100% Petite Sirah
This varietal—along with grenache, carignan, and mataro —came to California in the 1870s from southern and southwestern France. Genetic fingerprinting has shown that it is not syrah, nor is it duriff, as some had assumed. Though its Old World counterpart remains to be identified, petite sirah has produced a number of truly great wines in California. Ridge has made Petite Sirahs from York Creek since 1971. Many are acknowledged benchmarks of quality and complexity. Very low yields in 1995 have resulted in an intense wine—more in the style of the 1970s. Balanced, and showing lovely fruit now, it will nonetheless benefit from five to ten years of bottle age.
Brought to California in the 1870s—at the same time as carignan, grenache, and mataro (mourvèdre)—petite sirah is assumed to have come from the same general area, southern and southwestern France. It is not the same as syrah—the principal grape of the northern Rhône—but its overall character has more in common with that variety than any other. Dr. Carole P. Meredith at UC Davis did the first genetic fingerprinting of petite sirah in 1993. Her results showed that indeed it is not syrah, nor is it the Rhône hybrid duriff, as many had assumed. The origins of petite sirah remain as mysterious as those of zinfandel. In many of California’s old zinfandel vineyards, petite sirah is inter-planted with carignan or mataro, sometimes with grenache. Having no identified European origins, it has become as Californian as zinfandel.
In 1995, unseasonably cold, wet weather in late winter and early spring delayed the onset of the growing season. York Creek’s location high on Spring Mountain makes it one of the latest vineyards to be harvested in a normal year; with cooler temperatures in spring of 1995, the harvest promised to be one of the latest on record. Rainstorms at bloom reduced petite sirah yields dramatically, resulting in high quality—but a very small quantity of finished wine. We feared that because of the late season the grapes might be caught by early winter rains. But our luck held; beautifully warm weather allowed us to begin harvesting in late October. The first petite sirah grapes arrived at the winery on October 24. Grapes from the Dynamite vineyard block were substantially delayed; they were harvested November 16—the last grapes to arrive at Ridge, and the latest harvest date in our entire history.
To achieve maximum color and flavor without extracting bitter seed tannins, most of the grapes were fermented with the skins floating on the surface of the juice. The fermenting juice was pumped over the skins twice a day, and the wine tasted each day to ensure that tannin levels were not excessive. A small amount of the wine was fermented with whole grape clusters added to the tank—to enhance fruit, to moderate tannins, and to add complexity. Almost twenty percent of the wine was aged in new american oak barrels, and the remainder in older american oak. In late spring of 1997, after eighteen months in barrel, the wine was bottled. Its intense berry character and typical black pepper spice complement each other beautifully; the substantial tannins ensure long aging. This is one of the most complex, full-bodied petite sirahs in recent memory.
Average Rating: 89.7
No. of Tasting Notes: 12
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