Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah 2006

2007 Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah

Future releases available through our ATP Wine Club

Varietal Information
93% petite sirah
7% zinfandel

Click below to watch winemaker Eric Baugher describe this wine


In 1968, Fritz Maytag purchased the Herbert Hummel ranch on Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena in Napa Valley. This beautiful property rises from 1250’ to over 2000’, and its climate is cooler than that of the valley below. Most of the land is forested and wild — the watershed of its namesake, York Creek. There are several petite sirah blocks on the ranch. Planted in the early years of the last century, the Devil’s Hill vines were the oldest. In 1971, Ridge used their fruit to make its first York Creek Petite Sirah. By 1980 Ridge was also taking the grapes from Dynamite Hill planted in 1973 on old Devil’s Hill cuttings. Dynamite Hill, now thirty-six years old, dominates our York Creek petite sirah bottlings.


Cool spring weather slowed the York Creek growing season. Full flavors did not develop until mid-October, when we harvested at ideal ripeness. Each parcel was picked separately; a small percentage of the young vines were combined with the older Dynamite Hill for the final wine. All the grapes were destemmed, but left uncrushed, to enhance fruit and moderate tannin extraction. A slow, natural-yeast fermentation allowed a long (two week) maceration. During that time, juice was pumped daily over the floating cap of skins. After natural malolactic, the wine was racked to air-dried american oak barrels. Rich and robust, this is an excellent example of hillside-grown petite sirah. Enjoyable as a young wine, it will continue to improve over the next five to ten years. JO (11/08)

Winemaker Tasting Notes

crimson color in the glass. Aromas of dried currant, cedar, anise and exotic spice; Sweet briar fruits and savory herbs on the palate with resolving tannins and a long lingering finish.

Tasting Notes and Reviews


Laurie Daniel, San Jose Mercury News - 2009/8/18

Petite sirah, pedigree intact, gains new stature

For years, petite sirah had something of an identity crisis. The grape wasn't a small version of syrah, despite the similar name (and despite the fact that some bottles are labeled "petite syrah"). It's durif, a grape from southern France, where it produces coarse, rustic wines. In California, petite sirah was often intermixed in vineyard plantings with zinfandel, carignane and other red grapes. It was used in blends to add body and structure, and some winemakers started bottling it separately and gained a reputation for it. (Concannon in Livermore was the first, bottling the first varietally labeled petite sirah in the early 1960s). Some of the wines were quite good, but petite sirah still got little respect. Then, through DNA fingerprinting, it was discovered that petite sirah/durif was the offspring of syrah, considered a noble grape, and peloursin, a minor French grape. The syrah connection gave petite sirah/durif a boost. A few years later, devotees of the grape formed a fan club of sorts: P.S. I Love You. (P.S., of course, stands for petite sirah.) The group recently held its seventh annual symposium at, appropriately, Concannon Vineyards, where there was a tasting of roughly four dozen petite sirahs, mostly from around California (along with one entry from southern Oregon). Petite sirah acreage in California has more than doubled since 2000, to about 7,300 acres. Much of that planting has been in the Central Valley, but there's some in cabernet-centric Napa County. There's also been a big uptick in San Luis Obispo County, which now has more than 1,100 acres of petite sirah, second only to San Joaquin County, state figures show. Still, petite sirah producers battle to draw more attention to their grape. A survey by Full Glass Research found that many consumers aren't aware of petite sirah and that retailers and restaurants don't push the variety. The grape's fans, however, understand that it produces dark, robust, teeth-staining wines with tannins that range from firm, but manageable to very intense and drying. The wines at the symposium's tasting had many of these characteristics. One of my favorites was the 2006 Clayhouse Petite Sirah ($25), a Paso Robles wine with peppery black fruit and firm structure. Also excellent was the 2006 Concannon "Captain Joe's" Petite Sirah ($30), a dark, concentrated Livermore wine with bright berry and white pepper notes. (For less money, there's Concannon's regular 2006 bottling, which doesn't have quite the same concentration but costs only $15.) Newcomer Aver Family Vineyards in San Martin produced just 25 cases of its 2006 "Blessings" Petite Sirah ($55), which is pricey but delicious, with lively blackberry and boysenberry fruit, a hint of dried herbs and good balance. Solano County is proving to be a good place for petite sirah. That's the source for the 2007 Winterhawk Petite Sirah ($18), with its juicy blueberry and blackberry and spicy notes, and the 2005 Shoe Shine Petite Sirah ($25), with its ripe black fruit, good acidity and fine tannins. From elsewhere in California, there's the 2003 Foppiano Reserve Petite Sirah ($45), which is inky, concentrated and aromatic, with boysenberry fruit and drying tannins. (Foppiano Vineyards is a Sonoma County winery well known for its petites, and the regular bottling, at $20, is usually reliable.) The 2005 David Fulton Petite Sirah ($45) from Napa Valley is dark, dense, ripe and brawny, while the 2005 Il Gioiello Petite Sirah ($20) from Amador County displays robust black fruit accented by roasted coffee and spice. For a great bargain in petite sirah, the 2007 Bogle ($11) offers robust blackberry and blueberry flavors and firm tannins. Bogle also produces a Petite Sirah Port; the 2006 ($18/500ml) is inky and sweet, with flavors of dried fig, prune and dark chocolate. A couple of standouts in the tasting — the 2005 Robert Biale EBA Petite Sirah and the 2004 Ridge "Dynamite Hill" Petite Sirah — are available primarily through mailing lists. Both are on the pricey side, but they offer further evidence of how delicious and mouth-filling a good petite sirah can be.

