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Petite sirah deserves some love

z
zin1953 Apr 1, 2013 06:40 AM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifesty...

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  1. z
    zin1953 Apr 1, 2013 06:43 AM

    Adding my own personal thoughts . . .

    Petite Sirah has long been a favorite of mine -- going back to the Petites produced from the York Creek vineyard in the 1971 vintage by both Paul Draper at Ridge Vineyards and Jerry Luper at Freemark Abbey . . . let alone the (never-commercially-released) 1970 Beringer Petite Sirah that was as good or better than these other two.

    But Concannon Vineyards out in the Livermore Valley produced the first varietal wine from Petite Sirah -- at least in the post-Prohibition Era -- back in 1965, and therein lies at least part of the problem.

    Livermore -- to be blunt -- hasn't really been taken seriously as a top California wine region since the early 1970s by anyone other than the locals. Heck, Wente pushed for the "San Francisco Bay" AVA just to avoid putting "Livermore" on their label. Concannon's Petite was always spicy and flavorful, but it retained some elegance and finesse . . . this, as opposed to the full-blown, inky black, tannic wines made from Petite Sirah by producers like Ridge, Freemark, and other major producers.

    If one looks in any major book, article, review, it's that big, powerful model of Petite that defines the grape/wine. So the more elegant style fell (further) into the backwaters of California wine.

    As times have changed, and people progressed beyond the "so-tannic-as-to-rip-your-lungs-out" and wines like Cabernet Sauvignon -- the other tannic monster of the 1970s -- became fleshy and supple, Petite Sirah stubbornly remained big, tannic, spicy and low in fruit. Again, Petite Sirah fell deeper into the abyss.

    / / / / /

    NOTE: all this ignores the impact of Syrah in California, debuting in 1973 by Joseph Phelps, and how it further pushed Petite into obscurity . . . AND ignores the (deliberate) obfuscation of Fetzer, David Bruce, and others by spelling the grape "Petite Syrah."

    / / / / /

    Bogle may be credited with (almost) single-handedly preserving Petite Sirah, but at the cost of its varietal quality -- Bogle will never be considered a GREAT Petite Sirah, but it's a very good wine, offering great QPR (quality-price ratio).

    On the other hand, some truly EXCELLENT Petites *are* out there, and many get ignored due to the consumers' "stuck-in-a-time-warp" impression that Petite has to be big, bold, powerful, and overwhelmingly tannic. Concannon still makes a delicious estate Petite Sirah out in Livermore, and, my favorite -- Storrs Winery in Santa Cruz, CA -- makes an excellent Petite Sirah from an old vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Indeed, coincidentally to this thread, I had the 2006 last week with a hangar steak and it was perfect . . .

    (In the FWIW Mode, it's a multiple Gold Medal winner over the years, and their 1994 took the "Best of Show" Award at the California State Fair -- the first time that a Petite Sirah won that award, *and* the first -- but not the last -- time a Santa Cruz Mtn. winery won.)

    Just my 2¢ . . . worth far less, no doubt . . . keep the change.

    22 Replies
    1. re: zin1953
      j
      john gonzales Apr 1, 2013 07:39 PM

      I don't know about obfuscation or their motives but what are those you mention bottling as Petite Syrah? IIRC there is actually a petite syrah in the Rhone which is actuallya small berry version of syrah. Much of what is Petite SIRAH in Cal is Durif or Peloursin.
      I like petite. I don't mind the tannin and think it tends to be pretty heavily tannic. I'd definitely agree that Concannon does really well with it, especially for the price. I really like old Rockland's, in addition to Ridge. We had a late 70s or very early 80s version of the Ridge for the SuperBowl and everyone guessed it was a 90s wine. The one thing I wonder though about Petite is whether it reall develops much in the way of secondary or tertiary flavors. It seems to moreso be frozen in time.
      I like the Stags' Leap version too, but my alltime favorite Petite might be the Switchback Ridge from the Peterson (family) Vineyard. It's a beast but wow is it good.

      1. re: john gonzales
        z
        zin1953 Apr 1, 2013 08:09 PM

        They are growing, and producing Durif -- NOT Serine (aka Petite Syrah).

        1. re: zin1953
          j
          john gonzales Apr 1, 2013 10:26 PM

          Got it. That is silly. It doesn't seem like there would be much commercial benefit between the name Syrah vs. Sirah. It's not like Syrah is as big a seller as Cab Sauv or Chard, and that misnaming something "syrah" would gain any big benefit.

