[L to R] Jo Diaz, Louis Foppiano, Jim Concannon, David Mounts, Miro Tcholakov, Kent Rosenblum, and George Moskowite. [Jose Diaz photo]

It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to create a perfect panel, as most people who do this for a living will tell you. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to put on the entire conference, because this panel was quite a bit of work just on its own. The AWS Conference was really well thought out and then executed, I must say.

[Jose Diaz photo]

The talent of any Petite Sirah panel through PS I Love You is always amazing, because I have extraordinary people who always step up to the plate when the call goes out for involvement. The comments at the end always bear witness to this. My favorite for this one was, “This panel… I would have come for Lou Foppiano, Jim Concannon, and Kent Rosenblum – alone – but these young bucks you brought in just rounded it out and made it exceptional. I can’t even believe I got to see and hear Jim Concannon!

The newer vintners were David Mounts of Mounts Winery, George Moskowite of Moss Creek, and Miro Tcholakov of Trentadue and Miro Cellars. Miro’s a bit more known by wine writers like Robert Parker, Steve Heimoff, and Jim Laube, but consumers don’t have as much access to who’s the face behind the wines. Both David and George are fairly new to having wine brands, but both have extraordinary knowledge of viticulture.

Between history, winemaking, and viticulture, this was a really well rounded panel.

Abstract of our Session

PS I Love You, Petite Sirah’s advocacy group is dedicated to promoting, educating, and legitimizing Petite Sirah as a noble, heritage cultivar, with special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness. Presenting their case through the voices of PS panel members, you’ll taste six different Petite Sirahs with these industry’s “benchmark” wines.

Event: AWS 2008 National Conference

Place: Sacramento Convention Center

Date: November 6 – 8

Vintners in order of presentation:

FOPPIANO VINEYARD: Louis Foppiano, Ambassador
As the fourth generation Foppiano to take the helm of his family’s winery, Louis M. Foppiano has a strong sense of who he is and where he is going. His family history is a reminder of his place in the wine community of Sonoma County. Born in 1947, Louis began working in the wine industry at the age of seven. Growing up in Sonoma County, his friends were the sons and daughters of other wine families. His playground was the family winery. It was a time when everyone knew everyone else. Families were close-knit. The year revolved around the seasons, culminating with the harvest, which was their reward for a year’s hard work in the vineyard. Over the years, Louis has worked in just about every position at the winery: driving the tractor in the vineyards; working the bottling line, crush pad and fermenting tanks; and, later after graduating from college, representing the winery around the world through sales and marketing.

CONCANNON VINEYARD: Jim Concannon, Ambassador
In 1953, Jim Concannon graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. After graduating, Jim returned to the winery, and began to work with winemaker Katherine Vajda, the first technically trained female winemaker. According to Jim, “I was always deeply inspired by my Uncle Tom. Then, working with Katherine was an exceptional opportunity to learn from one of the most talented people in the business. Between Katherine and his uncle, Jim was so inspired that he decided to become a winemaker, and took classes at U.C. Davis to sharpen those skills. Jim Concannon released the industry’s first varietally labeled Petite Sirah from their 1961 vintage in 1964. Today, Concannon Vineyard is managed from offices in James Concannon’s original home, just steps from the cellar doors. Grandson Jim Concannon has stayed on at the winery, continuing the family’s legacy.

MOUNTS FAMILY WINERY: David Mounts, Proprietor, Grower, and Winemaker
The Mounts Family has been farming its 140 acre estate in Dry Creek Valley for over 60 years through three generations now. Beginning in 1946 as prune growers, the family converted all of its land to grapes in the mid 60s, when current vineyard owner Richard Mounts planted his first seven acres of Petite Sirah in 1967. Richard has since farmed the ranch for over 40 years. Currently 90 acres of vineyard are planted, devoting 15 acres of that to Petite Sirah. Richard’s son David Mounts had spent his life growing up in the vineyard and knew the farming life well. After graduating in 1998 from Fresno State with a degree in viticulture, David went to work in the vineyard industry. He spent eight years working for various high end wineries refining his vineyard practices and quality wine production methods. It was during this time he decided to diversify his skills and go into winemaking. In 2005, David convinced his father it was time to start making their own wine. With his knowledge of viticulture, access to great hillside fruit, and a passion to create exceptional wines, David began a new venture into winemaking and a new era for the Mounts Family. With 2005 as their first vintage, their focus is on showcasing Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah.

