Posts Tagged ‘Dry Creek Valley’

A Pandemic Tasting of Old Californian Wines with Lou

December 7, 2021 1 comment

Lou and I met up outside several times during the pandemic to taste a few bottles of wine. We started off with a small group of Zinfandel. Despite a rather disappointing performance as a whole, the bottle of 1979 Santino, Zinfandel, Special Selection, Fiddletown, Amador County stood out and rightfully so.

It was the same year of our bottle, 1979, that Scott Harvey took over as General Manager and Winemaker at Santino Winery. He had spent the previous years studying in Germany and locally at Story Vineyard and Montevina. When Scott Harvey wrote to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in support of creating a Fiddletown appellation, he noted that his best and most expensive Zinfandel wines came from Fiddletown. The fruit for the 1979 Special Selection we drank was made using fruit sourced from 60 year old vines at Chester Eschen’s Vineyard. Ridge Vineyards was also purchasing Zinfandel fruit from the same vineyard beginning in 1974.

I found the Santino offered up plenty of satisfaction until my share of the bottle was done.

1971 Fortino Winery, Zinfandel

Alcohol 12.5%. A rather old nose but some attractive vintage perfume survives. In the mouth sweaty flavors exist in a watery and light wine with bits of greenness. Fortunately, the sweaty, earthy aspect returns in the somewhat complex finish. *(*) Drink up.

1978 Mirassou, Unfiltered Zinfandel, Monterey County new label

Alcohol 13%. Slightly cloudy in the glass. A touch of overripe fruit. A medicinal note then tart red fruit with some cranberry like verve. Tastes of young vines. *(*) Drink up.

1978 Mirassou, Unfiltered Zinfandel, Monterey County old label

Alcohol 12.5%. Meaty flavors of firm cherry and tart red fruit before the textured finish. Vintage perfume mixes with fresh acidity and a hint of wood box. ** Now.

1979 Santino, Zinfandel, Special Selection, Fiddletown, Amador County

This wine is 100% Zinfandel sourced from 60 year old non-irrigated vines located at Eschen’s Vineyard. It was aged in small French oak barrels. Alcohol 14%. Clearly the best of all wine. Mature but plenty of fruit, texture, and balance. In fine shape with plenty of life ahead but pleasurable now. *** Now.

1980 A. Rafanelli, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Alcohol 14.2%. Unfortunately, I did not write down a note.

Lou guesses Italian, I guess Bordeaux

I went over to Lou’s house a few weeks ago.  We each brown bagged a few wines for each other to guess.  We only skirted with brilliance, informally I would say we are closer in guessing vintages than the regions the wine came from.  I brought the Rhone trio because negociants were still in their heydey at the end of the 1970s.  This clearly evident in the basic 1979 Paul Jaboulet-Aine, Crozes-Hermitage which is in absolutely fine shape today.  My brother-in-law’s guess that the bottle contained mature Cotes du Rhone is on the mark.  From an excellent vintage the 1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Grand Pompee, Saint-Joseph is deeply aromatic and powerful.  Today it is very bloody on the nose and simpler in the mouth but I suspect it was a brute in youth.  It fell apart before the Crozes.  In case we needed confirmation that the Jaboulet Aine Crozes is a good wine I opened the miserable bottle of 1979 Cave des Clairmonts, Crozes-Hermitage.

I guessed Washington state for the 1996 Ridge, Grenache ATP, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.  Clearly an excellent wine, it remains attractively aromatic yet continues to expand in flavor for hours.  After a few hours of air it becomes racy and texture.  I suspect this wine will develop for another year or two.  The 1998 Meerlust, Merlot, Stellenbosch confused me.  The salty start reminded me of certain Syrah based wines but the herbaceousness had me leaning towards a minor wine from Bordeaux.  It is surprisingly unevolved but it may never actually arrive at maturity.

