From the moment it is poured, the 2014 Foppiano Russian River Valley Estate Petite Sirah brings its welcome with it. Sporting the varietal’s deep opaque color and a delightful aroma of black fruits and spices which immediately wafts from the glass, it will be difficult not to become enchanted by this wine. In the mouth, rich dark fruit flavors infused with cacao, cinnamon and sage coat the palate, offering layers of flavor and an intensity born of fruit and barrel – not harsh tannins. Foppanio’s 2014 Estate Petite Sirah is concentrated and supremely flavorful but never harsh as its tannins are ripe and velvety. Enjoy this wine now and often at cool room temperature (58°-62° F) through 2024.
The full-bodied 2014 Foppiano Russian River Estate Petite Sirah provides the ideal complement to both simple stick to your ribs kinds of foods as well as more sophisticated fare. Slow cooked barbecued baby back ribs, rich stews, hearty pastas, grilled Italian sausages with peppers, and game all provide excellent choices to complement Foppiano’s bold Estate Petite Sirah. Venison tenderloin, served in a savory brown sauce; pressed duck, prepared with a blackberry glaze; and Flat Iron Steak topped with balsamic caramelized onions and Brie cheese and served over collard greens or broccoli rob with garlic mashed potatoes all offer savory, full-flavored choices to pair with this classical Russian River Petite Sirah. Italian favorites, such as manicotti, spaghetti with meat balls, or a heady antipasto with smoked meats and hard cheeses, offer other fine choices.
Foppiano Vineyards enjoys a special reputation in California for the family’s many contributions to the Sonoma County wine industry and the history of California. Founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, Foppiano Vineyards ranks among the oldest continually operated family owned wineries in California; the Foppianos even managed to survive Prohibition by selling winemaking kits. They are also founding members of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).
Located just south of Healdsburg, Foppiano Vineyards sprawls over 160 prime acres in the Russian River Valley AVA. Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc occupy the estate’s warmer bench lands, while Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow on the cooler parcels close to the Russian River. Petite Sirah reigns supreme at Foppiano, especially the family’s Russian River Estate Petite Sirah (this month’s feature). Before most Americans had even heard of Petite Sirah, the Foppianos were early New World champions of the bold-flavored, dark-skinned, and increasingly highly-prized Petite Sirah varietal.
Petite Sirah is a grape that is also known as Durif. It is named for Francois Durif, the French botanist who first identified the grape in the late 19th century in the south of France. Petite Sirah is thought to be the result of a natural chance cross pollination between Syrah and the French grape Peloursin. Durif or Petite Sirah (the names are often used interchangeably) is rarely cultivated today in its native France. However, this adaptable grape has gained considerable favor elsewhere, with California its main proponent. It is increasingly popular in Australia and Israel, too, as the grape is well-suited to a dry, Mediterranean climate.
Although called Petite Sirah, there is nothing petite about it, except the size of its berries. Petite Sirah produces rich, powerful, and often tannic wines that are typically at their best within the first 5 or 6 years of life, but the finest versions can, however, benefit from extensive bottle aging and live for up to two decades or more.
Petite Sirah has a long history in California where it has flourished since the 1870s. A favorite of Sonoma County’s Italian immigrant population for its deep color and tannic structure, Petite Sirah quickly found a place among California’s “field blends,” wines that were enamored by California’s immigrants and the state’s burgeoning population. At the turn of the 20th century, Petite Sirah was reputed to be among the three leading grape varieties planted in California, with Zinfandel and Mourvèdre the other players in that triumvirate. Although not nearly so widely cultivated today, Petite Sirah is enjoying resurgence, both as a key component in many of California’s finest Zinfandels and once again popular field blends, and also as a single varietal. Rich dark fruit, plenty of robust flavor, and ample tannins make Petite Sirah once again highly sought after.
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