About Robert Foley Vineyards
Robert Foley Vineyards
Bob and Kelly Foley
I first met Bob Foley when he was the winemaker at Markham Vineyards. This was back in the days when Bruce Markham still owned the place, and I was working there as a marketing agent. The wines were monumental — tannic, solid, old school — but Bob was destined for greater things still. After Markham was sold, he took a position at Pride Mountain Vineyards, where he spent 15 years and earned superstar fame. High-profile consulting work at Switchback Ridge, Hourglass, Paloma, School House, and Engel Family only added to his legend.
Never content to sit on his heels, Bob launched his own winery in 1998 with a tiny, 250-case production of Claret. The wine received great critical acclaim (94 points from Robert Parker — a big Foley fan) and the brand took off from there. The early vintages were custom-crushed and sourced from top vineyards up and down the valley — One of the keys to Bob’s success has always been the great care he takes in selecting the grapes that go into his wines. In 2006, Bob purchased a winery of his own as well as a vineyard on Howell Mountain. Production has steadily increased since then, and Bob currently makes a range of wines that include an Estate Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, classic Bordeaux blends, and his delicious Claret, as well as Petit Sirah, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, and one of his personal favorites, Charbono.
If there was another key to Bob’s success it would have be his innate zeal and curiosity. When I visited him at the winery we tasted his latest passion project, a newly minted Port-style fortified wine, made from Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Cão. His boyish enthusiasm is evident in everything that he does, and it all shines through in these beautiful, concentrated, and delicious wines.
Petite Sirah Facts
Dense blackberry fruit character, with notes of black pepper and tar
Steaks, roasts, and game
Even though the origins of this grape are in France, California is the place to look for the best expressions of Petite Sirah. The "Petite" in the name refers not to the size of the vines but rather to the size of the grapes. In fact, the high skin to juice ratio that accompanies the small berries allows Petite Sirah to produce wines with high tannins and acidity, components that give them the ability to age well.
The grape was first developed in the 1870s in France's Rhône region, the result of a cross between Syrah and a relatively minor Rhône variety, Peloursin. This rationale for this cross was to give Syrah a greater ability to resist mildew. But the resulting grape never really caught on in France, in part because the tendency to mildew was replaced by susceptibility to gray rot in the humid Rhône region. California's climate is considerably drier, and the grape tends to thrive there, from Mendocino all the way down to the Mexican border.
For a number of years, Petite Sirah was primarily used as a blending grape, thanks to its deep color and fairly intense tannins. Petite Sirah is frequently blended into Zinfandel for added complexity, body, and to tone down the tendency of zins toward "jammy" fruit.
More recently, the grape has been bottled as a single varietal wine. On its own, Petite Sirah forms wines with dense blackberry fruit character, mixed with black pepper notes, licorice, smoked meats and tar. Like other big, red wines from California, Petite Sirah pairs well with steaks, roasts, and game. We like the wines from EOS, Bogle Vineyards, and Rosenblum Cellars.