Petite Sirah

  • Aged Wines: Old and Not So Old

    December 21, 2018 09:51

    Aged Wines: Old and Not So Old

    50 years is a long time to store wine-and we have a few bottles tucked away in our cellar from our earliest vintage dated wines which began in 1965. Even 15 years is considered a long time since most people who buy wine consume it within a few weeks of purchase. We have the convenience, longevity and a warehouse where we can take a save a few cases from each vintage and store them away for education and enjoyment years later.

    Wine blogger Gabe Sasso visited the Dry Creek Valley in December. His focus this trip was on Petite Sirah. He wanted to know more about Pedroncelli’s long relationship with this singular grape. We pulled together some information and Ed put together a vertical of the wines ranging from the first year made (1997) to a barrel sample of the 2017. Not every year but a nice range with an average of 15 years old. We used Petite Sirah previous to 1997 as a blending grape with Zinfandel and other wines.

    During our pre-meeting chat I mentioned if we really wanted to throw in a ringer we should include one of our pre-1975 Pinot Noirs. Wine Geek Fact: the ruling came down from the government that the varietal shown on the label should be 75% of what is in the bottle. Before this the varietal on the label could be made up of other grapes and in larger percentages. In the instance of the 1969 Pinot Noir we poured it was about 50-50 Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah.

    We had been growing Pinot Noir on the home ranch but it wasn’t the right spot. Just as we were pulling up Pinot Noir and replanting with Zinfandel a fellow named Frank Johnson was pulling out orchards and planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the very south area of what is now defined as Dry Creek Valley (DCV was named an American Viticultural Area in 1983) but from his vineyard you are a rock’s throw to the Russian River Valley. We began buying fruit from him in the early 1980s. Today we still bring in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this vineyard.

    Petite Sirah has been woven into our story since the early days. Most vineyards were field blends and along with the varietals of the day like Zinfandel they also included Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and even Golden Chasselas and Riesling. All of these were picked and fermented together. It wasn’t until later on, well after Prohibition, that the varietal itself was on the label. This hearty grape is known for giving what I call backbone to the wine-and depth of color too.

    A few years ago wine writer Dan Berger advocated that this grape would make wines which age longer than Cabernet Sauvignon! I agree it is one for the cellar. So we found ourselves tasting 50 to 15 year old Petite Sirah with life still in them-fruit, acid, structure and the tannins just beginning to soften in the youngsters. A wonderful opportunity to revisit these old and not-so-old vintages. Cheers with a splash of Petite Sirah in my Dino!

  • Varietally Speaking: Petite Sirah

    May 22, 2015 16:39

    As I continue the series about varietals we grow, the focus is on Petite Sirah. This wine grape is an important part of Dry Creek Valley’s grape-growing history although it has been in the shadow of Zinfandel all along, being a supporting player when blended. Adding deeper tannin, color and structure to our Zins, it is a delicious wine on its own. It has also been growing on my cousin’s vineyard (Bushnell) and we make a Family Vineyards blend of the two. Let’s step back and take a look at the grape itself. There is a bit of a mystery why it is called Petite Sirah but I can tell you it is the love child of Sirah and Peloursin and known in France as Durif. While the name and pedigree can be confusing, thank heavens they didn’t try to name it Peloursin Sirah. Looking at the grape acreage planted in California there is a sum total of 9576 acres and I was surprised at the amount planted in Sonoma County-I thought we would have led in number of acres but at 650 we are in the middle of the pack. Between our vineyard and the Bushnell vineyard we have 7 acres and this provides blending opportunities as well as a stand-alone offering. There are a couple of distinctive qualities about this grape as it has small berries and tightly packed bunches. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah has a small amount of juice to skin ratio and the deep purple bunches produce what I call a ‘bruiser’ of a wine-deep and inky with chalky tannins. In fact it is the wine of choice to age-and some experts say it ages better and longer in the cellar than Cabernet Sauvignon! For more about this intriguing grape you should visit PS I Love You-a winery and grower organization support group. To add one more antidote: PSILY once held a Blue Tooth Tour-proof this wine stains more than your glass. A toast to blending in and standing out, only Petite Sirah can do it.

    Our Petite Sirah vineyard is located on our home ranch, where it has thrived since the earlier 1900s.

    Petite Sirah grape bunch



  • Make Way, make way

    October 9, 2014 15:14

    We don’t replant too often on our home ranch. Our 20-year-old Petite Sirah vineyard had come to an end because of an extensive virus and was pulled up last year to make way for a new planting. Before we pulled up the old fading vineyard (which was really quite lovely in the fall with its' scarlet leaves) we had already replanted a section equal in size across Canyon Creek to this grape. We now have a very healthy five year old vineyard producing some great fruit. So what do we do with this bare hillside? First we let the soil rest for over a year. Shortly after this year’s harvest, our Vineyard Manager Lance says he’ll be planting rootstock, the foundation of all vineyards. He chose St. George rootstock because it is a more vigorous one for hillsides—which can be tough on vine growth. Next we’ll have to decide what varietal we’ll want to plant. The budwood will be grafted onto the rootstock next year. We won’t expect a full crop off of this vineyard for 4-5 years and it will reach maturity in 7.  Leave a comment below, and if you guess the correct varietal when the vines are planted I’ll send you a little memento.

    In the photo below, the old Petite Sirah is below the yellow vines (Sangiovese) on the left. A toast to new plantings in my Dino!

    Petite Sirah and Sangiovese