Pillars of Hercules: A BIG Red Wine

pillars of hercules matchbook wine

This weekend, Matchbook Wine Company, in Zamora, is hosting a kick-off party this coming Saturday to celebrate the release of their much anticipated Pillars of Hercules 2019 Estate Red Blend. I got a sneak peak this week.

Grown on the Giguiere Estate in Yolo County, the grapes for this wine comprise a blend of 63% Petite Sirah, 24% Petite Verdot and 13% Teroldego. “Strong, muscular, massive—words that define Hercules when he planted two pillars astride the parting of the Strait of Gibraltar, opening the old world to the new. Ancient myths define our modern world. When Matchbook set out to create a powerhouse wine, we chose the two pillars of strength from the Dunnigan Hills appellation—Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot. These two bold, robust 90-point wines anchor our Pillars of Hercules.”

Petite Sirah, sometimes referred to as Durif, is a grape that produces wines that are opaque, nearly black in color. Botanists believe it to be the result of a crossing of Syrah and Peloursin (a nearly extinct French variety). The word “petite” in the name is somewhat deceiving, leading many to believe it to be a baby version of Syrah. In fact, the “petite” moniker is descriptive in that it refers to the berry size. The grapes are smaller, meaning that there is a higher ratio of skin and seeds to flesh, resulting in a wine that is intensely colored (pigment is concentrated in grape skins) and dry (due to tannins that are found in the skins, stems and seeds). California grows most of the world’s Petite Sirah, and is considered by some to be California’s second “heritage varietal” after Zinfandel.

The second major player in Pillars of Hercules is Petit Verdot, which is thought to be one of the “first varieties originally planted in Bordeaux by ancient Romans” and has long been used in the blends of Bordeaux. Like Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot’s name is descriptive and means “little green one” as it is a grape that ripens later than others. It benefits from a warm, long growing season and is ideally suited to Dunnigan Hills. Typically, Petit Verdot wines are deep in color, firmly structured and offer up notes of violets, black and blue fruits and spice.

Finally, we come to the last component in this wine. Teroldego, according to Greg Giguiere, Director of Vineyard Operations at the Giguiere Estate is “a sun-worshipping grape, jam-packed with spicy red fruits and snappy acidity that expresses our warm Mediterranean climate.”

The blend of these three varieties produces a wine that is inky and almost black. On first inspection, notes of blueberry, dark chocolate and black pepper waft up through the glass. The first sip is juicy and ripe up front, and the finish is firm with dusty tannins. With a little time (I let my glass sit for about 45 minutes), this beast of a red wine starts to mellow and tame. It invites you back in with the hint of violets, black raspberries and vanilla cream. Then, the next taste reveals a harmonious and lush mouthfeel as the wine continues to open up and soften. As the tagline on the back label reads, this is “a BIG red wine” and more than worth its $14.99 price tag.

If you’d like to make a reservation for the inaugural release party for this wine, happening this Saturday, March 27, please contact Matchbook Wine Company.