1979 Paul Jaboulet-Aine, Crozes-Hermitage
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good nose of mature Rhone fruit that persists until the bottle is finished.  In the mouth are rounded, perfumed flavors with a clear amount of good blue fruit and spices still present.  It finishes with some menthol gum freshness.  *** Now.

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Grand Pompee, Saint-Joseph
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose is metallic at first then it remains deeply aromatic evoking blood and iron.  It is tangy on the nose.  There is a bright fruit start then a black fruited middle moved by watering acidity.  The wine has power but the flavors become simpler towards the end.  The strength of the vintage comes through but the wine has seen better days.  * Now.

1979 Cave des Clairmonts, Crozes-Hermitage
This smells disjointed and tastes clunk, as if sweetness was added.  Poor.

1996 Ridge, Grenache ATP, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley
This wine is a blend of 92% Grenache, 6% Zinfandel, and 2% Petite Sirah.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a touch lighter in color making it medium garnet.  The wine changes with air for several hours, all the while maintaining a lovely nose of mixed berries and spice.  In the mouth is a ripe and perfumed start followed by a brief period of austerity.  It soon becomes racy with ripe flavors and power complemented by a fine texture and spiced finish.  This is a enjoyable wine just about to enter its mature plateau.  **** Now – 2023.

1998 Meerlust, Merlot, Stellenbosch
Imported by Cape Classics.  Alcohol 13%.  This looks young in the glass and still has a purple, grapey dark core.  The dark, salty start is interesting then the wine turns almost bitter with bits of green herbaceousness and very fine, drying tannins. It remains firm, never opening up.  ** Now but will last.

A Californian quartet

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Between work, family, wine research, and the new turntable I am short on free time.  Thus over the past month I have generally drunk inexpensive French and Italian wine for I need not take down any notes.  I have peppered these same weeks with a handful of younger bottles from California.  One recent release is the 2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley.  This bottle showed very well after a few hours of air as well as on the second night.  It is a style of wine that has not swung too far in either direction, providing balanced white fruit flavors with both lovely mouthfeel and tautness.

I have never tasted the 2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County since release.  I was surprised by the amount of flavor packed in and the lack of evolution.  It is quite tasty but should be cellared further to open up.  I suppose, in retrospect, I can understand why Lou and I enjoy decades old bottles of Ridge.  The 2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a solid wine full of black fruit and graphite.  It is supple and tasty, just not as exciting as I hoped at this stage.  Finally, there is the gigantic 1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley which caught me off guard.  Ripe, dark, and alcoholic it is simply not my type of wine.


2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley – $30
This was fermented in 25% oak barrels with the remaining in stainless steel after which is was aged 7 months sue lie.  Alcohol 14%. With a bit of warmth and air this is an attractive wine of white fruit with a pleasing body of glycerin and nut flavors.  The tautness of the wine builds as the acidity becomes more noticeable, simultaneously evolving a finely textured, ripe grip.  ***(*) Now – 2020.


2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, and 6% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is both surprisingly unevolved and packing a tremendous level of flavor.  It is a richly textured, dense wine of dark fruit that may not have any hard edges but does have structure for significant aging.  Given the level of stuffing I would wait another five years to try again.  **** Now – 2027.


2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.2%.  The nose remained subtle and the flavors of graphite-infused black fruit remained gentle.  This is a low-lying, almost laid back wine.  It remains very black in terms of flavor with inky hints and eventually develops some additional complexity from a wood box flavor.  There is some texture but it is generally supple with low-acidity.  Solid.  *** Now.


1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  This is a thick, dark flavored, very ripe wine of body and scope which seems to defy the varietal.  It was heady with noticeable heat in the finish that I found too distracting. Not my style.  Not Rated.