          1. re: john gonzales
            z
            zin1953 Apr 2, 2013 09:31 AM

            John, I would respectfully disagree. I think there was MUCH to be gained at the time they started . . .

            There's no doubt that Syrah is a more "prestigious" grape than Durif. This was especially so in the late-1970s and early-1980s, and it was commanding a higher price as well.

            1. re: zin1953
              j
              john gonzales Apr 3, 2013 09:22 PM

              I see. No doubt there would be a gain years back.
              Currently syrah has not proven to be a big seller; and since there is a lot more syrah, petite has a bit of novelty attached to it.

              1. re: john gonzales
                z
                zin1953 Apr 5, 2013 10:44 AM

                John, I did some extra digging. As I mentioned above, both Fetzer and David Bruce started this in the late-1970s or early-1980s.

                In 1980, according to the California Agricultural Statistics Service, Petite Sirah sold for an average price of $186.63/ton. Compare this to Syrah, which sold for an average of $477.88.

                1. re: zin1953
                  j
                  john gonzales Apr 5, 2013 07:34 PM

                  You didn't need to do the busy work on my account. Originally I was thinking about right now, not in the past.
                  I wonder how much Syrah there was back in the late 70s? Probably 1/20 of what there is now, and a lot less than there was of Petite.

                  This thread reminding me to look for some wine I have a few odds and ends from the early 2000s. Stags Leap has a field blend called Ne Cede Malis from a very old vineyard of theirs. It's mostly Petite, but IIRC also has Carignane, Grenache, Mouvedre, and a few others. It's really good. Big, nicely comples, but not as fiercely tannic as some Petite. Downside is that I think it's $50.

                  1. re: john gonzales
                    maria lorraine Apr 5, 2013 08:00 PM

                    I liked the Ne Cede Malis a lot, but that was when Robert Brittain was making it. Is it still as good? Love the name, or the expression, too.

                    1. re: maria lorraine
                      j
                      john gonzales Apr 6, 2013 08:30 AM

                      I think it's still good, and the style hasn't changed a lot since the early 00s, at least through the 08 whihc is the last I tried. The 02 is (IIRC) the one that I really liked. As I said the issue is cost. Another wine that more than doubled in cost from 00 to 10. Though that increase is tame if compared to Figeac!

                      1. re: john gonzales
                        maria lorraine Apr 6, 2013 01:20 PM

                        Ne Cede Malis is not listed as one of the wines on the Stag's Leap Winery website. They may no longer make it. Sad.

                        1. re: maria lorraine
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 6, 2013 02:03 PM

                          They had the 2008 on their "current releases" page on March 23.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            maria lorraine Apr 6, 2013 07:52 PM

                            There is no "Current Releases" page now (just Featured Wines), but I know now -- not from the website -- that SLW did make a 2012 Ne Cede Malis. It IS a beautiful wine.

                    2. re: john gonzales
                      z
                      zin1953 Apr 5, 2013 08:16 PM

                      >>> I wonder how much Syrah there was back in the late 70s? Probably 1/20 of what there is now, and a lot less than there was of Petite. <<<

                      As of 2011, there was a total of 8,335 acres (3,373 hectares) of Petite Sirah planted in California; of these, 7,756 acres (3,138.75 ha) were in production.

                      Compare this to Syrah -- in 2011, there were 19,009 acres (7,692.7 hectares) of Syrah planted in the state, with 18,825 acres (7,618.2 ha) in production.

                      A decade earlier, in 2001, the figures were:
                      Petite Sirah -- 4,127 acres (1,670 ha.) total; 2,765 acres (1,119 ha.) bearing.
                      Syrah -- 14,735 acres (5,963 ha.) total; 9,573 acres (3,874 ha.) bearing.

                      And a decade before that, in 1991:
                      Petite Sirah -- 2,875 acres (1,163.5 ha.) total; 2,824 acres (1,142.8 ha.) bearing.
                      Syrah -- 413 acres (167.1 ha.) total; BUT ONLY 160 acres (64.75 ha.) bearing.

                      And, as of 1982, Petite Sirah overwhelmed Syrah, 2,779 acres (1,124.6 ha) vs. 89 acres (36 ha.) -- the last year I for which I can access the records . . . at the moment. I think I have figures from the 1970s somewhere . . .

