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It’s nice to know that are some things in life we can count on. One is the quality and style of Jeff Runquist’s R Petite Sirah from Enver Salman’s outstanding Clarksburg vineyard. Clearly, in 2008 Runquist has once again fashioned from the Enver Salman Vineyard the quintessential California Petite Sirah. An intense purple robe the color of a fully ripened plum is the first sign that the 2008 R Enver Salman Petite Sirah will offer a boatload of pleasure. And just one sniff of this majestic wine is all it takes to be convinced that something special is indeed in the offering. Jammy aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, mocha, and spicy oak caress the nose and assure this wine’s quick disappearance down the gullet. Big, beautiful, and packed with flavor, Runquist’s 2008 Enver Salman Petite Sirah vanishes without much more than a notice, despite 14.9% alcohol and plenty of soft ripe tannins. Its rich black fruits, dark chocolate, and forest woodland flavors all sing their seductive song within a framework of sweet, new oak. From this wine’s auspicious start to its amazingly long finish, there is neither a beat nor a chord remotely out of sync. Moreover, the wine’s intense flavors and impeccable balance of tannins, acid, and alcohol bode well for the future and promise even greater rewards to those who are patient enough to afford it some time in the cellar. In short, the 2008 R Enver Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah is another tour de force in winemaking from Jeff Runquist. We suggest serving this outstanding Petit Sirah at cool room temperature (60°-66° F).
The first time we tasted R Petite Sirah several years ago, one of our senior panel members proclaimed rather emphatically: “You can serve this wine with whatever you want, but I’m drinking mine plain. I’m not going to let anything stand in the way of my idolizing this wine.” Well, not much has changed, except even more bottles of R Enver Salman Petite Sirah disappear before any food is served. In short, Runquist’s 2008 Petite Sirah needs no accompaniment to shine. Nonetheless, a case can be made for discipline and restraint. Artfully prepared meals and hearty, rib sticking fare do provide outstanding companionship to this wine. We suggest serving R Petite Sirah with all kinds of meats and Mediterranean specialties, including game; a thick meaty cassoulet; an herb roasted leg of lamb; Penne a la Siciliana (penne pasta in a very thick fresh tomato sauce, with roasted garlic, eggplant, and herbs), or Piedmontese risotto. Better yet, why not serve R Petite Sirah with a traditional Farmer’s Pasta, a combination of penne pasta, three kinds of cheese, cream, and plenty of pancetta? Hunks of hard, flavorful cheeses such as Parmesan or Provolone also provide outstanding accompaniments to the R Petite Sirah. Enjoy!
R is Jeff Runquist’s passion, pride, and joy. R is, also, the envy of the legion of California winemakers who stay up nights dreaming of making wine their own way and being critically and financially successful in the process. Jeff Runquist is unequivocally one of California’s finest and most consistent producers of Petite Sirah. He is the sole proprietor and winemaker for R and he is the driving force and successful suit behind a number of other premium California wineries, including the McManis Family Vineyards.
“I just want to play the game my way,” has always been Jeff Runquist’s mantra. By this statement he means dedicating himself entirely to the art of winemaking, the way he wants to make wine. With R, Runquist specializes in ultra premium, single vineyard designated, 100% varietal red wines. Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, and increasingly Barbera are Runquist’s specialties and most renowned wines, but he also fashions small quantities of excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Primitivo (the forerunner of Zinfandel).
Runquist has been making wine for more than three decades and the legendary R since 1995. Since inception, R wines have consistently won gold medals in major wine competitions. Each has sold out promptly, leaving the cellar devoid of even a single bottle shortly after release. Critics complain they haven’t even had a chance to taste the R wines before they are sold out. In addition, Runquist spends little time selling wines and even less time marketing them, a rarity today. This scenario is certainly not the norm, but then again Jeff Runquist is not an ordinary winemaker.
Neither R nor Runquist himself own even a single vine. Runquist has no written contracts with any of the great growers and vineyards he sources year after year. Nonetheless, they always provide him with outstanding raw material with which to practice his art and work his magic. And to his credit and the utter amazement of the California wine establishment, Jeff Runquist does not even maintain a tasting room – an omission and unforgivable offense to the large commercial establishments that prey upon the accidental connoisseur and the casual wine tourist. Moreover, Runquist refuses to significantly expand his annual production of R wines for fear of compromising their quality. In fact, his overriding objective is to produce all of his wines in tiny lots. This means producing only 500-2,000 cases at most of each of his main varietals (Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel) and only 100-300 cases of each of his other red varieties. Routinely, this process involves declassifying a third or more of his production each vintage simply because Runquist declares: “If I am not happy with a wine, I don’t bottle it … if I don’t get as big an economic reward, that’s okay. I am happy with the wines made under my label.” Sadly, this is hardly the prevailing philosophy elsewhere in today’s world of wine. However, far be it from us to complain: we are once again the delighted beneficiaries of such arcane practices. Moreover we are the chosen few who actually get to taste a bona fide R wine.
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