2007 Santa Barbara County Petite Sirah
Santa Barbara County
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine is an extraordinary Petite Sirah and, considering its price, it is also an extraordinary value. Quantity is limited, so please do not miss out on this fantastic wine.
Because it drinks well above its price class, today’s wine also earns a QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Alert, making it an exceptional value.
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Mission Codename: Is it wine – or food?
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Respond to Operative requests (okay, demands) for another great wine from Epiphany
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Epiphany Cellars
Wine Subject: 2007 Petite Sirah Santa Barbara County
Winemaker: Blair Fox
Backgrounder: Operatives went wild for the last Epiphany Petite Sirah we featured. They made their love for the wine known by buying out every last bottle. For today’s wine, Agent Red was again dispatched to Epiphany, where he procured a small allotment of their newest Petite Sirah. Grape for this wine came from the winery’s own Camp Four and Rodney’s Vineyards. The grapes are clones of the fabled Palisades and Rockpile vines which are, originally, 100+ year clones from Rosenblum in Napa/Sonoma.
Petite Sirah’s California roots dates back to when it was believed to be a close relative of the Syrah grape. Later it would be found to be genetically identical to the Durif, named for its after French discoverer François Durif who found that the varietal was a Syrah grape pollinated with Peloursin flowers. Its smaller berries with higher skin to pulp ratio leads to more intense flavors. Another benefit of the smaller berries are tighter clusters that are more resistant to mildew. Currently Petite Sirah is less popular in France and increasingly popular in the United States
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dense and opaque, this wine shows a dark purple core with gorgeous maroon at its edges. Swirl the wine and tall, wine-stained tears take a long time to emerge – and an even longer time to run down the inside of the glass.
Smell – Bold and perfumy, aromas of blackberry, bramble, black plum, black pepper, coffee beans, dried meats, dark baker’s chocolate and anise all leap from the glass.
Feel – Initially cool and light on entry, the wine quickly becomes full-bodied and very rich. After a moment, it becomes chewy and grippy with big tannins and a great acidity that shows at the edges of the tongue.
Taste – Big blackberry, blueberry, dark plum and mixed dark berry jam take the lead. These are followed by earthy cocoa dust, espresso, toasty vanilla oak, pepper and soft dark spice.
Finish – Plump and ripe with black fruit that lingers for a long time. As the black fruit diminishes, dark chocolate, black licorice and soft oak appear, then fading quickly. A hint of black pepper persists for a long time.
Conclusion – The 2007 Epiphany Cellars Santa Barbara Petite Sirah is a fantastic wine from a fantastic vintage. 2007 has proven to be such a consistent winner for California wines, and this ’07 Petite only reinforces our rapture with the vintage, the varietal and Epiphany. This wine is bold and big. It fills the mouth – without knocking your teeth out, as some PS can tend to do. We really enjoyed sampling this wine in small sips and big mouthfuls, each variation revealing different characteristics of flavor and feel. A great wine to sip, discuss and really enjoy, we believe that it makes an outstanding companion for a hearty meal. Pair this wine with a grilled Porterhouse, French onion soup (with tons of Gruyere) or an assortment of hard cheeses and spicy Italian sausages. Drinking beautifully, now, this wine can likely age for another decade or more. Be sure to get enough to try throughout the next several years.
Pardon us, but we were unable to secure an interview with Blair Fox, today. With bottling in full swing, Blair was too busy to sit with us. We’ll be sure to conduct a full debrief with Blair, in an upcoming Epiphany Cellars feature.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Blair Fox
DATE OF BIRTH: 10/74
PLACE OF BIRTH: Santa Barbara, CA
WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Enologist for Fess Parker Winery ’99, Winemaker Sunstone Winery 99-02, Consultant winemaker Fess Parker Winery 02, Vintage Winemaker- Haselgrove Winery- McLaren Vale South Australia 03, Associate Winemaker in charge of the Rhone Varietal programs at Fess Parker 03-05, Head Winemaker for Fess Parker Winery 05-present
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I spend a lot of time in the vineyard because I feel that wines are truly made in the vineyard. I try to show the different qualities of the different vineyards and create wines with distinct varietal character.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: I have always been particularly fond of Syrah.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Traveling throughout the Rhone Valley in France and tasting some of the best examples of Syrah and other Rhone varietals the world has to offer.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: I feel privileged to work with some of the best vineyards and fruit in Santa Barbara County.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Epiphany Cellars in Solvang can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Petite Sirah is one of the last grapes that we pick each year. To get the rich, full-bodied complexity in this wine that so many of us have come to love, the wine crew has to be very patient. In general, Petite Sirah can be a pretty fickle grape. First of all, it has a thin skin which allows it to rot easily when rained on. So, in 2007, we had an ideal harvest for the Petite Sirah because there was no rain!
