The Wine Country Online

Greetings from the back roads of California wine country! It is the old Wine Tout's job to introduce you to the folks who are handcrafting delicious, exuberant wines in the many small or recently established wineries around Northern California. These are wines that are not widely available beyond the neighborhood where they are produced. My goal is to encourage the consumer to contact the winemakers directly.


Jack Burton

Maker's Notes for Wines Featured in
"Searching for Syrah, Petite Sirah"

Foppiano Vineyards
Founded 1896
Winemaker: Bill Regan

1998 Petite Sirah Sonoma County

This is what Petite Sirah should taste like! It offers a huge structure of deep, rich purple colors and concentrated flavors from nose to finish. The aroma is a ripe package of berries, chocolate, and spice, leading into an explosive mouthful of boysenberry, black pepper, and vanilla. The pedigree of fruit in this wine gives it a character and complexity you'll savor   enjoy!

Harvest Dates:October 26+27, 1998
Brix at Harvest:23.4°
Total Acidity:0.64 grams/100ml, pH: 3.64
Cooperage:2-year air-dried American oak barrels
Cases Produced:  8,000
Age:Enjoy now or age up to 20 years.


Family-owned Foppiano Vineyards has just released a new vintage of Syrah   1997 Syrah, California   bottled under its newly redesigned Riverside label produced from various vineyards throughout the state.

Medium bottled in structure with a brilliant ruby color, the Syrah displays nicely balanced fruit and tannins, with raspberry and green peppercorn overtures.

Total acidity:0.68 grams/100ml
Cases made:5,000

Amphora Wines
Winemaker: Rick Hutchinson

1999 Syrah Unti Vineyard

The deep, dark red color of this wine is just a prelude to the lush aromas of blueberry, white pepper, and blackberry. The subtle oak combine with flavors of intense varietal fruit to make this wine a sensual experience. Blended with 3% Petite Sirah.

Cases produced:125
Release date:March 2001
Suggested retail:$27.00

Amphora Wines
Winemaker: Rick Hutchinson

1999 Petite Sirah Mounts Vineyard

This wine has a rich, dark purple color with aromas of blackberry, cola, black pepper and vanilla. Flavors of blackberry, dark pepper and dark chocolate along with concentrated varietal fruit combine with well-integrated tannins to produce a medium-bodied supple wine. Blended with 5% Zinfandel.

Cases Produced:85
Release date:March 2001
Suggested retail:$23.00

Preston Vineyards
Winemaker: Kevin Hamel

1998 Faux Dry Creek Valley

"Faux" is the name for Preston's Rhône-style red blend. It is French in style, friendly and familiar, and is fun to drink. The grapes are estate-grown Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan, Sincault and Grenache. The wine is lusciously redolent of ripe fruit and soft earth. It has a dribble-down-your-chin juiciness that is irresistible. It's a dollop of sunshine parting the clouds on a steely winter's day.

Faux is a conceptual amalgam of the rich and spicy reds of the Rhône Valley, from the earthy-resinous varietal wines of the north to the voluptuous blends of the south. Think Côte du Rhône, Châteauneuf du Pape, Côote du Provence. Yet it is mindful of its California parentage with prominent fruit and soft finish.

Appearance: Dark ruby with purple highlights.

Flavor and Aroma: The nose has aromas of concentrated ripe cherry and blackberry fruit, roased aromatic spices and a hint of smoked meat. It is well structured but still supple on the palate with a very long, complex finish.

Aging Potential: Drink 2 years from vintage; cellar for 10.

Comments: The small '98 harvest gave us rich, concentrated wines with balance and finesse.

Estate Grapes100%
Oak (French)14 mos.
HarvestSept 16-Oct 14, 1998
BottlingFeb 23-25, 2000
ReleaseMay 1, 2000
Total cases3,000
California retail$12.00

Preston Vineyards
Winemaker: Kevin Hamel

1998 Syrah Dry Creek Valley

Syrah is the lead wine in Preston's family of Rhône-styled products. Our estate plantings dating from 1978 have proven to be the Rhône varietal best matched to their gravelly benchland soils. We believe that Syrah   after Zinfandel   is the red wine most suited to carry the Dry Creek Valley banner.

