Paso Robles Syrah Grapes
The history and legend surrounding the Syrah grape is a topic of dispute in the world of viticulture. One of the legends of Syrah's origin comes from one of it's synonyms, Shiraz. The city of Shiraz, Iran produced the famous Shirazi wine. Some legends propose that the Syrah grape originated in the city of Shiraz, Iran and then brought to the Rhone region of France which would make Syrah a French synonym and Shiraz the true name of the variety.
However, through modern DNA typing, researchers have concluded that Syrah is the offspring of two varietals, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, that come from a limited area in southeastern France very close to northern Rhone. Due to this evidence, most researchers have concluded that Syrah traces its origins back to northern Rhone.
Regardless of its true origins, there is no doubt that Syrah was made famous by the wines of Hermitage, the hill above the town of Tain-l'Hermitage in northern Rhone. In the 18th and 19th centuries this area was famous for producing excellent, powerful wines.
In California, Syrah first appeared as a wine grape in the 1870's. However, due to a Phylloxera outbreak in the 1880's, Syrah was wiped out in California; not to reappear until the1960's. To this day, most of the Syrah grown in the United States comes from California.
With approximately 2,500 plants, Syrah is the predominant varietal at 4M Vineyards. Our unique microclimate in the northern Paso Robles foothills provides a perfect canvas to produce powerful and full-bodied Paso Robles Syrah grapes, expressing itself in wines characterized by aromas of dark-berries, chocolate and black pepper. As the bottle ages, these aromas will tend to relax and earthy leathery notes will become more apparent.
Our Paso Robles Syrah grapes are the backbone of the Estrella Creek portfolio. The most pure expression can be found in our 100% Estate Grown Paso Robles Syrah. Our Syrah Rose also comes from 100% Paso Robles Syrah. Our award-winning Stargazer blend is predominantly estate-grown Syrah combined with Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and estate-grown Petite Sirah. Our 2010 Moondancer blend contains 67% Syrah brightened up with 33% Grenache. Our 2008 Eclipse features 50% estate grown Syrah and 50% estate grown Petite Sirah."
Petite Sirah arrived in California in the late 1870's under the name Durif; named after the amateur French botanist, Dr. Francois Durif. Confirmed by DNA testing in 1998 at the University of California at Davis, Petite Sirah is the result of the cross-pollination of Peloursin and Syrah. Peloursin, an ancient French varietal from the east side of the Rhone River, and Syrah, from northern Rhone, give Petite Sirah its lineage.
Petite Sirah survived the above-mentioned breakout of Phylloxera in California during the 1880's and became a popular varietal due to its inherent disease resistance, hearty yield and great color. Petite Sirah on to survive World War I, the Prohibition (being used for sacramental wines), the Great Depression and World War II.
In France, since Petite Sirah doesn't have 2 noble "parents," it is not considered a noble wine. In fact, even to this day, there are laws in France prohibiting its growth.
Due to all that it has survived and the fact that it has thrived in the United States despite under-appreciation by its home country, Petite Sirah is considered by many to be an "American Legend" or "America's own, true varietal."
In fact, Petite Sirah even has its own advocacy group, founded in 2002. Known as Petite Sirah I Love You, the organization consists of American growers and producers of Petite Sirah who want to share their passion for the varietal with the rest of the wine world. Estrella Creek joined the organization in July of 2010. Much of the information contained here is from the organization's research.
In 1964, Concannon Vineyard was the first to release Petite Sirah as a varietal. By 1976, California Petite Sirah acreage hit its peak at approximately 14,000 acres. 2009 California Petite Sirah acreage was approximately 7,500 acres grown by just over 600 producers.
4M Vineyards has approximately 2,450 Petite Sirah plants. While Syrah would be considered Estrella Creek's backbone, Petite Sirah could be considered our flagship varietal. Petite Sirah can be found in our 100% Estate Grown Petite Sirah, as 12% of our 2007 Stargazer blend and in our 2006 Late Harvest Petite Sirah. Our 2008 Eclipse features 50% estate grown Syrah and 50% estate grown Petite Sirah.
Viognier (VEE-ohn-yay) is a white wine grape also from the Rhone valley in France. Viognier's origin is unknown, but it is presumed to be an ancient grape with some hypothesizing that it was brought from Dalmatia to the Rhone valley by the Romans in as early as 281 AD.
Currently, California's central coast is the leading domestic producer of Viognier with approximately 2,000 acres planted.
Typically, Viognier is a highly aromatic varietal with a nose of apricot, peach and sometimes grapefruit. It is a full-bodied white wine with noticeable flavors of stone fruit and spice and on with low to moderate acidity.
Viognier can appear by itself as a 100% varietal, in a blend with other Rhone whites and even added to Syrah to soften the full-bodied red.
In 2008 at our 4M Vineyards, we grafted 600 Viognier plants onto existing Syrah rootstock. We dropped all of the 2008 fruit, harvesting for the first time in 2009. Our current 2013 Viognier features 100% estate grown fruit. Look for Viognier to appear as an Estrella Creek Late Harvest wine and maybe even blended with Syrah or Petite Sirah in the near future.