Once & Future 2019 Petite Sirah, Palisades Vineyard, Calistoga
Item Number: 16398
Sub Region: Napa Valley
Estate Grown Wine: No
Vineyard Designation: Palisades Vineyard
Grape(s): Petite Sirah
Type: Wine - Red
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Viticulture: Practicing Organic
Case Production: 245
Winemaking Notes: All the wines from the 2019 vintage have been made in the traditional Once & Future wine style: small open-topped redwood fermentors, full destemming, no berry sorting, indigenous yeast, hand punch down of the cap, indigenous malolactic fermentation, and aging in French oak on the yeast with variable amounts of new barrels, depending on the character of the wine. The wines were bottled with no fining or filtration. In short, this is very simple, traditional winemaking that relies on the unique aspects of the vineyard to define the flavor, nature, and quality of the wine. The goal here is not to make a good-flavored beverage, though these wines taste very good; it is to give the drinker a sense of the vintage and place that formed the flavors in these wines. These 2019 wines are bright and juicy on the palate with a strong spine of acid and tannin.
California Petite Sirah: There’s a good reason that, until the 1960s, Petite Sirah was the most widely planted grape variety in Napa Valley. As is shown by the few remaining examples, grown in the right places, it does very well there. It makes lovely, evocative wine even darker and spicier than Zinfandel. If Napa had only had the guts to stick with Petite through the renaissance that transformed California wine, it would have been a more distinctive and interesting choice (not to mention better value) upon which to hang one’s regional hat than today’s dictatorial monarch, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Palisades Vineyard: Tucked into a narrow riparian canyon just east of the town of Calistoga, at the foot of the magnificent Palisades cliffs is Petite Sirah heaven. The cobbly loam soil of the alluvial fan is perfect for the variety. Hot summers, cool westerly morning breezes, extended sunlight and adequate winter rainfall bless the fruit with exceptional concentration and depth. Viticulture here dates back to 1878, when James Horn, a settler from Scotland, first planted grapes; in 1908, Domenico and Gilda Barberis, recent arrivals from Italy, planted more vines along Horn’s Creek. Seven years later, they established “Bonded Winery Number 118” on the site.
Sadly, despite a capacity of more than 20,000 gallons the winery didn’t survive Prohibition and closed down in 1932. The vineyard, however, survived. Continuing to farm it until 1992, Domenico and Gilda’s son Frank planted Petite on St. George rootstock in 1968 and again in the mid-70s. In the 90s the property was bought by Anne Carver and Denis Sutro who farmed the property, preserved the Petite Sirah, and preserved the beautiful character of the Palisades by putting the 500 acres directly below the massif into a land trust. In 2015, Felicia Woytak and her husband Steven Rasmussen, who thankfully had the soul and character (not unlike petite itself) to ignore the prevailing commercial formula, choosing to respect and preserve the site’s heritage. Committed to organic horticulture, they’ve retained Jim Munk to manage the place’s traditional dry farming and head-trained viticulture.