A new Petite Sirah from Ridge

We typically see the usual selection of Ridge wines in Washington, DC, so it was a no brainer to grab a bottle of 2013 Ridge, Lytton Estate, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley.  Ridge wines can be fascinating to taste both young and mature.   Petite Sirah wines can be quite a mouthful and evolve at a glacial pace. Indeed, the back label of the bottle states “This is one of the most structured petite sirahs we have made from Lytton Estates.” It certainly is compared to the 2010 vintage, which you may read about here.  Despite that reference, the 2013 vintage is an overall elegant Petite Sirah in a larger context.  It is both concentrated and forward.  It may not become too expansive but I think it will open up with some much needed age.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Ridge, Lytton Estate, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County – $24
This wine is a blend of 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Zinfandel which was aged for 16 months in American oak.  Alcohol 13.9%.  The nose offers up inky, purple aromas mixed with buttered loaf and some smoke.  In the mouth, this is a black, grapey, flavorful wine with acidity that is certainly present.  The wine becomes savory with an umami, salt combination.  It is textured with extract and ripe, chocolate flavors tannins.  It is rather elegant for this variety.  *** Now – 2031.


Four bottles with a wee bit of age

December 8, 2015 Leave a comment

With the end of the year approaching I thought it appropriate to start drinking some of the lesser bottles that I have as well as those of which I have several.  The 1991 A. Rafanelli Winery, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County came from the Earthquake Cellar.  Though in stellar condition it initially tasted of rather acidic, bright red fruit.  I thought it a goner so I switched to the double-decanted 2007 Chateau Pesquie, Quintessence, Ventoux.  This bottle of Pesquie delivered the goods both with aromas and in the saline accented flavors.  It is a large-framed, robust wine that does not fall victim to the high alcohol level.  Many hours later, the Rafanelli fleshed out with cherry flavors that balanced the acidity along with attractive wood notes from age.  It ultimately came across as reasonably youthful with only the menthol aspect confirming its age.

Also from the 1990s is the 1998 Viking Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon which we last tasted in 2008.  This soft, old wine still sported jammy berries with enough acidity to keep it together.  The two wines from the 1990s were enjoyable enough to finish and while worthy of the experience, I would not bother seeking them out.  Finally, the 2004 Domaine des Espiers, Cuvee Tradition, Gigonda remains a solid enough, modern wine as it did when last tasted in 2011.  Perhaps not the most exciting quartet of wines but I do not mind.  I just received a slew of wines from 1947 through 1985 which I will be opening up this winter.  These bottles should be tons of fun!


1991 A. Rafanelli Winery, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13.8%.  After a few hours of air the nose became attractive with sweet, old scents of leather and wood box.  Though acidic at first this wine fleshed out with cherry fruit, some weight, and watering acidity through the back of the toast.  It showed hints of ripe wood and a menthol finish.  ** Now.


1998 Viking Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  Alcohol 12.8%.  This licorice flavored wine was rounded and a little soft with jammy berries in the finish.  The flavors mixed with old wood, old perfume, and a finish of minimal tannins and menthol freshness.  The acidity was bound in the softness, giving it just enough liveliness.  ** Now.


2004 Domaine des Espiers, Cuvee Tradition, Gigondas
Imported by the Country Vintner.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Though this developed some nuanced flavors, it largely remained firm.  It was quite tannic at first then firm black and red fruit came out.  The watering acidity transitioned to a modern finish with a good dose of fine, drying tannins on the tongue.  Not too interesting of a wine.  ** Now – 2022.


2007 Chateau Pesquie, Quintessence, Ventoux
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache.  Alcohol 15%.  Aromatic on the nose and rich in the mouth with saline infused black and red fruit.  Weighty but not overbearing, this wine is taking on bottle aged complexity but still has the vigor of youth. It has some attractive raciness right now but I think it will benefit from several more years of age.  ***(*) Now – 2025.


Beach bottles!

Our beach week has ended and the first day of class at my daughter’s new school has begun.  Do not be surprised if there are some gaps in my posting as I settle into our new schedule.