                      (Note: all acreage figures obtained from CASS - California Agricultural Statistics Service, and are rounded.; I calculated the figure for hectares.)

                      1. re: zin1953
                        j
                        john gonzales Apr 6, 2013 08:26 AM

                        Thanks. Pretty much as I imagined as far as the proposition that syrah has really expanded and that petite dominated it in 82 and prior.
                        I didn't realize that there was THAT little syrah in 91 or 82.
                        I am also a little surprised that petite plantings expanded so much fom 91 to 01 and then again to11.

                        1. re: john gonzales
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 6, 2013 12:10 PM

                          Per the National Agricultural Statistics Service grape crush reports, almost 27,000 tons of Petite Sirah were crushed in California in 1975. It peaked at 59,000 in 1980, dropped to 7,000 in 1996, and was back to almost 59,000 in 2011.

                          Figures for Syrah go back to 86 tons in 1978, in 2009 it was 133,000.

            2. re: zin1953
              Robert Lauriston Apr 4, 2013 05:40 PM

              "Wine Grapes" says Sérine is a local Côte-Rôtie variety of or name for Syrah.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                z
                zin1953 Apr 4, 2013 07:45 PM

                ????

            3. re: john gonzales
              Robert Lauriston Apr 4, 2013 04:39 PM

              "1996–At the University of California at Davis, Dr. Carole Meredith and her colleagues determined by DNA comparisons that almost all (more than 90%) of the vines in Petite Sirah vineyards are Durif and the rest are Peloursin (the mother of Durif)."

              http://www.psiloveyou.org/about/about...

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                z
                zin1953 Apr 4, 2013 07:45 PM

                ???

            4. re: zin1953
              j
              JonDough Apr 3, 2013 03:21 PM

              Just curious, have you tried Concannon's Petite recently? If so, what do you think?

              1. re: JonDough
                z
                zin1953 Apr 3, 2013 06:40 PM

                Jeez, which one?!?!?

                I just went on their website, and they're offering SIXTEEN different Petite Sirahs! OMG!

                Thankfully, the answer is simple: no. I haven't had one of their Petites in several years -- probably the last one I tried was their 2004, which I (vaguely) recall as being quite good but not necessarily excellent.

                1. re: zin1953
                  j
                  JonDough Apr 4, 2013 09:35 AM

                  Thanks. I haven't tasted one since '03. I didn't realize they had 16. Maybe I'll visit and see how they are.

            5. j
              jock Apr 1, 2013 08:41 AM

              Agree about the 1971 York Creeks.

              Some of the most successful wines made here in Arizona have been those where Petite Sirah has been the major part of the blend.

              1. SteveTimko Apr 1, 2013 12:40 PM

                What's surprising to me about petite sirah is that it grows well in a lot of places.
                I bought a $12.50 bottle of petite sirah grown in Newcastle in Placer Country by a winery called Pescatore. I'm not going to rave about it, but it was well worth $12.50. A pretty decent bottle of wine. And it tasted like petite sirah.
                I've never been to that vineyard, but the area is good for agriculture. I'm guessing they'd have to work to stress the vines.
                But it also grows well in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Central Coast. About the only places I can think of that doesn't produce pretty good petite sirah are the Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma Coast.

                5 Replies
                1. re: SteveTimko
                  z
                  zin1953 Apr 1, 2013 07:06 PM

                  Uh, Steve . . . did you *read* my second post???

                  >>> . . . Concannon still makes a delicious estate Petite Sirah out in Livermore, and, my favorite -- Storrs Winery in Santa Cruz, CA -- makes an excellent Petite Sirah from an old vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Indeed, coincidentally to this thread, I had the 2006 last week with a hangar steak and it was perfect . . .

                  (In the FWIW Mode, it's a multiple Gold Medal winner over the years, and their 1994 took the "Best of Show" Award at the California State Fair -- the first time that a Petite Sirah won that award, *and* the first -- but not the last -- time a Santa Cruz Mtn. winery won.) <<<

                  1. re: zin1953
                    SteveTimko Apr 3, 2013 09:36 AM

                    My apologies. I missed that. I have never had Storrs pet. I will seek it out.

                    1. re: SteveTimko
                      SteveTimko Apr 3, 2013 12:02 PM

                      JBL: Have you tried the 2008 Storrs pet? That was the smoke vintage. I don't know how they were affected.

                      1. re: SteveTimko
                        z
                        zin1953 Apr 3, 2013 01:36 PM

                        Steve, no -- haven't had the 2008.