With this bottling we continue our popular estate-blend expressions of Syrah. It is a young-drinking, food-loving wine with all the rich, earthly, plummy goodness of the varietal plus a soupçon of Mourvèdre and Cinsault for softening, seasoning and savoriness. We hesitate to call this our "regular" Syrah, because there is nothing mundane about it. But we do invite its enjoyment on regular occasions and with your daily repast. This is a versatile wine enjoyable with pasta, pizza, pork and portobellos as well as the essential porterhouse.

Appearance: Dark ruby with purple highlights.

Flavor and Aroma: The nose is intense, youthful, but already complex. Concentrated blackberry aromas are overliad with notes of black pepper, smoked meat, roses and licorice. The round palate impression is backed up nicely by ripe tannins. Those notes of blackberry and licorice come through in the finish.

Optimum Drinking Window: 3-8 years from vintage.

Comments: This second vintage of our "Ecunemical" Syrah is given extra complexity by inclusion of fruit from our "Vogensen Bench" vineyard.

Estate Grapes100%
TA (finished wine)0.52%
OakFrench 11 months
HarvestSept 16-Oct 13, 1998
BottlingSeptember 28, 1999
ReleaseOctober 1, 1999
Total cases1400
California retail$17.50

Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards
Winemaker: Gary Martin

1997 Petite Sirah Family Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley

This rich grape, long known for its intense characteristics, has been grown in the Dry Creek Valley for over 100 years. We planted our first Petite Sirah vineyard right next to our Mother Clone zinfandel vineyard, part of the Home Ranch in eastern Dry Creek Valley. These vines are 9 years old. We also brought in fruit from the Pedroni-Bushnell Vineyard, located south of the winery on the eastern bench. Petite Sirah has been grown on this piece for over 60 years. This vineyard has been part of the "family" since the 1940s when John Sr. owned it. His granddaughter, Carol Bushnell, now tends the vineyards with her husband, Jim.

Tasting Notes: A dark and richly colored red wine with a firm and textured body throughout. The tannins are well integrated with bright aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry and carmel.

Appellation:Dry Creek Valley
Aging:18 months, small oak barrels
Total acidity:.63


Unti Vineyards
Winemaker: Mick Unti

1998 Syrah Dry Creek Valley

Vineyard: Grapes came from our 6-acre block on the east Dry Creek Bency where chalky, rocky soil provides excellent drainage. The vines are a Durell-clone Syrah (small, olive-like berries) field-grafted onto 5C rootstock. Vines are cane-pruned and vertically trellised for greater sun exposure. The vineyard was planted in 1991.

Vintage/Harvest: 1998 was a cool growing season in Dry Creek. We harvested our Syrah on October 7th, a month later than we harvested the '97. There was a physiological ripeness (mature flavors of blackberry and smoked meat) to the grapes I had yet to find in any previous vintage from this vineyard. Such ripeness tends to occur in cool vintages because grapes can remain on the vine longer without sugars shooting up and acid levels dropping. The grapes can be picked at an ideal sugar of 24.5 brix.

Vinification/Oak Aging: The Syrah was destemmed and crushed into closed-top stainless steel tanks. After a two-day cold soak the must was inoculated with Syrah yeast. Each Syrah lot was pumped over twice daily during a 9-day fermentation. The wine was then pressed into a tank and transferred to our winery, which required us to rack the Syrah three more times before it got into barrel. By virtue of these logistics, we discovered that aeration could help eliminate any off-odors commonly found in freshly fermented Syrah. We then aged this wine for 11 months in exclusively French oak barrels, 30% of which were new. The '98 Syrah was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Style/Description: The '98 Syrah is the best wine we have made in our short history as a winery or as home winemakers. The concentration of blueberry/blackberry fruit seems to compliment the smoked-meat character we get every year from this vineyard. The savage nature of this wine reminds me of Cornas (Northern Rhône) in a ripe vintage. We recommend drinking it within the next 3 to 5 years.

Oak Aging:11 months, French, 30% new
Total Acidity:  0.63g/100ml, pH 3.72
Bottled:9/20/99, unfined, unfiltered
Blend:100% Syrah