1. THE HEART OF THE DEAL ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to try
    1. From: Mendocino Wine Company

A bit of a back story, first…

In 2002, when I began PS I Love You, the advocacy group for Petite Sirah, the wines were very big, and “rustic” was a common description. I got to thinking about how Petite Sirah kinda reminded me of John Wayne, and this quote from him, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” This inspiration is what it took for me to think about Petite Sirah, in order to get through a tasting of 20 or more Petites, using John Wayne’s own words. Louis Foppiano, who first introduced me to Petite, wanted a Petite Sriah symposium and so I delivered. Once the group got going, I wanted to describe Petite in my own words, not the usual, tastes like…. (name that blueberry fruit). And so I wrote and then created a handout for the members of PS I Love You: Petite Sirah, The John Wayne of Grapes, Is Our All-American Legend

I handed it out to all of the members at the time, and here’s the key point:

It takes true grit to get it, this Petite Sirah. It’s not for fainting ladies. It’s not for the White Zinfandel crowd. It’s for the cowboy or cowgirl in all of us. Fasten up your spurs, Partnah; we’re headed for a ride!

So, today, since Mendocino Wine Company is a member of PS I Love You, and I’m still the founding executive director, I’m not going to wax poetic about the flavors. What I am going to write about is the total experience,and there’s a lot to talk about here.


A Mendocino Wine Company Vertical of True Grit


2017 marked the 85th anniversary of Parducci Wine Cellars, the longest running winery in Mendocino County. Family-owned and operated by the Thornhill family, the Mendocino Wine Company continues the tradition of making award-winning wines using sustainable wine growing and land use practices. They have created an example for how to leave the world a little better than they found it. In recognition of their leadership, the State of California three times (2007, 2009, and 2014) has awarded Parducci Wine Cellars with the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), California’s highest environmental honor.

THE SCIENCE OF THE DEAL ~ from winemaker Bob Swain

2004 True Grit Petite Sirah

  • 97 percent Petite, 3 percent Viognier ~ A small amount of Viognier lifts the nose (adding an aromatic white variety is an Old World, Rhone Valley Technique
  • Mendocino County
  • Harvest dates 9/16/2004, 9/27/2004, 10/13-14/2004
  • Aged in 56 percent French oak and 44 percent American oak ( 23 percent of the oak was new, but not broken down for us)
  • Alcohol is 14.5 percent
  • 1380 cases

2005 True Grit Petite Sirah

  • 92 percent Petite,  8 percent Grenache
  • Mendocino County
  • Aged in 18 months in neutral French and American oak, after blending ages six months in seasoned French and American oak
  • Alcohol is 14.5 percent
  • 28 cases

2006 True Grit Petite Sirah

  • 94 percent Petite,  4 percent Grenache, 2 percent Syrah
  • Mendocino County
  • Aged in 14 months in seasoned oak barrels, before blend was assembled and aged 11 months in 28 percent new American, 28 percent one to three year old American and 44 percent seasoned oak barrels prior to bottling
  • Alcohol is 14.5 percent
  • 2,036 cases



I hadn’t looked at the tech notes first, I need to let you know. I really wanted to explore and find what would join (or not) these wines all together. When a new wine is launched, if there are reasonable resources available to experiment and find a winemaker’s groove, launch time is the best time for experimenting. And that’s just what winemaker Bob Swain did… Just compare the above notes, for starters.

So, as I tasted, consistency wasn’t the key phrase, which made me realize that this is just the beginning. Someone finding his perfect elixir was going on, for sure. And, we have to consider that this was a new wine and there were big decisions going on. I was tasting history and evolution; true and remarkable grit differences.

Two constants, I do have to mention,

  1. The same terroir ~ Mendocino county. So, we would have to study very closely the season.
  2. Color – because it really stood out, was the brilliant violet/red of each wine’s color. The lack of tannins breaking down was extremely noticeable, not only in the color, but also when I tasted these wines. There was virtually no oxidation of any kind. It was just remarkable that these wines had tannins to spare for other wines not so formidable.

[Image: Ansel Adams, from Digital TV Art]

2004 True Grit Petite Sirah ~ The 2004 True Grit was the most smooth of the three.

2005 True Grit Petite Sirah ~ The 2005 True Grit in between.

2006 True Grit Petite Sirah ~ The 2006 True Grit had the most tannins

Do I attribute this to the wines themselves? Do I attribute this to each year the wines lose a bit of tannic structure? No, I don’t. If you look at winemaker’s Bob Swain’s use of oak, this is the indication I see. Oak barrels also have tannins, and with aging in the teens, the difference from one year to the next would be more negligible. So, it’s OAK…

  • French and American oak both used
  • Differing amounts of time
  • The use of new and older barrels

And the blends:

  • 2004 – 97 percent Petite, 3 percent Viognier
  • 2005 – 92 percent Petite,  8 percent Grenache
  • 2006 – 94 percent Petite,  4 percent Grenache, 2 percent Syrah

Clearly there are three completely different expressions of Petite Sirah from one producer (Parducci) and a winemaker given free rein to experimenter.

Looking for a very different experience in a vertical? This one is really it. This is a great lesson in winemaking, for anyone wanting to compare vintages from one year to the next, when a new brand is being launched and a winemaker has the resources to experiment.

I did have a favorite. I can say that. It was the 2004. Perhaps it was the Viognier edge? Perhaps the tighter grain of French oak, so less oak is absorbed into the Petite, which delivered a bit more fruit? We’re all so different, so I’ll be curious for others to experiment with this one and get back to me.

It was a grand time, regardless, and I’m so fortunate to have had this experience, that is for sure. True Grit, an extraordinary dream realized…