A new dawn for Petite Sirah has emerged.
After 11 years of informing people that this variety exists as a stand-alone cultivar, PS I Love You has been tasked with taking it to a new level of understanding. The theme of the Eleventh Annual Petite Sirah Symposium, sponsored by Concannon Vineyard, was straight up R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
CASES IN POINT: This variety has deep historical roots for the California wine industry; coming into the country in 1884, AND carrying us through the years of Phylloxera – as Syrah all but died out in the US, remaining as our Rhone variety. It took us through Prohibition, being shipped as “bricks of grapes,” which could be reconstituted if a bit of sugar and water was added to the dried fruit. It was also used as the Sacramental wine. In the 1960s, Napa Valley was primarily planted to Petite Sirah by 60 percent. And today, there are over 1,062 growers and producers combined, up from the original 62 that could be identified in 2002… Just 11 years later, it’s mushroomed to over a thousand new wineries and grape growers who dare to grow or label it. (There are 897 producers, and the rest are growers). Now, it’s grown and loved all over California… in every nook and cranny, every valley and hillside, and every AVA on our maps.
WINEMAKERS’ WINE: Winemakers love this variety, and convince their brand owners to let them have a few barrels; or, they’re the decision makers and that’s ALL they produce. There’s the gamut and the dedication. This variety is not going away any time soon. It’s the tortoise and it’s still slowly and quietly moving forward. It’s far from the negative descriptions that people reference. The range is from soft an approachable, to full bodied and voluptuous. It’s a feminine wine. While Cabernet Sauvignon is masculine, Petite Sirah is its counter part… a perfect pairing. Cab is the bread winner; Petite is the nurturer… the tasty and colorful side of life.
To that end, the experts were brought in to tell growers, producers, and marketers what a gem they have and how to move forward…
R-E-S-P-E-C-T… No apologies to anyone, Aretha Franklin and Rodney Dangerfield included….
STEVE HEIMOFF HIGHLIGHTS:
Steve Heimoff is a brilliant writer. He’s not a marketer, in the true sense of the word; however, he laid out a great story and a superlative keynote address. Within the context of what he delivered were marketing tasks that have to happen next. PSILY asked Steve to be this year’s keynote speaker for Concannon’s Eleventh Annual Petite Sirah Symposium, and he accepted. We were counting on him to deliver the raw enthusiasm that would set the tone. At the time, we weren’t quite certain what we had in mind. Then, another story appeared with the reference to Rodney Dangerfield and Petite Sirah all in the same sentence. It was then that Steve explained that he was growing weary of seeing this “lack of respect” messaging. That became the theme of his keynote. The greatest nuggets within his keynote were his do’s and don’ts for everyone.
Starting with the DON’T side of the fence:
- Never, ever again say anything apologetic about Petite Sirah.
- Don’t quote others who do.
- From this point on, let’s avoid use of the word “respect.” If you tell someone they have to respect something, they tend to get defensive about it. Why should I? Who are you to tell me what I have to do? Instead, let Petite Sirah speak for itself and EARN its respect.
Moving on with the DO’S
- Accentuate the positive. Quote critics who say positive things.
- Tell people what good Petite Sirah tastes like. “It’s full-bodied. Mouth-filling. Rich and savory. Delicious. Complex and layered. Fruity, but dry. Fantastic with food. Ageable, if that’s your thing, but drinkable on release.”
- Tell the story of Petite Sirah in California–its history and lineage going back to the 19th Century.
- Get tastemakers to sing Petite Sirah’s praises. Sommeliers are good. Chefs are even better. The key to Petite Sirah is food pairing. Petite Sirah isn’t a wine to drink on its own. It needs food–and food means recipes. You can never give the public too many recipes.
- Educate yourselves, and the public, on the various terroirs of Petite Sirah. I know that, as an organization, PSILY must treat all members equally. But not all Petite Sirahs are equal. Individual wineries should explain what their terroir is, and why it’s good for Petite Sirah.
- Stress the relative value of Petite Sirah, especially compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. Can you get six bottles of a 90 point Petite for one bottle of a 90 point Napa Cabernet? Then say so–and tell consumers why they’d be foolish to pick the Cabernet.
- Finally, continue to educate the consumer that Petite Sirah is NOT Syrah. This is not the easiest task in the world, as I’m sure you know. But consumers remain confused. Your job, as marketers and educators, is to craft that message, which is something I’m sure that PSILY can help with.