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2023 Q1 19321

Tales From Our Cellar: 2020 Petite Sirah

Posted: Jul 11, 2023

For over 30 years, we have been fans of Petite Sir­ah after drink­ing many bot­tles of Stag’s Leap Petite Sir­ah in the ear­ly to mid-1990s. Dur­ing the drawn-out days of the COVID shut­downs of 2020, we had a lot of time to think about all the wines we have nev­er pro­duced but always loved and want­ed to make. Petite Sir­ah was at the top of that list so we went search­ing San­ta Bar­bara Coun­ty for some fruit before set­tling on fruit from a 15+ year old vine­yard in the Los Alam­os area. To add to the chal­lenge, not only had we nev­er made a Petite Sir­ah, but it had also been decades since we made any wine from Los Alam­os, an area known for its mild cli­mate and sandy soils which lim­it the vig­or caus­ing the vines to stress. The heat spikes of the 2020 vin­tage added to the stress on the vines and fruit which was har­vest­ed in Octo­ber dur­ing one of the many heat spikes of the vin­tage.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the fruit was not very pret­ty when it arrived at the win­ery mak­ing for a lot of work for our hands and sort­ing machine. Once sort­ed and in the fer­menter, it looked bet­ter, but we knew that con­trol­ling the extrac­tion was going to be key to bring­ing any ele­gance and drink­a­bil­i­ty to this wine. After 12 days in the fer­menter, the wine was a mon­ster, dark black in col­or with mas­sive tan­nins — pret­ty much every­thing we thought it would be.

Steve Beckmen Winemaker2022 13

At 8 months of aging, we racked the wine for the first time and decid­ed that we need­ed to tone the wine down a bit to bring some bal­ance, addi­tion­al tex­ture and ele­gance, to make it more Beck­men in style. I left it in the hands of my assis­tant Rory Bald­win, and he, along with Abel (long time cel­lar mas­ter) and a for­mer cel­lar work­er, began blend­ing tri­als on the wine. After some time, they pre­sent­ed their favorites to me, and after tast­ing them, we decid­ed to go with an addi­tion of 20% Purisi­ma Moun­tain Vine­yard Syrah (how could we go wrong with that call?). The Syrah addi­tion toned down the mas­sive tan­nins and struc­ture of the pure Petite Sir­ah, bring­ing the bal­ance and tex­ture that it need­ed. While the blend made it more Beck­men in style, the wine unques­tion­ably keeps the focus on the vari­etal fla­vor of the Petite Sir­ah. The wine aged for a total of 22 months in neu­tral French oak bar­rel pri­or to bot­tling.

Hon­est­ly, I am glad we wait­ed almost 30 years to pro­duce our first Petite Sir­ah because we need­ed all that expe­ri­ence to cre­ate a wine as good as this from the mate­ri­als we start­ed with.

2023 Q1 19351

The 2020 Petite Sir­ah is now sold out.

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