Petite sirah’s history dates back to the mid-1860’s as a cross between syrah and peloursin that originated in the experimental vineyard of Francois Durif in eastern France. The grape became known as “durif” and was praised for its resistance to downy mildew. In 1884, the grape was inadvertently imported to Northern California as “petite sirah” and the name stuck. Petite sirah was popularized by California growers and winemakers who discovered its value in balancing the fruit-forward nature of zinfandel while adding color and tannin for longevity. It is uncommon in other parts of the world, aside from Australia, where it is known as Durif and produces similarly-structured wines loaded with dark fruit.
In California, petite sirah is a key component of many old-vine field-blends, acting as a great complement to the fruity notes of zinfandel. In a blend, petite sirah adds color, structure, and firm tannins, along with notes of plum, blueberry, chocolate, and black pepper, producing a well-balanced wine. On its own, petite sirah exhibits floral aromas, deep color, rich tannins, and has extraordinary aging potential.
Ridge produced its first petite sirah in 1970 from Butow Ranch, the first organic vineyard in Mendocino County. From 1971 to 2016 (when the vineyard was replanted to cabernet sauvignon), we also produced petite sirah from the famed York Creek Vineyard in Napa Valley. Small quantities of petite sirah were also planted at our Lytton Estate in Dry Creek Valley but were always included in our Lytton Springs bottlings. Discovering the potential to grow world-class petite sirah on the western half of our Lytton Estate, where the clay soils help to develop color and tannin, we produced our first 100% varietal bottling of Lytton Estate Petite Sirah in 2002, and have produced a limited bottling ever since.
At Ridge we take a unique approach to making petite sirah, with the goal of elegance and balance through restraint. We achieve this thanks to the great natural acidity at our Lytton West Estate, careful tannin management through a shorter maceration, and pressing before the completion of fermentation. The resulting wines are approachable when young, yet extraordinarily ageable.
Our Lytton Estate Petite Sirah has been a fan favorite for nearly 20 years, producing well-structured, full-bodied wines with notes of black and blue fruit, cocoa, bramble, baking spice and a long finish.
When pairing Petite Sirah with food, don’t be afraid to pair the wine with a menu as big and as bold as it is. Petite Sirah can stand up to rich or fatty foods and will pair nicely with bold, exotic spices and herbs.
“The 2019 Petite Sirah Lytton Estate is a beauty, offering a plump, fruit-forward, yet concentrated style carrying ample darker black fruits, chocolate, chalky minerality, and roasted herb-like aromas and flavors. It’s a big mouthful of a Petite Sirah that stays balanced and has good freshness and notable structure. It will have 15+ years of longevity.” -Jeb Dunnuck (August 2022)