We drank some enjoyable wines at the beach this year.  The pair of white Burgundies from Christophe Cordier were in the dump bin to make space for new vintages.  The 2012 vintage was marked by yield reductions due to hail damage.  The 2012 Christophe Cordier, La Verchere, Vire-Clesse emerged unscathed and is an outright treat of a wine at such a low price.  I would wait another year before drinking it again.  The 2012 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel, Dry Creek Valley is a spritely, lighter bodied wine that already shows good complexity.  It should improve with short-term cellaring but I certainly recommend you try a bottle or two first!

We also tried two wines from Northern Rhone.  I will admit an overall preference for the 2013 Domaine Georges Vernay, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone not just because it tastes great but that it will clearly develop over the next several years.  The 2012 Lionel Faury, Syrah, L’Art Zele, Collines Rhodaniennes does have some structure but it is a more forward, fruity wine that gives the impression it should be drunk young. Perhaps it may not develop the same level of complexity but the fat-like quality is seductive.  You should try both wines.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Christophe Cordier, Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne Blanc – $17
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was similar texture to La Verchere at the start but this showed rounder flavors with a hint of cream in the finish.  The acidity was completely integrated with the white fruit, drier finish, and chalky aftertaste.  ** Now-2017.


2012 Christophe Cordier, La Verchere, Vire-Clesse – $16
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a rich, apple nose followed by focused richness in the mouth.  The gravelly, ripe apple flavors had good texture with toast-like notes on the gums.  The structure and apple acidity suggest that this enjoyable wine will develop in the short term.  **(*) Now-2018.


2012 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel, Dry Creek Valley – $25
This wine is a blend of 55% Grench, 27% Syrah, and 18% Mourvedre.  This round wine offered up flavors of mandarin oranges and red fruit that was made spritely by the acidity.  The wine progressed to blue fruits with a spice and cola like ripeness that added complexity to the young flavors.  A treat to drink this wine is well poised for development.  *** Now – 2020.


2013 Domaine Georges Vernay, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone – $27
Imported by Simon “N” Cellars.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40 year old vines located near Condrieu.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for one year in use barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Clearly a northern Rhone Syrah this wine sported lighter blue and red flavors that slowly built weight and savoriness in the mouth.  With impeccable balance the fine and ripe textured tannins matched the savory and cool fruit elements.  *** Now – 2025.


2012 Lionel Faury, Syrah, L’Art Zele, Collines Rhodaniennes – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 18 year old vines located near Cote Rotie.  It was fermented in cement vats then aged for 15 months in used demi-muid.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was clearly ripe with fruitier aromas backed by floral notes.  In the mouth the black fruit had weight on the tongue and fat that laid over a low note of structure.  The wine became firm in the finish with dry baking spices.  *** Now – 2020.


Tasting Wines from Edmunds St John, Fausse Piste, Linden, Sandlands, and Two Shepherds

Lou texted me that he tried one of the wines he received in the inaugural shipment from Sandlands Vineyards.  It was special.  Sandlands Vineyards is the project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua.  Tegan has been making wine at Turley Wine Cellars for some time.  These Sandlands wines are made with fruit from old, head-trained and dry-farmed vines in California.  Lou mentioned he had a bottle of the Trousseau Noir so I knew I had to acquire a bottle of William Allen’s Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris.  We then added in wines of  Fausse Piste from Washington, Linden Vineyards from Virginia, and Edmunds St John from California.  Our tasting was born.

I will keep this brief by just posting my thoughts.  The wines of Sandlands are indeed special and exciting.  You must get on the waiting list right away!  I am digging Trousseau Gris and Trousseau Noir from California.  Those in Washington, DC, are fortunate that you can buy the Two Shepherds wines at Weygandt Wines.  Ask Tim  or Warren if there is any Trousseau Gris left because William Allen has no more of the 2012 vintage.  While you are at the shop pick up the Edmunds St John, Rocks + Gravel.  You will be strongly satisfied drinking it now but be sure to cellar some as well.  Over the years I have felt there was a certain funk or lurking flavor that I did not like in the red wines of Virginia.  The Linden, Claret moves beyond that and lives up to the classic Claret name.  Thanks to Phil at MacArthur Beverages for putting this in my sights.


