100% Petite Sirah
After several years of reduced yields, favorable spring weather and a long, warm summer brought a full crop of ripe, intensely-flavored grapes from this site high above Napa Valley. Color and tannins were easily extracted and rich fruit flavors were immediately apparent, so we chose not to ferment any whole clusters—a technique that tends to accentuate fruit. Instead, we used a submerged cap, keeping skins and juice in contact for added structure. All the wine was aged in air-dried american oak barrels, about a third of which were new. Aromatic and full-bodied, this petite sirah is balanced and drinkable now. It will soften and become more enjoyable with three to four years of bottle age.
Brought to California in the nineteenth century, petite sirah is frequently found interplanted in the state’s old zinfandel vineyards. At York Creek, high on Napa’s Spring Mountain, a number of vineyard parcels are planted entirely to petite sirah. This year’s wine is made from eight of these, which range from 1500′ to 2000′ in elevation. As a rule, York Creek’s high location makes its petite sirah vineyards among the last to be harvested by Ridge in any vintage.
In 1997, after two heavy January storms, winter rains subsided by February. Warm weather in March then awakened the vines early, giving them a head start on the growing season. A warm, dry summer ripened the grapes fully, and harvest began on September 25, three weeks earlier than usual.
Petite sirah is a natural cross of syrah and a little-known variety, peloursin. The grape’s characteristics, however, are clear: once fermented, petite sirah makes deeply colored, rich, tannic wine. Keeping the wine from becoming too structured and tough is an inherent challenge during fermentation. In 1997, the ripe grapes released color and tannins very quickly. Twice-daily tastings of the fermenting juice indicated that maceration time should be limited to no more than seven days. Also, as with our cabernet-based wines, we separated the more tannic press wine from the free run. After malolactic fermentation, this petite sirah spent eighteen months in air-dried american oak barrels, twenty-three percent of which were new. The resulting wine is aromatic and fullbodied, with intense black fruit flavors. Drinkable now, it will improve after three to four years in bottle, and should age well for a further ten.
Average Rating: 91
No. of Tasting Notes: 26
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