Petite Sirah also retains a high level of natural acidity, so we strive to leave the grapes on the vine late into the growing season to allow sugar levels to rise creating a softer, less tannic wine. The end result is a big, bold wine with a chocolaty texture that only becomes more sophisticated as it ages.
As Petite Sirah goes, we are proud to say that we use some of the very best grapes. Camp Four and Rodney’s Vineyards consist of clones from the Palisades and Rockpile vines which are, originally, 100+ year clones from Rosenblum up in Napa/Sonoma. The production for our Petite Sirah grapes in 2007 followed suit with our other reds, but with a few subtle, yet important changes. We pressed off the juice a little early when sweet to once again help soften the tannins. We then took the drained juice and basket pressed the must as a gentle, non-manipulative way of doing a final juice press. For barreling, we aged the juice for 22 months in primarily French oak (60% new) barrels with a little bit of the juice going into American oak barrels for a slight vanilla flavor. As a final blend, our 2007 vintage consists of 83% Petite Sirah and 17% Syrah from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa to add some depth and complexity to the wine.
This opaque, dark purple/black inky wine exudes aromas of blackberry, plum, cocoa, black pepper, black licorice, espresso, cinnamon and smoke. The massive structure and full texture is nicely balanced by the palate subtleties of blackberry compote, dark chocolate, dark roast coffee, blueberry, vanilla and allspice. An impressive addition to a long time favorite wine for Epiphany, the 2007 Petite Sirah will be a wine that can be enjoyed for years to come.
About The Winery:
When Fess Parker was cast in the roll of Davy Crockett in the mid-1950’s, it caused an international sensation and changed his life forever. So too did the purchase of 714 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley change the course of the Parker family’s history.
Realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County as a premium grape-growing region, Fess and his son, Eli, originally set out in 1989 to plant a small vineyard and sell fruit to local producers. But, as Fess’ daughter, Ashley explains, “ Fess is from Texas, so he can’t do anything small. “The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard now farms almost 700 acres on four vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County.
The characters Fess portrayed, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, inspired generations of Americans. Throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s Fess was at the pinnacle of a television career that has an unprecedented impact upon American popular culture. But is was Fess’ entrepreneurial spirit that prompted his leaving Hollywood to go into business for himself. The traits that Crockett and Boone embodied – integrity, resourcefulness and good humor — carried over to Fess’ personal life and formed the foundation upon which the family business was built. First-class hospitality has always been at the core of their ventures, first as hoteliers and eventually with the opening of the winery.
Working as a family has always been a great source of pride and pleasure for the Parker family. Eli Parker began in the family business as assistant winemaker in 1989. After several years of learning the craft at the side of renowned and accomplished winemakers, Eli took the reigns as winemaker himself with the 1995 vintage. A leader of the winery since it’s inception, it was in 1996 that Eli formally assumed the title and responsibilities of President. In the early 1990’s, Ashley ran the first tastings out of the barrel room and represented the winery at trade shows. In 1998, Ashley became Eli’s partner, working on the public relations and sales and marketing teams. The presence of Fess and his wife Marcy as the founding visionaries of the winery is a vital and enduring one.
About The Winemaker:
BLAIR FOX – Head Winemaker – Graduating from UC Davis in 1999 with a combined degree in Viticulture and Enology, Blair Fox gained winemaking experience at Sunstone Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley (1999-2001), and at Haselgrove Winery – a custom-crush winery in McLaren Vale, Australia (2003).
He also traveled through France’s Rhône Valley before returning to his hometown of Santa Barbara. He then joined Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard as Associate Winemaker, overseeing the Rhône varietal wines. Fox had previously consulted in the vineyard for the winery’s 2002 harvest.
“Having focused on the winery’s estate Syrah and Rhône varietal vineyards, I’m excited to add on the responsibility for Ashley’s and Bien Nacido vineyards and control the Burgundian part of our portfolio (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay),” said Fox. “The vineyards and clonal selection here are of such high quality, and the Parkers are a great family to work for.”
Fox continues the stylistic direction set by Eli Parker when capturing the terroir of the vineyards. He aims to continue raising the bar for the award-winning Fess Parker wines, such as the 2001 Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah (91pts, Wine Advocate), 2002 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir (93pts, Wine Spectator), and 2001 American Tradition Reserve Syrah, (92pts, Wine Advocate).