Elaine Chukan Brown’s recent feature, Petite Sirah lightens up, discusses the history of Petite Sirah, “sometimes described as the most decidedly California wine,” in the U.S. and looks back at the progression of Petite Sirah styles over the past 40 years, highlighting a handful of American producers that have been making a more restrained, age-worthy style for decades.
The wine world has seen a global shift toward lighter-bodied wines. In California, that shift has partially been inspired by re-tasting older vintages from historic producers. It has also been motivated by long-standing winemakers who simply always made wines more focused on finesse, even as styles around them changed.
In the case of Petite Sirah, the historic vineyards themselves have also been influential. Their survival points to a respect for old California and a rethinking of how to bring together modern winemaking with admiration for the history old vines invoke.
Ridge has been a stalwart producer of Petite Sirah, offering some of the state’s finest examples. Old vintages of their York Creek bottling should be sought out as they age incredibly well and show off many of the variety’s best attributes with age. Ridge’s commitment to Petite Sirah over decades helped inspire many of the other producers who have chosen to risk bottling the variety on its own. Ridge no longer makes a York Creek Petite Sirah. However, they bottle a Lytton Springs Petite Sirah that is well worth seeking out. – Elaine Chukan Brown