The Petite Sirah Symposium began in 2002, and was sponsored by Foppiano Vineyards. Louis Foppiano had had a meeting of Petite Sirah growers and producers prior to 2002, and he asked me to create a current PS Symposium. It proved to be very successful, and those annual meetings continued at Foppiano until 2007. At that time, the decision was made to discontinue the Symposiums.
The Symposium rested for one year, in 2008.
With Concannon Vineyard having just completed their $35 million winery renovation in 2009, Concannon’s chief marketing officer Laurie Jones asked to have the symposium continue at their new facility. This was for the year of 2009. I asked Louis Foppiano is there was any interest in continuing with the symposium, because Concannon was requesting to take on the sponsorship. Louis agreed to let the symposium now be housed at Concannon’s new education center. This center has proven to be a perfect location for the symposium, as they’re really bringing it all home. I say “bringing it all home,” because it was Jim Concannon who was the very first vintner to every bottle a varietally labeled Petite Sirah. This was done in 1964, with a 1961 vintage. Coincidentally, that same year John Concannon was born to Jim and Helen Concannon, as their first child. The year 1961 was a very good one for the Concannons, as they now look back.
John Concannon, a fourth generation vintner, is also the president of PS I Love You for the 2010 term.
On July 27, 2010, the second continuous year of Concannon Vineyard sponsoring the Petite Sirah Symposium, John Concannon was Master of Ceremonies, with his father Jim Concannon by his side. As the tradition of the Petite Sirah’s educational forum continues to grow, so do the amount of acres and the number of producers who are putting Petite Sirah on a label.
Case in point:
- In 2002, there were 67 growers and produces combined who could be identified.
- In 2010, there are currently 127 growers in my data base, and 735 producers.
That number has grown from 67 to what I see is an astronomical figure… There are currently 862 growers and producers in just eight years of growth.
Many believe that this growth is attributed to the organization’s varietally based mission: To promote, educate, and legitimize Petite Sirah as a noble variety, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness. I recently sat next to wine writer Gerald Asher, who’s closely followed the growth with me over the years. Gerald noted what a remarkable advancement there’s been for Petite Sirah, based on these numbers above. I’ve also have had the same conversations with Steve Heimoff, because numbers are very revealing.
They both attribute the growth to my doggedly marketing Petite Sirah. I, on the other hand, attribute it to the brands who have sponsored the Symposium. Today that falls onto the shoulders of Concannon Vineyard, and Foppiano having started the cause with the symposium in 2002.
It’s important to note that it’s not PS I Love You which carries the financial burden of the Symposium. The group is much too small and grossly underfunded. It’s the generosity of Concannon today, and Foppiano in the past. These two wine companies are keen on keeping the dialogue flowing, so that Petite Sirah becomes a better known American heritage variety. Also, without the continued support of the members of PSILY, who re-member every year, none of this marketing growth would have been possible.
An interesting side note: Major support has also come from Bogle Vineyards and Winery. In 2003, PSILY began a Heritage Clone Vineyard committee. This was led by Patty Bogle, working in collaboration with U.C. Davis. When the new Mondavi building was completed, Patty Bogle and PS I Love You’s grants funded a section of Petite Sirah vines, which are now in front of this building. The vines will be studied and tended by the students of U.C. Davis’ viticultural program, with PSILY remaining true to our mission.
Each year there is an annual luncheon, and the annual tasting has been expanded to include media, hosted by Jim and John Concannon.
Asking Jim Concannon for a closing thought, since he has played such a major role in the development of Petite Sirah as a variety:
Today, almost Fifty Years later it is “Petite” in name only.
It has been a remarkable experience since 1961, when I produced and released in 1964 our first “354” cases of Petite Sirah.
The variety was planted by my Grandfather in our vineyard back in 1904; but blended, or “hidden,” to enhance our Zinfandel over the years.
Today Growers and Wine makers alike have continued to develop this variety in exceptional ways. The support of P.S. I Love You, and sharing educational experience at seminars such as this, enables Petite Sirah lovers everywhere to continue enjoying a very drinkable wine on its release, or one that can be stored for twenty years.
Petite Sirah is America’s Varietal Grape, and the last 50 years has proven it can proudly stand on its own. — Jim Concannon