                        A lot of people "miss" the Storrs, in that they expect it to be like the Ridge York Creek, or bigger -- some tannic, ink monster of the '70s -- instead of being in the more refined category . . . still good varietal character, but think "polished" rather than "rough-hewn." As far as "cool climate" is concerned, the vineyard is located on the Santa Clara side of the appellation, down near Gilroy . . . not as cool as, say, grapes from the Pleasant Valley area (let alone Bonny Doon).

                        1. re: zin1953
                          SteveTimko Apr 4, 2013 04:02 PM

                          I corresponded with a vineyard owner/winemaker who has a vineyard in the general area and he said none of the smoke in 2008 came at a critical time in that area. So no smoke impact.

                2. d
                  DavidT Apr 2, 2013 10:43 AM

                  Foppiano, in Sonoma County, also takes Petite Sirah seriously and has done so for decades. They produce both an estate bottled PS and a Sonoma appellation PS.

                  http://www.foppiano.com/our-wines
                  http://www.foppiano.com/petite-sirah

                  1. Robert Lauriston Apr 4, 2013 02:16 PM

                    I tasted a Forlorn Hope the other day that was very nice.

                    1. ellaystingray Apr 6, 2013 02:20 AM

                      Petite Sirah does deserve love. Some that I like in addition to the ones mentioned already are the Turley "Hayne," Foley "Muscle Man" and Quixote. To be sure, all wines that seem like they were crafted to invoke thoughts of Bison, Gorillas, Professional Wrestlers...I've been captivated by two of the three more than once in my life.

                      Interestingly, many of the "Petite's" mentioned here, mine and some others, are made in a ba**s-to-wall style that is could be associated with a popular style of Syrah/Shiraz. However, "that" version also appears in many other variatal cannons, like Zinfandel and some Central Coast whites made from Marsanne, Rousanne etc. Though this could add to some confusion about the various "Pte. Shiyrahzes" amongst those who don't follow this board, comb CASS stats, buy Wine Grapes and then interview vineyard managers, I have a simpler point.

                      **drift alert**

                      Exactly which variation of Petite Si(y)rah you are getting doesn't really matter. Is the genetic material closer to Durif or Peloursin or maybe even Syrah?...why do you care unless you are an ampelograhper? Are you grilling your local wine shop as to whether your 100% Sauvignon Blanc has Sauvignon Vert in it? Do you know or care if your 100% Chilean Merlot is Merlot or some/all Carmenere? If so, is it okay if the percentages are a little off on exactly which clones of Pinot Noir are used to make your favorite? "Are you sure this is 79% Pommard? I could have sworn there is at least 25% Martini and/or 777 in here...." By the way, if you ever hear anyone say that, quickly move away from them, permanently.

                      I suppose in some highly specialized professional wine circles, these things are important but (sometimes excessive precision gets in the way of actually producing a good product--remember the advice to Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham--and like baseball, winemaking is a blend of science and... something else, where the great wines never come from one end of the spectrum or the other) often I find the wine professionals I work with become exasperated with the unimportant details some trade/consumers/media ask for and focus on--it CAN, not always, represent a focus on details that are the last things useful to making a delicious wine. It's not deception or lack of effort from the winery either.

                      Concannon and Foppiano, to just take two examples, have been making their Petite's long enough in my mind that, they are their own wines. They are their own Petite Sirah's, regardless of the exact genetic material. It's not like they've been making mutant Gamay's for generations and snickering behind some fermentation tank pawning them off as Petite Sirah. It is close enough. If you want closer, don't drink or trust, the wine that tastes good. Drink the wine that is "lab approved." Whatever that is.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: ellaystingray
                        z
                        zin1953 Apr 6, 2013 08:01 AM

                        Let me disagree with a couple of points, and offer a few random comments . . .

                        That "Petite Sirah deserves some love" isn't, I should think, truly up for debate. It's not like someone has suggested we all go rushing out and start drinking Colombard -- though, even then, there are some good examples . . .

                        >>> Some that I like in addition to the ones mentioned already are the Turley "Hayne," Foley "Muscle Man" and Quixote. To be sure, all wines that seem like they were crafted to invoke thoughts of Bison, Gorillas, Professional Wrestlers...I've been captivated by two of the three more than once in my life. <<<

                        I've not had the Foley, but I am (apparently) the only one who isn't a big fan of Turley -- nor, for that matter, of wines crafted to invoke bison, gorillas and professional wrestlers generally.