2012 Two Shepherds, Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Trousseau Gris.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The color was of a bright copper kettle.  The nose was beautiful with ripe, floral aromas.  In the mouth the round flavors became racy in the middle then took on dry red flavors with integrated acidity.  The flavors were well supported becoming ripe and gentle in the finish.  On the second night there was a lovely, dense body to this unique wine.  ***(*) Now-2017.


2013 Fausse Piste, Garde Mange, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 14.1%.  This began with raisin-like, savory flavors, integrated acidity, and structure in the finish.  It even had a little thickness.  On the second night this showed better balance with bramble, some herbs black fruit, and ruggedness. ** Now-2017.


2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Trousseau, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Trousseau Noir.  Alcohol 13.2%.  The color was a light garnet.  The nose was aromatic with vintage perfume and aromas familiar to the Trousseau Gris.  In the mouth were serious flavors.  The structure was there and matched the flavors in the finish.  It was a little salty, expansive, and beautiful.  It took on a little tart fruit.  The acidity was lovely, crisp and matched the eventually tangy flavors.  **** Now-2019.


2012 Edmunds St John, Rocks + Gravel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 18% Mourvedre.  Alcohol ?  The nose had some enjoyable funk with red fruit but remained tight.  There were lively flavors of ripe, mixed berries that picked up intensity.  It continued to drink like a brighter Rhone-styled wine.  *** Now-2025.


2011 Linden, Claret
This wine is a blend of 44% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.2%.  The nose revealed dried herb and wood overlaying bright fruit and some meat.  The flavors followed the nose with bright acidity, ripe tannins, and some Big Red notes.  This was a youthful wine with young tasting fruit.  It became a little herbacious with black graphite, and spicy, drying tannins that coated the mouth.  With air this showed dry flavors of bright fruit.  **(*) 2015-2019.


2010 Sandlands Vineyards, Mataro
This wine is 100% Mataro.  Alcohol 13.6%.  The nose remained right.  In the mouth there was more fruit than the Trousseau Noir along with an interesting note of polished old wood.  In a sense it was similar to the Trousseau Noir in profile.  There were enjoyable dense aromas, a little savory flavor, black fruit, attractive graphite, and old-wood notes.  Needs cellar time.  Lou reported this was great on the third night.  ***(*) 2016-2026.


Two Completely Different Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley

A week or so ago Jenn and I tasted two of Eric Asimov’s wine school selections.  I must admit I was somewhat confused by the 2011 Ridge, Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley.  At first I thought the prickle on the tongue and high-toned notes indicated a wine that would crack-up on the second day.  But there was a beguiling earthy note which I thought needed a chance to develop.  This bottle was perfectly fine on the second night, though still clearly young, the tart red fruit was complemented by an earthy, animale finish.  If this can age for a few years it should become something!  The 2012 Dashe, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley is much lower in price.  While it does not have the same level of complexity it is both forward drinking  and in possession of a vein of black, mineral fruit which I imagine will blossom this winter.   I would pick up several bottles of the Dashe to track their development as the Ridge slumbers.  These wines were purchased at  MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Ridge, Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley – $32
This wine is  a blend of 82% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, and 2% Carignane which was aged for 14 months in 25% new American oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.4%.  The nose was earthy with predominantly high-toned aromas.  In the mouth the flavors were tingly on the tongue tip.  There were mouth filling flavors of earthy, tart red cranberry fruit, wood polish, and a dose of drying tannins.  The wine continued with blacker fruit, firm acidity, and an assertive finish.  With extended air there were low-lying flavors of an earthy, animale nature.  ***/***(*) 2015-2022.


2012 Dashe, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley – $18
This wine is a blend of 92% Zinfandel and 8% Petite Sirah aged for 10 months in 100% French oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%. This was a fruit forward and generous wine with an interesting vein of blue and black mineral fruit.  The flavors were mouthfilling.  There were some citric tannins and extract on the gums followed by a spicy kick of a finish.  It could use a little age.  **(*) 2014-2018.


