The last day of July 2012 was the Petite Sirah Symposium– taking place at the Martinelli Center in Livermore and I unfortunately caught in traffic. I walk in late, find a seat and start attentively listening. For just a fine moment I took in this room devoted to Petite Sirah. It was my first time to attend. I was dazzled momentarily to think this grape has the power to pack this room. I was handed event packet and looked at this great listing of topics to come. I guess sometimes–which I am rarely late–you get to sit near some people you might not have otherwise. To my left was Jeff Cranor of Nottingham Cellars and to my right was David Coffaro. David was going to speak about viticulture and have been a fan of his website-great weather metrics. He producers Aglianico and Lagrein which is quite rare here in California; additionally he produces Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Carignan, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, sparkling wines and red blends. David is exceptionally nice and I really enjoyed speaking with him about what he does and hear the passion and depth of experience.
The conference also featured keynote speech by Evan Goldstein, State of the Grape by John Concannon, and Enology by David Mounts of Mounts Family Winery and Nils Venge Saddleback Cellars. I heard a lot of experiences that were personal and apparent for a love of Petite Sirah–the difficulties of growing this grape. Some of the presentations didn’t necessarily state on path with topic at hand but meandered nicely touching many subjects at once. The grape trust of Petite Sirah is here in California, while in it’s native France is nearly non-existent if not entirely now foreign. You’ll find Petite Sirah in Israel, Greece, Australia, and South Africa but you won’t find the 8,354 acres (3,300 hectares) that are now planted in California anywhere. Interesting we are now at the highpoint of growth–that would have over twenty years ago when there were 14,215 acres (5,752 hectares)–this does not mean that Petite Sirah is on a decline. From hard times in the 1990s this varietal has experienced grow in terms of plantings as well as number of producers–848 producers have a Petite Sirah.
Petite Sirah is on a firm ground–more than it has ever been. Petite Sirah has had it’s down turns on several accounts–it’s name is confusing–no “Virginia it is not Syrah.” TTB allows for Petite Syrah as a synonym which I do think helps to fan the flame of confusion and I have petitioned TTB but talking to a monolith is well like talking to a monolith. Petite Sirah’s best exploits will be to still enjoy as a stand alone wine but to also enhance with the spicy food world of Mexican (I look forward to pairing with my Mole Poblano), Indian, Indonesian, North African, Turkish and a whole host of other cuisines.
Zinfandel has come a long way and supporting organisations like ZAP have done a great job to highlight the vast versatility and seriousness of this wine–Petite Sirah a blending budding of Zinfandel has found it’s way. I do see Petite Sirah plantings not only remaining stable but increasing. It is up to Petite Sirah producers to continue to do what they do and to go out there and talk about this varietal more often.
PS I love PS.
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