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History,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine HIstory

Congratulations, Paul Draper, on your retirement

Dear Paul,

I’ll always remember the day I called you. When I realized that Ridge also made a Petite Sirah, besides your fabulous Zins, I just had to call and ask for help. With Petite Sirah being such a minor player in the world of wine, but such a major contributor to the history of California’s wine industry, you’ve been one of our important Petite Sirah stakeholders.

It didn’t take much to have you see the light… that Petite Sirah’s mission is to promote, educate, and legitimize Petite Sirah as a heritage variety, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness.

Ridge is part of another small group, which I greatly admire: the Historic Vineyard Society. As a tribute to you, I’m going to re-run an earlier story on wine-blog, when I discovered your other connection to historic wine grape varieties.

My hat’s off to you, sir, as I join the legion of others who celebrate all of your contributions. You not only enriched the PS I Love You agenda, but you have enriched my life, too. I asked, you helped. What more could anyone ask of another and be so rewarded for years to follow?

Best wishes for a lovely retirement…

This is a group, even though I’m not involved, that’s near and dear to my heart. With my involvement on behalf of Petite Sirah, and PS being a heritage grape variety, I get what this group is doing… Preservation and historical relevance, I can dig that.

I’ve been fighting hard for the last nine [now 14] years for Petite Sirah, and it’s paying off. I hear people (and I’m referring to important people in high places, like UC Davis) talk about Petite Sirah as a heritage grape for the California wine industry. This wasn’t the buzz on Petite Sirah when we began our marketing campaign in 2002. Most people didn’t even know what Petite Sirah was back then.

Did you know the following?

  • Petite Sirah was one of the varieties that was produced during Prohibition and sold to family winemakers?
  • In the 1960s, Napa Valley was planted to Petite Sirah by 60 percent?
  • When Petite Sirah was replaced in the 1960s by Cabernet Sauvignon, those vineyards were ripped out and replanted to Cab, leaving much of the history behind…

Along comes the Historic Vineyard Society, and I’m thrilled. Their mission is listed as the following, from their Website:

HVS (Historic Vineyard Society) is a non-profit, 501 C-3 organization dedicated to the preservation of California’s historic vineyards. HVS’s Mission is accomplished through educating the wine-drinking public on the very special nature of this precious and depleting state, national and global resource.

[Photo: Left to right: Mike Dildine, Mike Officer, Tegan Passalacqua, Morgan Twain-Peterson, and David Gates; borrowed from their Website]

Key players are the following:

David Gates (Ridge Vineyards), Mike Officer (Carlisle Vineyards), Jancis Robinson (author and wine critic), Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars), Morgan Twain-Peterson (Bedrock Vineyards), and Mike Dildine.

From the HVS Website: “The idea was born when Zinfandel enthusiast Mike Dildine [pictured above] asked a simple question to an internet wine forum, “California’s great old vine Zinfandel vineyards … What are your favorites?” The response was remarkable and passionate. Hundreds of Zin lovers began building to a list of vineyards that represent California’s heritage vineyards.”

And, their objective is to compile a comprehensive, fact-based and consistent directory of California’s Heritage Vineyards.

My mind immediately goes to Field Stone Winery (all vineyard shots in this story), for instance, that has a Petite vineyard which was planted in the 1890s. The vines in this field blend just make you want to marvel when you’re standing in it. I love that Dr. John Staten, owner and my dear friend, is not all about pulling the vines out in order to have a vineyard that produces more fruit. A vine, like a human being, has a life cycle. It has a time of being young and tender, a time of being fruitful, and a time of delivering great wisdom. It’s the vines with wisdom that the Heritage Vineyard Society has as its concern, and there’s much to be learned in these old vineyards.

Did you know, for instance, that in old field blends in the US, vineyardists planted a variety of Vitis vinifera (different grape types of exceptional quality for winemaking), and whatever the season delivered for an overall flavor, that was it for that harvest?

Did you know, another fun fact, that a red wine field blend also contained white varieties, to deliver even more exceptional and varied flavors?

It’s these old vineyards that speak our history to us, and can teach us as we search for answers of days gone by, when stories were orally handed down from one generation to the next.

In order for a vineyard to qualify, it must be a currently producing California wine vineyard that was original planted no later than 1960, and at least a third of its existing producing vines can be traced back to the original planting date.

For more details on how to have your vineyard become part of this group, if this interests you, click here for the form on their site.

The current registry is extensive… Much more extensive than I would have imagined, which tells me that their passion is every bit as intense as mine and they’re “on it.” That’s great news…

 

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