                        >>> Exactly which variation of Petite Si(y)rah you are getting doesn't really matter. Is the genetic material closer to Durif or Peloursin or maybe even Syrah?...why do you care unless you are an ampelograhper? <<<

                        Can't speak for anyone else, but *I* care. If I am purchasing a Petite Sirah, I want it to TASTE like Petite Sirah -- not Syrah (they DO taste differently from one another, you know), not Zinfandel, not Cabernet, not Pinot Noir . . . then again, *I* choose to stay on topic:

                        >>> Are you grilling your local wine shop as to whether your 100% Sauvignon Blanc has Sauvignon Vert in it? Do you know or care if your 100% Chilean Merlot is Merlot or some/all Carmenere? If so, is it okay if the percentages are a little off on exactly which clones of Pinot Noir are used to make your favorite? "Are you sure this is 79% Pommard? I could have sworn there is at least 25% Martini and/or 777 in here...." <<<

                        Who in this thread has suggested the consumer "grill (the) local wine shop" about ANYTHING?!?!?! Talk about thread drift . . . .

                        The issue of "misleading labeling" -- an issue that *I* raised -- has to do with TWO wineries, Fetzer and David Bruce. The fact is that both CHANGED the spelling of "Petite Sirah" on their wine labels -- deliberately and willfully -- to "Petite Syrah," only AFTER Syrah (the red wine grape most closely associated with the Northern Rhône) began to eclipse Petite Sirah (aka Durif).

                        It has nothing to do with "mutant Gamay," or any other grape variety, and everything to do with attempting to intentionally deceive the public. (When questioned about this, one vintner admitted the deceit to my face; the other refused to answer the question.)

                        1. re: ellaystingray
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 6, 2013 12:24 PM

                          I care which grape varieties are in a wine to the extent they affect the flavor. Syrah, Peloursin, and the cross between the two, Durif, taste quite different.

                          "To my mind, Petite Sirah is Durif. There is no doubt about this. Some Petite Sirah vineyards, especially old ones, often contain a few vines of other varieties, but when we analyzed the DNA of vines that look like Petite Sirah, more than 90% of them are Durif. The few that are not turn out to be Peloursin, which is the mother of Durif and looks a lot like it.

                          "Old red vineyards are mixtures. You usually find four, or five, or eight, or nine, or ten varieties in there. I’ve been in some of the old Petite Sirah vineyards, and I’ve found all kinds of weird stuff. But the same thing happens if you go in an old Zin vineyard, or even an old Cab vineyard. You will find a lot of other varieties. So, everything that looked like Petite Sirah that we sampled was Durif. We don’t need to worry that not all Petite Sirah is Durif, because I would say that Petite Sirah is Durif, no questions asked."—Carole Meredith

                          http://www.psiloveyou.org/about/about...

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            ellaystingray Apr 8, 2013 01:45 AM

                            FWIW, I love exchanging thoughts with both of you, regardless of how much I might or might not disagree. I'll start with Jason and then Robert and try to stay in order. >:)

                            Jason

                            --To the point about Turley et al, I totally understand you, and many others, don't care for this wine and others made in that style. I don't feel the need to watch "Gorillas in the Mist" every day, but sometimes I do like to sip an over-the-top wine. I believe there is a place for them.

                            --Tasting like Petite Sirah. I probably went a little bit overboard here in making a point. Petite Sirah should not taste like Syrah. Though any given Durif may highlight the characteristics of one of its parents over the other depending on the myriad decisions and factors like vine age, vineyard, picking, vinification etc.,. I understand you'd prefer a certain style over another--the one that tastes like Petite Sirah, which is I guess the one that tastes like Durif. So I'll ask the question differently, if the wine tastes like Petite Sirah does it matter exactly what is in that vineyard?

                            --In regard to asking about other wine specifics--the whole thing about Sauvignon Vert--I was trying to set up a hypotheical where if, there is a serious question about where Petit Sirah comes from, we'd better do a lot more questioning of all grapes and labeling if the goal is true 100% precise scientific accuracy. And I did say there was a thread drift coming. ;/

                            --Clearly you percieved the comment about labeling was directed at you and it was not. When you realize your vineyard is planted with something that is not Durif/Petite Sirah, you should change the varietal designation to something else. However, what your Durif tastes like shouldn't dictate what you put on the label and it could turn out a lot of different ways. But that is, a matter of taste.