A West-Coast Trio: Sbragia, Ch Ste Michelle, & Ridge

I continue to purchase the wines that are featured on this blog.  Hopefully this gives you a good sense of my interests one of which led me to pick up the 2007 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek.  There is an uncanny ability for Ridge wines to develop and age but I feel this particular bottle drank at its peak.  Indeed the back label reveals a development forecast to 2014-2016.  The wine was a bit soft at first but once it firmed up the fruit, minerals, acidity, and structure were in pleasing balance.

Andy has been recommending wines as of late including the 2010 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills.  This bottle must sport the largest ratio of mouthful-of-flavor to price out there.  It is a seamless wine with dense, dark fruit matched by a chocolate vein.  This will surely be a crowd pleaser, it was a bit too much for me though not fatiguing.  Another recommendation from Andy is the 2011 Sbragia Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, Gino’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley.   I had never heard of Sbragia before so if you have not then try this wine.  It is more elegant but has complexity.  I particularly liked the subtle orange and tobacco flavors.  If you drink it now give it a few hours in the decanter otherwise try it at the end of the year.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2007 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek – $23
This wine is a blend of 78% Zinfandel and 22% Petite Sirah sourced from vines planted between the 1970s and 1990.  It was fermented with indigenous yeast then aged for 12 months in new and used American oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.6%.  There were rather ripe aromas of macerated fruit.  In the mouth there was a certain softness at first but the wine firmed up with air.  There were minerally flavors of red and black fruit, appropriate acidity, and a supportive structure.  The maturity came through with the cedar and wood-box infused finish.  Drinking well right now.  *** Now-2015.


2010 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills – $22
This wine is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Syrah, and 1% Malbec which was fermented with both indigenous and inoculated yeasts in French oak barrels then aged sur lie for 10 months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose revealed dense, ripe aromas of musky chocolate.  Tasted over four nights the silky flavors of dense, dark fruit mixed with moderately ripe tannins and had no edges at all.  This completely integrated wine was rich, smooth, and full of flavors including chocolate.  The ample oak influence was matched by the fruit.  *** Now-2016.


2011 Sbragia Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, Gino’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley – $30
This wine is a field blend of 85% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan, and 5% Petite Sirah sourced from 55 year old vines on the 5 acre Gino’s Vineyard.  It was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.4%.  The lighter but complex nose made way to brighter red fruit in the mouth.  The flavors were slightly tart but still ripe with strawberry notes and an orange hint.  There was some tobacco as well as freshness from a little menthol.  With air a lipstick component came out.  *** 2014-2019.


There is Peloursin in my Ridge Petite Sirah

June 20, 2013 1 comment

The Ridge, Petite Sirah is a wine I cannot recall seeing before on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages.  I also cannot recall having tasted a wine which included the varietal Peloursin.  Peloursin crossed with Syrah to produce Durif or Petite Sirah.[1]  Durif was first discovered then propagated in the vineyard of Dr. Francois Durif.  The earliest mention of “plant du rif” may be found in 1868.[2]  It was noticed by the Ampelographic Society of Viticulture Lyon in 1869 when they visited Michel Perret’s vineyards in Tullins.  During the visit Dr. Durif’s vines came to their attention.[3]   In describing the dominant varietals in the area they noted such vines as “la marsanne noire ou petite sirah” and “plant durif noir.”  As for the plant durif noir they noted it was introduced by Dr. Durif but he failed to tell them how it came about.  By 1878, plant durif noir was noted in Hermann Goethe’s Ampelographisches worterbuch.[4]  Durif was introduced to California by Charles McIver in 1884 founder of Linda Vista Winery near Mission San Jose.  He subsequently renamed it Petite Sirah.  These old Petite Sirah vineyards did not include pure plantings of just Durif but also included other varietals such as Peloursin and Syrah.

