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Geyser Peak Winemakers Reserve Petite Sirah 1999
The fruit comes from the steep hillside vineyard directly behind the winery. The limiting nature of the soils in this site naturally reduces the vigor of the vines, thus producing a meager crop of small, black berries of incredible concentration. The wine was drained off skins after only five days and allowed to complete fermentation in new American oak barrels. Two months later the wine was racked and returned to 25% new French oak barrels and the balance going to two, three and four year-old barrels for maturation.
One of California’s oldest and most renowned wineries, Geyser Peak Winery was founded in 1880 by Augustus Quitzow, a pioneer in Alexander Valley winemaking, Geyser Peak has flourished as an award-winning winery for more than 130 years. Quitzow chose the original winery site in Geyserville for its vantage point of the famed Geysers Geothermal area. The white steam that billowed from the geysers along the mountain slopes provided the winery with a spectacular ‘view of the clouds’.
Today, Geyser Peak pays fond tribute to its past roots in Alexander Valley as it sets forth on a new path into the Dry Creek Valley Appellation where the winery has recently relocated. Although the address is new, the commitment to the highest quality artisan winemaking is not. Geyser Peak will continue to “Reach For Peak” for many years to come.
Geyser Peak’s winemaking philosophy is the same today as it was more than a century ago – create top quality wines of distinction. They combine traditional Old World practices with New World innovations. Throughout Geyser Peak's history, they have sought out emerging techniques and winemaking processes; testing, evaluating and elevating their craft to perfect wines from grapes grown in the Sonoma County and other premium regions of California.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production and tourism, the Napa Valley is the AVA that brought worldwide recognition to California winemaking. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two are St.-Helena and the valley's newest AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, and Mt. Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
With its deep color, rich texture, firm tannin, and bold flavors, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The variety was originally known as Durif, but took on its more popular moniker when it was imported to California from France in 1884. Despite its origins, it has since become known as a quintessentially Californian grape. It has been commonly utilized as a blending partner for softer Zinfandel and other varieties, but has also found success as a single varietal wine. It is most commonly grown in Lodi and the Central Valley, and to an extent in Sonoma and Napa counties.
In the Glass
Petite Sirah wines are typically deep, dark, rich, and inky, with concentrated flavors of blueberry, plum, backberry, black pepper, sweet baking spice, leather, and cigar box, and chewy, chocolatey tannins. Notes of vanilla and coconut can be found in examples with significant amounts of new oak.
Petite Sirah’s full body and bold fruit make it an ideal match for barbecue, especially brisket with a slightly sweet sauce, and other rich meat dishes. The variety’s heavy tannins call for fatty protein and strong flavors that won’t get drowned out by the wine.
Don’t get Petite Sirah confused with Syrah—it is not, as the name might seem to imply, a smaller version of Syrah. It is, however, the offspring of Syrah (crossed with an obscure French variety called Peloursin), so the two grapes do share some characteristics despite being completely distinct varieties.