Wine Education

True Champions behind the Success of Petite Sirah -The Quiet Group of Leaders who are championing this underdog

Jo Diaz

Concannon Vineyard

Concannon Vineyard was the first to varietally label Petite Sirah. When Jim tells the story, he gives the honor back to Denny Caldwell, a Southern California retailer, who told Concannon to put “Petite Sirah” on a label. Jim wasn’t sure it would fly. For years, Petite Sirah was called anything but. And so, in 1964, Concannon cautiously released the first varietally labeled Petite Sirah with a ‘61 vintage. Unbeknownst to anyone, this was to become an American heritage, benchmark decision. So committed to this varietal, Concannon Vineyard has sponsored The Blue Tooth Tour for the last two years. It’s a tour with a twist, in that in order to participate, those pouring Petite are either owners or winemakers. It’s an extraordinary, on the road “who’s who.”

 

David Bruce

 Not one of these leaders has an ego worn on his sleeve; most especially David Bruce. David’s an industry legend, an icon. His Pinot Noir set the standard for voluptuous wine. His demeanor is graceful and elegant. But when he calls and says, “This is David Bruce, B – R – U – C – E,” spelling out his last name, you realize David doesn’t even know the impact he’s had on us. We all associate David Bruce with Pinot Noir. Now taste his Petite Sirah and think about how a Pinot winemaker produces a Petite Sirah with the same careful crafting. You can taste the influences in his Petite. How can he go from one of the most delicate of our varietals to one of the heartiest? That’s his craft, and that’s what David Bruce is bringing to the table that makes him so unique within this group of merry “pet” producers.

 

Foppiano Vineyards

 Down-to-earth and right at home with Petite Sirah, the Italian-American winemaking Foppiano family has been varietally labeling Petite Sirah since their 1964 vintage. This was first Russian River Valley family to leave “Sonoma Burgundy” behind, and tell it like it is… Petite Sirah. They’re as hard working as they get. Louis M. Foppiano is the King of Advocates for “Petta Sarah,” as the local growers always called it. Giovanni Foppiano, Louis Senior’s grandfather, decided to hang his hat on this varietal when he bought the Riverside Farm, along the Russian River in Healdsburg, California, back in 1896. The field blend planted with Petite Sirah held his family’s future for crafting a wine that would become a “manly wine” standard. Now, Louis M. is on the road singing the praises of Petite Sirah, but each year he hosts the winery’s Annual Petite Sirah Noble Symposium.

 

Grizzly Flat

There’s always a new kid on the block. It’s one thing to be the new kid on the block; but quite another to come in with your head already standing above the crowd. This is the way Grizzly Flat is coming into its own. The folks at Grizzly Flat are proud that in the 1800s, brave and hardy settlers came to California in search of adventure and opportunity. Seeing a new frontier that spread before them, they forged new trails into the west. This is the mission of Grizzly Flat; i.e., to work with a RED varietal that has great potential, but will more than likely surpass their wildest expectations. They want to craft a wine that’s so big and bold it “takes your taste buds on an adventure!”  Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the legends in this story, Grizzly Flat is an exciting, bold Petite that will prove itself in no time.

 

Guenoc  

Guenoc’s history as a winery dates back to 1854 when wine grapes were first planted in the Guenoc Valley. Victorian actress Lillie Langtry owned the property from 1888 to 1906. Her proprietorship set the stage for a unique, forward thinking winery. Today, Guenoc still functions with originality. Located in the picturesque Guenoc Valley of Lake County, Guenoc has the unusual distinction of being the only winery and vineyard owner in the Guenoc Valley appellation. Approved in 1981, Guenoc Valley was the first single-proprietor AVA in the country, following an innovative effort by the winery to get this region recognized. While Guenoc has enjoyed significant critical success with more popular varietals, the winery has emerged as a top Petite producer. Guenoc’s commitment to Petite Sirah demonstrates the winery’s willingness to do things a little differently. Over the past two decades, Guenoc has steadily championed Petite Sirah, introducing many wine lovers to the grape and producing consistently high-quality wines that remain among the most celebrated Petite Sirahs in history. 

 

Rosenblum

 Kent Rosenblum, the wine industry veterinarian winemaker, can confuse “pet” at the drop of a hat. When asked “What’s your favorite ‘pet’ story?” while on a Petite panel, Kent’s response was about a bird that kept falling off its perch. The owner called him for advice. Kent made a house call and said, “The next time you’re smoking, open the windows.” Kent’s also an amazing winemaker who gives everyone lots of freedom to excel. It would take an egoless visionary like Kent to share winemaking duties with the likes of Jeff Cohn. When Jeff reinvented himself from the hospitality industry to the wine industry, he landed at Rosenblum, and is a perfect example of someone given the complete tool box and told, “just go for it.” As a result, the Rosenblum wines are full-bodied, fruit bombs that both critics and consumers just adore.

 

Silkwood

 While Louis Vineyards was purchasing the domain name for P.S. I Love You, Kent Rosenblum and John Monnich  of Silkwood Wines were in a dead heat to become the first member. Checks arrived the same day; a tie. A man of great foresight with a sharp marketing eye, Monnich’s wines have a trademarked, velvet label, making certain that Silkwood would be unique. John’s very passionate about Petite, and when asked about it, John only has four words: Big, Black, Bold, Beautiful. His enthusiasm segues into Petite being a food-friendly wine, and his Silkwood Website has a special recipe area for A food and wine aficionado, John’s producing wines that can be paired with hearty dishes. In 1979, Silkwood was founded by Monnich, a UC Davis General Ag graduate. Then in 2000, he was joined by Rodney Beard, a UC Davis School friend from Modesto, bringing vineyard property along the Tuolumne River in Stanislaus County to the partnership.

 

Trentadue

 Leo Trentadue heads this Italian-American winemaking family. An Alexander Valley legend, Leo Trentadue is also a World War II veteran. During the war, Leo was stationed in a Petit Northern French village, and Leo has “nine lives” stories to share. Last year, Leo with wife Evelyn returned to France where he had been injured. How this relates to wine is that had he not survived these nine lives, he wouldn’t have returned to California, picking up where he left off as a farmer, evolving into an awesome Petite producer. Son Victor shares Leo’s passion for managing their vineyards that include Petite. Victor has formed a tight alliance with winemaker Miro Tcholakov, who has broadly become recognized for reds so bold and voluptuous, yet silky smooth, that they’re fringing on X-rated. In wine competitions, gold medals abound, and he’s also got the eye and ear of prominent wine reviewers. This combination of family, location, and talent give Trentadue a really bright Petite future.

THE TASTING PANEL, 17203 Ventura Blvd, Ste. 5, Encino, CA 91316
Content ©2014 THE TASTING PANEL magazine. All rights reserved