2012 La Storia Petite Sirah Estate Alexander Valley
 
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Tight Durif Clusters and Trentadue Vineyards The Ancient Vines of "Old Patch"

In 1860, Francois Durif was walking the vineyards outside of Montpellier when he first noticed the oddball bunches. At first he mistook the plants for Syrah, but on closer inspection, Durif realized that the clusters were tighter than Syrah — the berries smaller, and the skins thinner.

The botanist was excited by his discovery, and immediately shared his findings with local winegrowers. Syrah is highly susceptible to mildew as clusters tend to grow in clumps with little air circulation in between. In humid vintages, farmers were obliged to spray their vines with copious quantities of a copper sulfate preservative called "la bouilli bordelaise," often fighting a losing battle against disease. As Durif's hybrid offered much more space between clusters, the Syrah look-alike was more resistant to mildew. It wouldn't be long before growers in and around Montpelier began ripping out Syrah, replacing it with "Durif."

The botanist's discovery turned out to be a hybrid of supple Syrah and big-muscled Peloursin. But, while the new variety was indeed less prone to mildew, winegrowers were faced with a different challenge in the cellar. Durif ripened unevenly. In tough vintages, sugars spiked before seeds browned. Winemakers accustomed to carrying out lengthy whole cluster macerations found their finished wines ultra-rich, but braced by ferocious tannins.

In the late 1800s, Durif cuttings managed to find their way into immigrants' trunks, crossing the Atlantic before being hustled up to Sonoma Valley. Renamed "Petite Sirah" in California, the hybrid was widely planted in the warmest pockets of the valley. Managing the harsh tannins of young-vine fruit remained a challenge, but as the bush plants matured, yields were naturally trimmed. With the lower yields came greater physiological maturity — and browner, riper seeds.

Tragically, when the Phylloxera blight ravaged northern California, most of the old-vine Petit Syrah died a quick death. But a handful of parcels — planted before the turn of the 20th century on sandier soils — miraculously survived, the most famous of which are Vincent Trentadue's Geyserville and Old Patch Vineyards.

In a 2012 growing season that has already captured the critical imaginations of The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, Jr., Miro Tcholakov crafted a Petit Syrah that ranks among the finest ever to come off of "Old Patch." Harvested almost two weeks earlier than the 2010 or 2011, natural sugars were sky high, but far more importantly, clusters ripened evenly. Less concerned than he usually is about astringent tannins, Tcholakov gingerly pushed the envelope on maceration, making for this ultra-concentrated, lavish, marvelously elegant Petit Syrah.

Deep purple/black in color with powerful primary aromas of blueberry and blackberry preserves, laced with sweet herbs and violets. MASSIVE on the attack — like all the wines drawn off of "Old Patch" — packed with crushed black fruit bramble, bracketed by superb 115-year-old-vine backbone.



Tasting Notes

2012 La Storia Petite Sirah Estate Alexander Valley
"Jet Purple/black in color. Explosive primary fruit nose of blackberry preserves, tinged with violet. Big, rich and full throttle on the attack, packed with luscious black fruit jam, at once dense, briery and silken. Drink now for its primary fruit hedonism plushness or lay this ancient vine beauty for 5-7 years in a cool, dark cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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