                            Robert

                            I honestly have no idea what Peloursin tastes like. Seriously. I'd barely heard of this grape aside from studying for exams. I've tasted a fair number of wines and some seriously weird monovarietals and I don't know if I've ever even tasted a wine that claimed to have even some Peloursin in it. Apparently parts of Australia have viable quantities planted.

                            Your quotes from Dr. Meredith highlight the fact that the wines that are labeled "Pitite Sirah" may have a substantial quantity of grapes that are not Durif. My point was just to say that whatever those other 3, 5, 7 percent are may change how the wine comes out. And you may not get a 100% Petite Sirah (Durif). That is something I don't happen to worry about.

                            Random thought.

                            As quoted in Robert's post from Carol Meredith, "You usually find four, or five, or eight, or nine, or ten varieties in there. I’ve been in some of the old Petite Sirah vineyards, and I’ve found all kinds of weird stuff. But the same thing happens if you go in an old Zin vineyard, or even an old Cab vineyard." Post Phylloxera vineyards in Calfornia are probably pretty close to 100% what everyone thinks they are. But the older vineyards, well, they can be have a lot of friends. Your Petite Sirah may or may not be all Durif and what it tastes like, may or not be what "Petite Sirah" is "supposed" to taste like. But does that really matter? What's the percentage where it isn't Durif any longer? Surely not at 75.01%.

                            1. re: ellaystingray
                              z
                              zin1953 Apr 8, 2013 07:26 AM

                              Let me reply point-by-point . . .

                              1) I never said there wasn't a place for Petite Sirah produced in the "Gorillas in the Mist" style. (I'm now waiting for someone to actually produce a Petite with that as its fanciful name; Randall, perhaps?) It may not be a style I prefer, but I wouldn't dream of preventing others from enjoying it, nor do I think it should somehow be banned from the face of the earth.

                              2) Seriously, does it *ever* matter what's planted in the vineyard, as long as the wine tastes good? I *think* we can all agree that it's what's in the glass that counts most. The difference is that, if I purchase a bottle of Petite Sirah, I *do* want it to taste like Petite Sirah, not -- to use an extreme example -- like Chenin Blanc. But, as a consumer, I don't really care what the specific blend may be, as long as that bottle of Bordeaux tastes like Bordeaux (and tastes good!).

                              -- Now as someone in the trade, it mattered more -- both for my understanding/education of wine in general, and as a sales rep, so that I could better sell the wine. And as a wine judge, wine writer/critic, it mattered more, as I want and expect "Wine A" to be varietally correct and "true-to-type." Several times, I've challenged wines at judgings before because they were not in the correct class for evaluation -- once, it was a varietal wine from the Languedoc bottled by a California winery and submitted incorrectly as a California wine; once it was a red Bordeaux-styled blend that had less than 75 percent of any one grape, yet was incorrectly submitted in a varietal category; once it was a Riesling that was in the "dry" category that had obvious sweetness; and once -- I forget the wine, but I was overruled by the Chief Judge, the rationale being that if the winery chose that category then it should be in that category.

                              3) I didn't realize there was any debate as to where Petite Sirah came from (France), nor its origins (Dr. François Durif developed in in the 1860s; it first came to California along with the importation of several different cultivars in 1884 by Charles McIver of Linda Vista Winery in San Jose). In terms of what is in the vineyard, specifically in terms of Petite, I firmly believe it's Petite, aka Durif; that is, I believe Dr. Meredith that 90-plus percent of all Petite Sirah planted in California is Durif. Indeed, I agree with you that, "Post Phylloxera vineyards in Calfornia are probably pretty close to 100% what everyone thinks they are." The days of "Mixed Blacks" in the vineyard are all-but-gone. (Note: that's not to say the days of "field blends" are over -- two different things.)

                              4) I'm reminded of the old Gamay Beaujolais/Napa Gamay switch in the 1970s, when the then-"powers that be" decided that the original names were backwards, and that Napa Gamay was really Gamay noir au jus blanc (this was before they realized it was really Valdiguié -- that happened in the 1980s), and Gamay Beaujolais was really a clone of Pinot Noir. It was either Almadén or Inglenook -- I have to look it up -- that simply went out into their vineyards and swapped the signs . . . taking the sign labeled "Gamay Beaujolais" and putting it where, the day before, the sign labeled "Napa Gamay" was in the ground, and vice-versa. ;^)

                              1. re: ellaystingray
                                Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2013 08:33 AM

                                I've never had Peloursin either, I was confusing it with Poulsard.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  ellaystingray Apr 8, 2013 09:19 PM

                                  I think we are getting closer to heated agreement.

