Here’s some Petite Sriah insight from Mathew (Matt) Moye of Vincent Arroyo:

With Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon commanding an AVERAGE of $7,500 per ton, how can I put out a $40.00/per bottle Cabernet? How many people are buying $70.00+ Cabs?

How did we get this expensive so fast? Is this sustainable? We’ve jumped almost $2,000 per ton in just five years for the variety.

Here, at Arroyo, we grow 10 different varieties on our estate; how many growers in the Napa Valley can say that? It used to be common to grow several varieties, but now its either Cab, Cab, or Cab. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cabernet; but, I don’t think I could drink it every night. It would get boring. Not every steak commands a Cabernet. 

A Petite Sirah is awesome with a nice filet. A Tempranillo goes fantastic with a Santa Maria Tri-Tip.

Life is just too short to drink just one wine.

Lots to think about here.

First of all, Petite Sirah is a niche wine, a cult wine, with ardent followers. In 1999, Robert Biale Vineyards and a Napa Valley grower collaborated with Biale to replace a one acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon in Rutherford with heritage clone Petite Sirah. Today the Petite Sirah vineyard has been increased to three acres.

Did you know, for instance, what Robert Parker stated in one of his Wine Advocate magazines, many moons ago about Petite? It didn’t go unnoticed by me at the time. He wrote that the first wine he tasted was a Petite Sirah and he fell in love with it. Why didn’t that get lots of attention? Probably because at that time, there were fewer than 100 growers and producers combined, with only about 3,000 acres being grown of Petite. So, to find it was more like a scavenger hunt than an easy trip to the grocery store.

Today, there are nearly 1,100 growers and producers, compared to 2002 (when there were only 62 growers and producers). Acres have grown, producers are producing it, and if you STILL don’t see it on wine lists and grocery shelves:

  • Nielsen doesn’t count all of the cases of PS sold through wineries, selling directly to the public. Right now, they’re reporting that it’s only 300,000 cases being sold a year.
  • Nearly 1,000 wine brands of the 1,100 above sell directly to consumers.
  • Those 1,000 have anywhere from 100 cases to 500 cases that they hold back.
    • So there’s a lot more than 300,000 cases made of Petite.
    • Imagine an average of just 250 cases/each winery x 1,000 wine companies = another 250,000 cases being sold.
    • Huge case numbers are not seeing wholesalers’ warehouses.
    • Awareness has grown and passion goes hand in hand with that awareness.

You might ask yourself, “why is it not leaving the winery?”

  • It’s a winemaker’s wine. They love making and enjoying it.
  • The winery love sells every bit of it, including selling out early, we then have to wait for the next vintage to be ready.
  • If they send it out for review, and it gets into the hands of a wine reviewer who has openly stated that he hates it (and some have), they risk getting a bad score.
  • It’s a lot harder to sell to people who live by the scores, if the above happens, so the wineries just don’t risk sending it out.

 

I also wonder how many Master SOMMs can even explain Petite Sirah to you, because American Heritage Varieties isn’t a course being taught in their studies. I see errors all of the time about Petite Sirah, including how it’s spelled, for instance.

  • Petite Sirah is a synonym for Durif. (false)
  • It’s illegal in the US to put Petite Sirah on a label, according to a TTB ruling. (false)
  • Petite Syrah is a variety grown in France, and it’s a Syrah, not a Petite Sirah. (false)
    • Syrah (father) and Peloursin (mother) cross bred by Francois Durif = Petite Sirah.
    • It’s no longer a Syrah grape, it’s DNA was altered.
    • It would be like saying you’re your mother, or you’re your father.
      • Ixnay on the amenay “Petite Syrah.”

I listen most days in the week to Petite Sirah vintners, and today Matt Moye has the biggest concern of all. What if Napa becomes so Cabcentric that every single vineyard of Petite Sirah is squeezed out? This is what keeps him (and me) up at night, because we simply love the stuff. No Petite Sirah lover should miss going to the following Napa Petite Sirah wineries. These are the passionate producers who have been supporting the Petite Sirah cause.

Make sure you call ahead. Some are by appointment only… It’s a cult kinda thing, right?

And, my next story on Petite will include another appellation that’s keeping the Petite torch burning. I’ll do this until I’ve covered every single area and winery.