2005 Estate Petite Sirah
Petite Sirah •Estate Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
Today’s wine receives this special alert because it has a stellar QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) – making it a wine that drinks well above it’s price-class
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Mission Codename: The Perfection
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure a stellar Petite Syrah for our demanding Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Foppiano Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 Estate Petite Sirah
Winemaker: Natalie West
Backgrounder: Several months have passed since we presented a great Petite Sirah. Our Operatives have been clamoring another. Great Petite Sirah is available in California, but it can take some clever sleuthing to find a really great example. When we put out the call for a killer Petite, the consensus among our Operatives was nearly unanimous: Infiltrate Foppiano. Agent Red was dispatched, and, while undercover there he discovered their 2005 Estate Petite Sirah. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deepest dark burgundy with an inky heart and beautiful purple edges. This wine has a heavy and tight-looking surface that, after swirling, reveals tightly-spaced legs that take a long while to emerge before they crawl slowly down the glass in chubby columns
Smell – A heady rush of jammy blackberry greets your nose, followed by smoky blueberry, bright cassis, dark plum, soft oak and clove. These sit atop notes of brown sugar, vanilla bean, pepper and black cherry
Feel – Big and chewy, right off the bat! Then, as the wine winds its way around your mouth, it coats softly, adding a lovely grippy dryness – particularly at the cheeks and lips
Taste – Rich and beautifully layered, with deeply concentrated flavors of dark stonefruit, ripe mixed dark berries, black cherry, plum, licorice, soft cedar and oak, underpinned by a softly fresh forest floor
Finish – Dry, chewy and lush with bold and dark flavors that begin softly tart, and then go sweet as flavors evolve and then tail off over a long interval
Conclusion – Ahhh, fantastic Petite Sirah, how I have missed you! Today’s wine is a delightful reminder of why I am so intrigued by this varietal. With a big, rich deliciousness and aromas that have us enjoying deep inhalations, this 2005 Foppiano Estate Petite Sirah is a very sensory wine. Add the taste and smell, the great feel of this wine and you have a very exciting overall drinking experience. Pair this wine with your bolder kitchen creations – or enjoy it all on it’s own. Stock up, because this is your final chance to purchase this remarkable treat.
What follows, for your benefit, is a retransmission of our initial mission report, in which Agent Red describes how difficult it was to infiltrate Foppiano Vineyards:
Sometimes penetrating a winery can be extremely difficult. This cab be particularly frustrating when the winery in question is holding on to some fantastic goods.
In extreme cases, we have had to resort to rather dastardly tactics. Such was the case with Foppiano Vineyards, where we had to place our own sleeper within the organization. Compound the difficulty with the fact that this sleeper didn’t even know he was our creation. He had no idea that he was even working for us.
In order to pull off this remarkable feat of subterfuge, I called upon one of my best assets, wine industry veteran Agent Smith. You’ll recall from previous missions that Smith has worked in the most parts of the biz.
I expressed to Smith the frustration over my lack of success with Foppiano. Immediately, he hatched a plan! Weeks later he directed an asset of his own to interview for a newly created position at Foppiano. How this senior position came into existence I did not ask, but the asset – codename: Afterburner – was hired on the spot.
From there, it was just a simple matter of waiting while Afterburner got up to speed in his new position at the winery. Once he found his legs, Agent Smith put in a call and I had my meeting! A few days later and I had secured today’s incredible Foppiano wine.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Foppiano Winery and Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
This is a full-bodied and deeply colored Petite Sirah. In the nose, this wine offers black fruit aromas with a touch of white pepper. Saturated flavors of ripe blackberry and blueberry blend with notes of toasty vanilla and dark cocoa, as exotic spices help carry it through for a long finish.
VINEYARDS: Located just south of the town of Healdsburg, Foppiano Vineyards sits on 200 acres along the eastern shore of the Russian River in the acclaimed appellation of the same name. Cool morning fog creates ideal microclimatic conditions for grape growing, and the 200 acre parcel has been producing world-class fruit for the Foppiano family since its purchase in 1896. Today, the vineyard is planted to Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.
VINTAGE: 2005 proved to be an exceptional vintage in the Russian River Valley. The growing season was remarkable and featured memorable milestones, including the month of May, which was the wettest in 117 years. June was unusually cool and late rains sparked an unusually prolific vigor in the vines. While July was typical and summer-like, the remainder of the season was unusually mild. A moderate early fall combined with the extra large crop made the harvest later than expected and offered extended “hang time” for the grapes, giving them an opportunity to ripen evenly offering a level of maturity and flavor intensity.
WINEMAKING: Always hand picked, the fruit for the Estate Petite Sirah started to come into the winery in early September. Fermentation took place in a combination of open and closed top fermenters, enabling us to maximize the concentration and extraction of the fruit and was aged in French and American oak for XX months.
About The Winery:
More than 100 years after its founding, Foppiano Vineyards continues to do what it did at its outset: create outstanding red wines with genuine varietal character on its 200-acre Russian River Valley estate. This tradition is the foundation of and the future for the Foppiano family’s commitment to their second century of excellence.
Foppiano Vineyards was founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, a native of Genoa, Italy. Giovanni emigrated from Italy to San Francisco in 1864, walking across the isthmus of Panama en route. He hoped to find his riches in the gold fields of California. It was Giovanni who founded Foppiano Vineyards after moving to Healdsburg, California when his search for gold proved to be unrewarding. He purchased a working winery called “Riverside Farm” on the same land where today’s Foppiano Vineyards still stands and operates.
