While Senator Carol Migden has come up with a novel idea to have the California legislature recognize a vitis vinifera as a state grape, it leaves other grapes that have been grown in the state since the days of Mission grapes in the dust. Zinfandel has been established as a heritage varietal, but it’s not the only grape to have this distinction. To now proclaim this publicly will negate much of the hard work that’s currently being done to establish more California viticultural history. At least, it will certainly slow down the progress.
The group P.S. I Love You (P.S. stands for Petite Sirah) had been on the move for the past four and a half years. In that time, we’ve had four Petite Sirah Noble Symposiums organized by Louis Foppiano at his winery. We’ve begun a Petite Sirah Heritage Clone Vineyard at U.C. Davis under the directorship of Dr. James Wolpert and Patty Bogle, as PSILY’s chair. We’ve been give a six figure budget by Concannon Vineyard (two years in a row) to take Petite Sirah on the road as an educational tour, with many of our members joining in with additional income and their wines. We’ve created a “Grand Rouge” glass with Eisch Glaskultur of Germany, specifically designed and tested for PS, with Paul Dolan chairing that group. The very first functions of PSILY were to launch an educational Website for the varietal at www.psiloveyou.org, and become incorporated as a 501-C-6. As silly as our name appears to be, we’re a very serious group intent on establishing another heritage varietal, Petite Sirah.
Little know facts about Petite Sirah:
In 1880, in the Rhone region of France, Dr. Francois Durif crossed Syrah and Peloursin, naming it Durif.
Although Durif/Petite Sirah was born in France, it was not recognized there as a noble varietal.
In 1884, Petite Sirah was introduced to California, where it’s flourished, surviving phylloxera.
The US has the most acres of PS in the world. California has 5,467 acres, with only 7,109 acres planted world wide. ??? In the 1960s, Napa Valley was primarily planted to Petite Sirah by 60 percent!
Each year, Petite Sirah continues to grow in popularity with winemakers and consumers. Statistics are being kept by Foppiano Vineyard for their Petite Sirah Annual Report. There are currently 296 identified producers of PS.
A bit of Petite Sirah gives many young wines depth and backbone, when their own identity isn’t completely developed. Singling out any varietal as a state grape isn’t the best direction for furthering all of the California wine industry.
California has many varietals with historical significance, as indicated above on behalf of Petite Sirah. By virtue of being grown in California, each varietal has a story to tell, and should be recognized with some significance.
We must ask ourselves, “What would better serve all of California’s billion winegrowing industry?” To serve one varietal, or to continue the course we were on by continuing the efforts of the Wine Institute, individual county winegrowing associations, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and that is to promote all California varietals grown to every country in the world.
To single out one varietal in California could potentially mean that our domestic and export programs would become myopic; i.e., focusing on just one varietal, versus continuing to explore and advocate for all varietals that we have to offer from this great state of California.