TRENTADUE WINERY | MIRO CELLARS: Miro Tcholakov, Winemaker for both, Proprietor also for Miro Cellars
Born and raised in northern Bulgaria, a region with many millennia of wine- making history, Miro (Miroslav) Tcholakov was exposed to wine and winemaking at a very early age. His grandfather had long made the family supply of wine, and as a boy, Miro was at his side during all phases of the process. After completing his mandatory military service, he attended the Higher Institute of Agriculture in Plovdiv and graduated with honors with a degree in viticulture and enology. Soon there after, in the summer of 1990, he was chosen from hundreds of candidates to participate in an international exchange program in Agriculture set up by The Future Farmers of America. After a brief stint in Napa, he was taken on as harvest intern at Sonoma’s Dry Creek Vineyards. What was supposed to be a temporary harvest job turned into a nine-year position moving through the ranks of Cellar Master and culminating in being named Assistant Winemaker in 1997. In the summer of 1999, Miro was hired to be the Winemaker at Trentadue Winery, where he has been ever since.

Rosenblum Cellars: Kent Rosenblum, Ambassador [Jose Diaz photo]
In 1978, veterinarian Dr. Kent Rosenblum and his wife Kathy founded Rosenblum Cellars. Over the years, Rosenblum has been hailed as one of the top American wineries. Embodying nearly three decades of winemaking tradition, Rosenblum has evolved from a passionate home-winemaking operation into a world-class winery. Today, Rosenblum Cellars is recognized as one of North America’s most acclaimed producers, which includes Petite Sirah. After years of making wine out of their family home, the Rosenblums took their love of winemaking to the next level in 1978. In partnership with several close friends they established Rosenblum Cellars. With Kathy acting as his assistant winemaker and helping with the crush, Kent made Rosenblum Cellars’ first vineyard designated zinfandel. Made using fruit from the now-renowned Cullinane Vineyard in Sonoma County, this wine won praise and began to establish Rosenblum Cellars’ reputation as a winery with a talent for zinfandel. The last decade has been an exceptional one for Rosenblum Cellars. The winery has continued to gain the respect and appreciation of both the public and its peers, and has been honored with numerous gold medals and 90-plus scores. Rosenblum has also established a reputation for crafting Petite Sirah in its own ripe and robust style. Rosenblum Cellars is currently distributed in every state and sixteen countries.

MOSS CREEK WINERY: George Moskowite, proprietor
Four generations of the Moskowite family have been farming in the Napa Valley since 1917. During the 1920s, ranches were acquired in the Berryessa, Capell, Monticello and Wooden Valley regions of the eastern Napa Valley. These holdings encompassed over 10,000 acres and primarily farmed hay and raised sheep and cattle. The first family wine was created from a few Muscat vineyards that remained on the property from 19th century plantings. This sacramental wine was made during prohibition in a clandestine stone wine cellar on the Wooden Valley ranch by George Moskowite’s grandfather and namesake. The ranch evolved from its cattle ranching roots to grape growing as its primary livelihood in 1972 when Harold Moskowite began planting vineyards as part of a long term grape contract. Today, the Moskowite Ranch covers approximately 1,300 acres of the eastern Napa Valley hills of which 162 acres are planted with grapes. As a fourth generation Napa Valley rancher and vintner, George Moskowite now manages the ranch vineyards. They are meticulously maintaining selected older vines while developing new vineyards utilizing sustainable farming practices.

For the record: Photos not ascribed to Jose Diaz were Jo Diaz’s