The 10th Annual Petite Sirah Symposium hosted by Concannon Vineyard continues the success of the best minds converging, once again, to discuss this eclectic variety.
Jim Concannon (third generation vintner) and John Concannon (fourth generation vintner) welcomed guests on Tuesday, July 31. John Concannon, the day’s Emcee, led the proceedings with his state of the grape address entitled 100 Years of Petite, and Going Strong. He presented the history and evolution of Petite Sirah in California, as told through family documents, some of which were made public for the first time. He also shared growth of the variety over the years, including the ups and downs of plantings.
Keynote speaker Evan Goldstein MS, explained why he loves Petite Sirah as a unique cultivar. “It’s personality filled, polarizing, emotion stirring, and with a fanatical base of advocates.” Goldstein stated, “Move over ZAP, TAPA, etc.. Petite Sirah is a style of wine that I consider to be nectar of the gods to those who enjoy their concentrated and voluminous reds… It’s so diverse– it’s not a one size fits all T-shirt.” He then presented a SWOT analysis for attendees as a take away, to help with their marketing of the variety.
Viticulture expert David Coffaro is on the cutting edge of not only viticulture, but also with his Internet use, beginning his wine diary on September 2, 1998. He’s considered by many to be the first real wine blogger. The Coffaro Vineyards provides weather data from a station located approximately 100 feet from their offices, and data is uploaded to this website every 15 minutes. David spoke of his daily attachment to his diverse vineyard, growing not only Petite Sirah, but also the two parent varieties of Syrah and Peloursin.
David Mounts, of Mounts Family Winery, is a third generation wine grape grower, and spoke about the phenomena of taking on winemaking as well as following his family tradition of being as a grape grower. His discussed the challenges for all PS winemakers: 1) When to pick, go by the numbers, looks, or just guess! 2) To Soak or not to soak, 3) Native yeast or designer yeast in a bag, 4) Hot or cool ferments, 5) Press a little sweet, at dry, or extended macerate, 6) New oak, neutral oak or a bit of both, 7) Barrel aging, how long is enough!
Nils Venge of Saddleback Cellars, and consultant to many wine brands, discussed Creating a “Cult” Petite That Rocks. In 1988, Nils received a perfect score from Robert Parker, Jr., when Parker gave his 1985 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve a perfect score of 100 points, the first ever given to a California wine. This launched Nils into a career that has allowed him to be daring and taking risks, which he loves to do with Petite. His presentation was colorful and inspiring.
Joyce Goldstein, chef and consultant to restaurants for food and wine, presented food and wine pairings. Having received samples of attendees Petite Sirahs a month prior to the symposium, she used that time to taste and experiment with recipes that would work well with Petite. Having shared her dishes with family and friends, Joyce presented many new options for vintners to take back to their wineries, that go beyond the “wild game” option, so often used as the best Petite Sirah pairing.
After the morning sessions, lunch was held with winemakers and media under Concannon’s picturesque grape arbor, followed by a two hour tasting, with all winemakers pouring their own wines.