                                  1) Agreed. "Gorilla's in the Shist"....

                                  2) Agreed. In the context of judging, you are 100% correct.
                                  Though, I have had a ongoing conversation in my head about typicity and when it matters. But that is a different thread.

                                  3) I agree there is no debate about where is comes from (I know I wrote that but it isn't what I meant...:)). But I do wonder if what Petite Sirah is "supposed" to taste like, is really, precisely, Durif. Meaning, could there be influence from other varieties planted in the formative vineyards of California Petite Sirah. This is a massively nuanced question. And my point was that, I am not sure it really matters if there is 8% Syrah in the vineyard/blend, though it might have a little effect on the wine.

                                  4) I love stories like this. Just when you think you know...

                                  Lastly, Robert, I often confuse grapes I almost never interact with or care that much about. o)

                                  1. re: ellaystingray
                                    z
                                    zin1953 Apr 9, 2013 06:56 AM

                                    "4) I love stories like this. Just when you think you know..."

                                    Just to finish off the Gamay Beaujolais/Napa Gamay thing, for a moment . . . . although we NOW know that Napa Gamay is really Valdiguié . . .

                                    -- Before 1970, it was thought that the grape grown in California as "Gamay Beaujolais" was the Gamay grape of Beaujolais, France, and that "Napa Gamay" was a *different* Gamay grape growing in Napa.

                                    -- Around 1973 or so, ATF ruled that it was backwards, that "Napa Gamay" was really the grape of Beaujolais, France, and that "Gamay Beaujolais" was in fact a clone of Pinot Noir.

                                    This created some serious problems for Heublein at the time:

                                    -- Beaulieu Vineyards had a semi-generic "Burgundy" that was made principally of "Napa Gamay," meaning it was actually made from the grape of Beaujolais, France; and they had a varietal "Gamay Beaujolais" that was really made from the grape responsible for the great wines of Burgundy.

                                    -- As I said above, it was either Almadén or Inglenook that simply went out into their vineyards and swapped signs between the two varieties.

                                    -- The reason I can't remember is that the OTHER winery (allegedly) merely swapped labels in the bottling line.

                                    / / / / /

                                    Then, of course, it turned out it was STILL wrong, and that "Napa Gamay" was Valdiguié . . .

                                    C'est la vie! ;^)

                                    1. re: zin1953
                                      Robert Lauriston Apr 9, 2013 08:48 AM

                                      I saw "Napa Gamay" on a wine list recently, which was a surprise, but I Googled it and it turned out to be from a small patch of true Gamay Noir in Napa.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        SteveTimko Apr 9, 2013 07:01 PM

                                        Steve Edmunds has said he thought he had the only true gamay in California. It's in El Dorado County.

                                        1. re: SteveTimko
                                          Robert Lauriston Apr 9, 2013 09:08 PM

                                          That's the only other one I've had.

                                          "The fruit for this [Andrew Lane] wine comes from one of the last plantings of gamay noir in the Valley, from a vineyard site just north of Calistoga that devotes two acres entirely to the varietal."

                                          https://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sk...

                          2. maria lorraine Apr 6, 2013 07:55 PM

                            Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga makes a number of Petite Sirahs, and uses the grape quite often in blends. It is that winery's signature varietal, and they make a number of vineyard-designate PSs.

                            http://shop.vincentarroyo.com/current...

                            Wonderful winery to visit, BTW -- non-touristy, unpretentious, old-school.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              j
                              john gonzales Apr 9, 2013 05:40 PM

                              Ealepoint Ranch, JC Cellars
                              I had an Eaglepoint Ranch petite last night. Unfortunately Casey Hartlip closed down his winery, and has also moved on as the grower at eaglepoint. Some of his wines might still be floating out there and are well worth the very moderate price. It's Mendocino and IIRC at some elevation so the wine shave that rustic quality. JC Cellars still makes petite from there and it is always very good. Thackery does too, but his wine is over the $50 mark, and not any better than the JC.

                            2. d
                              DavidT Apr 7, 2013 02:20 PM

                              The Lucky supermarkets in San Francisco are currently selling Concannon 2011 Central Coast Petite Sirah for $5.98.

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