1996 York Creek Petite Sirah

1996 York Creek Petite Sirah

Wine Information

100% Petite Sirah




York Creek


Napa Valley

Alcohol By Volume


Vintage Notes

Though severe storms drastically reduced the crop in most vineyards, York Creek’s petite sirah was two weeks behind, escaping serious damage. Summer was very warm, and all parcels were harvested by September twenty-fifth. To avoid over-extraction of seed tannin during fermentation, the juice was gently pumped over a floating cap of grapes; fruit flavors were enhanced by the use of ten percent whole clusters. The wine was aged in air-dried american oak barrels, most of which were a well-tempered two or three years old, rendering oak a component rather than a dominant. With its intense black berry and typical black pepper, This is one of our loveliest petite sirahs of the decade. It will begin to soften over the next few years, developing fully in ten to fifteen.


Brought to California in the 1870s—at the same time as carignane, grenache, and mataro (mourvèdre)—petite sirah is a natural cross of syrah and peloursin that came from the same area, southern and southwestern France. It is half syrah—the principal grape of the northern Rhône—and its overall character has more in common with that variety than any other. The new information on petite sirah’s progenitors and origins is based on recent genetic fingerprinting done by Dr. Carole P. Meredith at UC Davis. In many of California’s old zinfandel vineyards, petite sirah is interplanted with carignane or mataro, sometimes with grenache.

Growing Season

York Creek’s location high on Spring Mountain normally makes its petite sirah vineyards among the last to be harvested by Ridge in any vintage. This year, however, a brief warm spell in January started the vines on a relatively fast track. But the warmth quickly gave way to a series of winter and early spring storms, which—luckily—did not reduce the petite sirah crop as it did the zinfandel. (The petite sirah was approximately two weeks behind in development, and escaped.) The storms of spring were followed by very warm summer weather, which advanced harvest from mid-October to mid-September. The first petite sirah (from Devils Hill) arrived at Ridge on
September twelfth. The last (from Dynamite Hill) was harvested September twenty-fifth.


To extract maximum color and flavor without bitter seed tannins, eighty-five percent of the grapes were fermented with the skins floating on the surface of the juice. The fermenting juice was pumped over the skins twice daily, and the wine tasted each day to ensure that tannin levels were not excessive. Ten to fifteen percent of these tanks included whole clusters, which enhances fruit, moderates tannins, and adds complexity. The remaining fifteen percent of the total was fermented using our traditional submerged cap technique. Five percent of the wine was aged in new, air-dried american oak barrels, twenty percent in one-year-old oak, and the rest in older barrels. Extremely intense blackberry and boysenberry fruit balance the black pepper spice typical of petite sirah. Structure is substantial, with chalky tannins providing the backbone for aging. This particularly fine example of York Creek will begin to soften with a year or two of bottle age, and continue to develop over the next ten or more.

Consumer Tasting Notes

Average Rating: 91.7

No. of Tasting Notes: 18

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