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Photo Credit: Dan Watkins

If you’re looking for a potion to warm you on a January night, the misleadingly named petite sirah (not at all petite, not syrah) may be just the thing. This big California red regularly tips the scales at over 14 percent alcohol, but in recent years, winemakers have learned how to tame the beast. Today, the best examples are so concentrated with black fruit flavors that they achieve harmony and balance. The following blind-tasting winners are worth a look, especially if you need a match for a hearty stew on a wintry evening.

Two Angels Petite Sirah, High Valley, 2007 ($18, Wine Emporium)
This blockbuster comes from a mountain vineyard. Opaque in color, there’s a lush, velvety richness and distinctive notes of black pepper and licorice to accent the chocolaty, plummy fruit. Here’s a delicious wine that shows off what petite sirah does best: provide intense flavor without the mouth-gripping tannins you might expect.

Bogle Petite Sirah, California, 2010 ($12, Marty’s, Newton)
A huge bargain, this petite sirah is sourced from Sacramento Delta vineyards. It has a smoky, fruity aroma along with that signature black pepper note. It’s velvety and soft on the palate with a supple richness. The tannins are mild, and the flavors exude crushed red and black berries. This could be one of the better retail bargains of the season.

Girard Petite Sirah, Napa Valley, 2010 ($30, Bauer Wine and Spirits)
This is a massive, mouth-filling wine that shows the gamey, meaty side of the grape. An old vine blend with flavors of wild mushroom, bacon and the same dark chocolate lushness you find in other petite sirahs, the Girard also features substantial tannins. It’s a handcrafted, extremely full-bodied wine aged 19 months in barrel to soften its intensity. A great candidate for collecting, this bottle will mellow and develop some finesse over a decade in the cellar.

Master of Wine Sandy Block is vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.