Linda Vista Winery, Mission San Jose, Sanborn Fire Map, 1897. Image from DSCQHR Excavation 2011.

Linda Vista Winery, Mission San Jose, Sanborn Fire Map, 1897. Image from DSCQHR Excavation 2011.

Four years later in 1888, the 1886 vintage of “Petite Syrah” from the St. Helena fruit of the Experimental Cellar of the State Viticultural Commission was presented.[5]  Two other entries include the 1887 vintages from Charles McIver of Mission San Jose as well as the 1887 vintage from H. W. Crabb of Oakville.  In January of 1889 two bottles of the 1886 vintage from the Experimental Cellar were sent by Clarence J. Wetmore to the Paris Exposition via the Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC. [6]

In the 1890s The California Agricultural Experiment Station was researching the grafting of different varietals on different rootstocks.  In 1905, the Experimental Stations provides a quote from Paul Masson, San Jose in the section “Experience of Growers. Wine Grapes.” [7]

I have quite a few acres of 11-year-old vines grafted on Rupestris St George, including the following varieties: Carignane, Mondeuse, Alicante Bouschet, Aramon, Grand Noir, Durif, Grenache, Pinot Semillon, Sauvignon vert, Folle blanche, Colombar, Pinot blanc. These are all doing very well, and, if anything, more vigorous and prolific than ungrafted vines of the same age. Carignane and Grenache. 12 years old on St George. have never failed to give a large crop and Aramon also seems very prolific.

Paul Masson appears to be the only one in the Bulletin who identifies the varietal as Durif. While he would have grafted the Durif vines around 1894, it is unclear if he always identified it as Durif instead of Petite Sirah.  Throughout the Bulletin are references to “Petite Sirah” which is not surprising given that it was planted in such areas as Amador County, Fresno, East Side Mission San Jose, West Side Cupertino, and Paso Robles.  Note the slight name changed from “Petite Syrah” to “Petite Sirah.”  A decade later in Bulletin 246 in the section “Vine Pruning in California” there is a paragraph about “Varieties which usually require long pruning.”  In this paragraph both Durif and Petite Sirah are listed.[8]

As for the wines, I highly recommend both but just be sure to cellar them for at least a few years.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Ridge, Petite Sirah, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley – $26
This wine is a blend of 88% Petite Sirah, 8% Zinfandel,  2% Syrah, and 2% Peloursin.  The fruit was destemmed, whole berry fermented with indigenous yeasts the underwent malolactic fermentation followed by aging in American oak.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The medium dark color was purple and grapey.  The nose was  a little pungent.  In the mouth there were fine, focused flavors, fine extract with strength but was still a refined wine.  There was a youthful, grapey note.  With air there were perfumed violets, a racy hint in the month, and pungent flavors.  There were very fine, ripe grapey tannins which I found pleasant.  ***(*) 2015-2030.


2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley – $30
This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, and 6% Carignan.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were focused flavors of blueberry and blackberry which had a powdery aspect with impeccable acidity.  There were darker, lifted flavors in the finish which continued into the aftertaste.  While the aftertaste was deep it was not heavy and left the notion of fine, grapey extract in the mouth.  The wine became savory with, perhaps, a little glycerine.  Should develop well.  ***(*) 2015-2028.


[1] UC Davis Viticultural Information. URL: Last Accessed: 20 June 2013.
[2] Cherpin, De. Revue des jardins et des champs. 1868.
[3] Société des agriculteurs de France. Comptes rendus des travaux de la Société des agriculteurs de France, Volume 4. 1873.
[4] Goethe, Hermann. Ampelographisches wörterbuch. 1878.
[5] Report of the Sixth Annual State Viticultural Convention.  1888.
[6] State Office. Annual Report for the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners for 1889-1890. 1890.
[7] Grape Culture in California. University of California Publications Bulletin 197. 1908.
[8] Bioletti, Frederick T. Vine Pruning in California Part II. University of California Publications Bulletin 246. 1914.