Giovanni was joined in his winemaking pursuits by his son, Louis A. Foppiano. Together they worked the vineyards and developed a market for their wines among the local Italian families and in San Francisco’s Italian North Beach District. Over the years, the founding Foppiano and his son began to deviate from their common vision on how the winery should be managed. In 1910, Louis A. purchased the family winery from his father. The father and son did not speak to each other again until just before the founder’s death.
For the next eight years, Louis A., along with his wife Mathilda, built Foppiano Vineyards into one of the area’s most prosperous wineries, and the Foppiano name became among the most prominent in Healdsburg. Among the varieties planted on the estate was Petite Sirah, a grape which produced hearty, rich, deep reds; the kind of wine Foppiano Vineyards’ customers demanded. Other varieties were planted, but at the time the wines were not identified by the variety in the bottle. It was simply Foppiano’s renowned wines which customers desired.
Go East, Young Grape! – The demand for wine dried up in 1919, when the Volstead Act and Prohibition went into effect. Louis A. kept the family business going by farming prunes, apples, and pears for the local market. Louis A. continued to grow wine grapes and took part in the wine grape boom. The Volstead Act allowed individuals to make 200 gallons of their own homemade wine. The result was tremendous numbers of refrigerated rail cars heading east loaded with grapes. The price of grapes increased, which helped to keep Foppiano Vineyards in business.
The Creek in front of the Foppiano Estate ran red in 1926 when federal Agents forced thousands of gallons to be dumped.
Louis. A. died in 1924, leaving his winery and vineyards to his first son, Louis J., who was born in 1910. It was Louis J. who saw the effects of Prohibition up close when, in 1926, federal agents “raided” the Foppiano Estate. Agents forced the family to open the tank valves, and watched as over 100,000 gallons of the 1918 vintage flowed down the creek in front of the winery. The result was a run on the winery. People came from miles around with cups, mugs, and jars and drank from the creek running red with wine.
New Start – With the end of Prohibition in 1933, Louis J. proposed to start up winery operations immediately. He was lucky that he still had a working winery; many others who had been making wine prior to Prohibition lost everything. What Foppiano Vineyards did not have were distribution and marketing networks. So at the young age of 23, Louis J. found himself making trips to New York to sell his wine and find marketing agents.
In 1937, a new winery was built on the site of the old winery. With the new facility, Foppiano Vineyards became one of the first Sonoma County wineries to bottle its own wines. When World War II cut off the import of wine supplies from France, Louis J. found himself in a boom market for California wines. By 1941, Foppiano Vineyards was sending six rail cars a week to the east coast filled with wine, and increased its production to over 800,000 gallons of wine annually.
The early 1940s were important years for both the Foppiano family and the wine industry. The regulation of the industry which came with Repeal led California wineries to create The Wine Institute, a trade organization established to deal with industry and political matters. Louis. J joined the Institute in its second year, serving as a Director for 45 years. Inspired by the Wine Institute, Louis J. went on to help found the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association in 1946, along with 14 other wineries.
Foppiano Vineyards expanded in 1945 when Louis J. purchased the Sotoyome Vineyard, which adjoined the Foppiano Estate. The family was further expanded the next year when Louis J. married. Louis J. and Della Foppiano celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1996.
From Jugs to Bottles – The 1940s and 1950s were a profitable era for Foppiano Vineyards. Their jug wines were well known throughout California and in many states across the nation. As the industry began to undergo a change in the 1960s, Louis J. embraced the change.
By the mid 1960s, jug wines became very competitively priced, making it difficult for the lower yielding coastal vineyards such as Foppiano to compete with the central California valley vineyards. In the Central Valley, more tons of grapes per acre could be produced. This situation led Louis J. to remove the remaining fruit trees on his estate, along with some vines. He planted varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and others. Only the old Petite Sirah, Louis J.’s favorite, stayed in the ground during the replanting. Stainless steel tanks, oak barrels and tanks and new equipment were purchased in order to move into the “premium” wine business.
Generations – After the winery transformation, the fourth generation of Foppiano’s began to work in the family business. Louis J.‘s sons, Louis M. and Rod, began to take over winemaking and marketing responsibilities. Later, Louis J.’s daughter, Susan, would take over the growing hospitality side of the business. When Rod Foppiano died in 1984, Louis M. took over all day-to-day operations of the winery, although this father continued to arrive at the winery every morning. Bill Regan, Rod’s assistant, was offered the position of Winemaker in 1985.
The 1970s through the 2000s has been a period of growth for Foppiano Vineyards on a number of fronts. Two brands were added: Riverside Vineyards, for the production of North Coast “fighting varietals,” and Fox Mountain, for the production of super premium white wines. Of the three, the Foppiano Vineyards brand remains the best known and most admired by the industry and consumers. Petite Sirah, the family’s favorite wine, has become the winery’s signature wine, and is known nationwide as one of the country’s top Petites year-in and year-out. Export sales have grown significantly in this era with 15% of all wines now produced sold overseas and in Canada. Finally, the coincidence is not lost on anybody that in 1996, on the 100th anniversary of the estate’s founding, the family decided to produce only red wines under the Foppiano Vineyards label – the same circumstance that existed in 1896.
The 100-year history of Foppiano Vineyards confirms that through the strength of the family and a commitment to quality, tradition can be maintained and can thrive.
Varietals: 100% Petite Sirah