La Jota Howell Mountain Petite Sirah 1997
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
La Jota wines are handcrafted at our original 1898 fieldstone winery and hillside cave. From the low yielding vines of 28 mountain acres, they produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and our crown jewel, the annual Heritage Release Cabernet Sauvignon (formerly the Anniversary Release).
While growing grapes in the nutrient-lean, volcanic soils of the La Jota estate is a challenge, the rewards are undeniable. Highly concentrated flavors and muscular tannins slowly mature to perfection, while the cool winds, diurnal temperature swings and high altitude keep the grape acids impeccably balanced, revealing the distinctive voice of our estate.
Viticulturist, Mariano Navarro, and winemaker, Christopher Carpenter, understand the meticulous requirements of mountain farming and mountain winemaking. Their goal is to gently tame tannins while allowing the intriguing mineral, spice and sweet forest loam characters unique to our estate to enhance the complexity of our opulent fruit.
The result? La Jota wines offer elegance and cellar worthiness.
Winemaking in Howell Mountain was abandoned during Prohibition, and wasn’t reawakened until the arrival of Randy Dunn, a talented winemaker famous for the success of Caymus in the 1970s and 1980s. In the early eighties, he set his sights on the Napa hills and subsequently astonished the wine world with a Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Shortly thereafter Howell Mountain became officially recognized as the first sub-region of Napa Valley (1983).
With vineyards at 1,400 to 2,000 feet in elevation, they predominantly sit above the fog line but the days in Howell Mountain remain cooler than those in the heart of the valley, giving the grapes a bit more time on the vine.
The Howell Mountain AVA includes 1,000 acres of vineyards interspersed by forestlands in the Vaca Mountains. The soils, shallow and infertile with good drainage, are volcanic ash and red clay and produce highly concentrated berries with thick skins. The resulting wines are full of structure and potential to age.
With its deep color, rich texture, firm tannins and bold flavors, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The variety, originally known as Durif in the Rhône, 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, commonly utilized as a blending partner for softer Zinfandel and other varieties, but also finds success as a single varietal wine. It thrives in warmer spots, such as Lodi, Sonoma and Napa counties.
In the Glass
Petite Sirah wines are typically deep, dark, rich and inky with concentrated flavors of blueberry, plum, blackberry, black pepper, sweet baking spice, leather, cigar box and chewy, chocolaty tannins.
Petite Sirah’s full body and bold fruit make it an ideal match for barbecue, especially brisket with a slightly sweet sauce or other rich meat dishes. The variety’s heavy tannins call for protein-rich and strong flavors that can stand up to 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 genetic characteristics despite being completely distinct.