception—and an exceptional wine—comes from Cloudlift Cellars. The 2012 Cloudlift Cellars Stratus Petit Verdot Columbia Valley ($32) brings bountiful aromas of fresh and dried herbs, along with graphite, potting soil, and flowers – all classic hallmarks for the variety. The flavors are rich, and the tannins - often overpowering in the variety – are notable but have been tamed. It’s about as good as the variety gets.