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James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2001/2/28

California's Rhones on the Rise

The outlook for Syrah - and other Rhone-style varietals - is definitely improving in California. And as we see more wines from the stellar 1999 vintage, things should only get better as the year goes on. The quality of Petite Sirah, too, a Rhone-like grape with deeper historical roots in California, is on the upswing, and there’s also the recent development of California Shiraz. In Australia, Syrah is called Shiraz, and that nomenclature has been transplanted to California by Australian winemakers working in the state. California Shiraz did not make much of an impression this year, but give it time. I think that winemakers will eventually get the upper hand and produce exciting wines with the grape.

Regardless of whether the label reads Syrah or Shiraz, these varieties and their Rhone cohorts, such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, along with California’s “unofficial” Rhone, Petite Sirah, are adding a fascinating diversity to the California wine scene. The timing couldn’t be better, as more wine lovers move beyond their security-blanket varietals, willing to explore different tastes and styles. Also, as prices for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot soar, Syrah and Petite Sirah look much more attractive.

Those who still think of California wines mostly in terms of Cabernet and Chardonnay are missing a much bigger and exciting picture. The Rhone-style reds, with their distinctive beef, leather, earthy berry, mineral and tar flavors, are making an impact and creating a strong presence. Plantings of Syrah, for instance, have increased from 413 acres in 1991 to 10,298 in 1999. And while its acreage trails the big three - Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot, in that order - Syrah is now nearly as widely planted as Pinot Noir and Grenache.

This report focuses on wines we’ve tasted in the past six months. Overall, 163 wines were tasted, and 24 scored an outstanding.

For Syrah, the 1999 vintage should be an eye-opener and a crowd-pleaser, even for those with a passion for this wine. Winemakers have made steady progress with this variety throughout the past decade and the wines simply taste better, even in a challenging year such as 1998, than they did in previous vintages. Winemakers agree that 1999 is a superior year in terms of grape growing and overall quality, even with a small crop.

“It’s been a bumpy road with Syrah,” admits Craig Williams of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley. But you wouldn’t know it by tasting their rich, complex and flavorful Napa Valley 1997. Another terrific Syrah is Lewis Napa County 1998, a lush, juicy, toasted-oak style wine. In the Paso Robles area, former Bordeaux winemaker Stephan Asseo’s Stephan Vineyards has an outstanding Syrah-Cabernet blend from 1998, his first vintage.

Even though Syrah gets the lion’s share of attention among Rhone-inspired reds, the revival of interest in Petite Sirah - by both winemakers and consumers - is a compelling story. A small explanation first, however: Petite Sirah is not technically a modern Rhone varietal because it isn’t one of the primary grapes planted in France’s Rhone Valley. Yet because it shares the flavor profile of the true Rhones, it is included in this report

.In 1985, Inglenook, then a prominent winery in Napa Valley, made 15,000 cases of Petite Sirah. But they shipped 11,000 of those cases to England, recalls Dennis Fife, then Inglenook’s general manager. “Basically the [American] public didn’t know what was going on [with Sirah], but of course the English did.” The surge in popularity of Syrah in the 1990s has definitely helped open doors for Petite Sirah. “The market is as good as it’s ever been [for Sirah],” says Fife. “If you want to make good Sirah, you need to get good prices, which allows you to be choosy about your grapes and have tighter yields.”

Most of the Petite Sirahs now in the market are a result of fine-tuning, as marginal vineyards and wines have been weeded out. Also, winemakers have become better equipped to pick and choose the best vineyards for the variety, and they are more adept at battling things like chewy tannins and bitterness, the latter often an issue with Petite Sirah.

For the most part, the Petite Sirah market is in vintage transition, from 1998 to 1999, but we found some delightful 1997s from Mendocino. Lolonis Redwood Valley Orpheus Private Reserve is lush, with pepper and wild berry flavors, and Edmeades Mendocino is smooth and polished, too. Two other top-rated Petite Sirah producers are Rockland, a tiny vineyard in Napa Valley, with a fine 1998 that’s dark and complex, and Ridge Vineyards, with its Napa County Dynamite Hill 1997.

One of the more pleasant surprises was the quality of two Grenaches (though if you look at their producers, you’d be less startled). Ridge Dry Creek Valley Lytton 1998 is a decidedly elegant and richly flavored wine, while Alban Edna Valley Alban Estate Vineyard 1998 is brimming with lively flavors. These wines make it seem like it’s only a matter of time before more Grenache grapevines go into the ground and more jazzy wines emerge.

Then there’s Mourvedre, a grape championed by Cline in a pair of winners from Contra Costa County vineyards. There’s the Ancient Vines 1998, a thoroughly delicious tar and berry flavored wine and, close behind in quality, the Small Berry Vineyards 1998. The best Shiraz we tried was the 1997 Voss from Napa Valley, though it tastes more like a California Syrah than it does most of the best from Down Under. Fascination with Rhone-style wines doesn’t stop with reds. The whites, led by Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, and blends thereof, are improving as well.

The future seems bright, especially for the Rhone-style reds. Thousands of new vines are coming on line and as the best sites emerge, the wines will steadily improve.

1997 Ridge Petite Sirah Napa County Dynamite Hill Dark, ripe, rich and peppery, with floral, blackberry, stewed plum and earthy mineral and oaky flavors, finishing with firm, chewy tannins. Drink now through 2010. 820 cases made.

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