2011 Dashe Todd Brothers Ranch Petite Sirah

Winery

Most winemakers would feel “married to the job,” but Dashe Winery, founded and run by husband and wife team Michael and Anne Dashe, gives new meaning to “labor of love.” Michael studied at UC Davis and gained experience at Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Far Niente and Ridge Vineyards, among others, while Anne trained at the University of Bordeaux and worked at Ch. La Dominique as well as in the Napa Valley. A shared passion for wine brought Michael and Anne together and led them to start the winery just months after getting married in 1996. But what they really shared was a desire to create something new: California wines with a European personality. Their wines would be made “naturally,” so they would express the pure flavors of their fruit and the terroir of the vineyards.   A small 10,000 case winery, Dashe Cellars has not followed the typical script of a wine country start-up. They do not own any vineyards, preferring to obtain grapes through long-term contracts with growers of older, low-yielding vineyards in the cooler appellations of Sonoma County. And the winery is located in downtown Oakland – with neither a barn nor tractor in sight. Yet these decisions have allowed them to focus on perfecting an artisinal approach to winemaking, including small-lot fermentation, the use of indigenous yeasts, and little-or-no fining or filtration. They also seek to limit the influence of oak on their wines by using large-format oak vessels including 900-gallon foudres and 120-gallon puncheons, as well as older traditional French barrels.   Ultimately, where the story of Dashe Cellars has really moved off script has been in styling a new personality for an old California stalwart, Zinfandel. While their portfolio includes Grenache, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Riesling, it emphasizes single-vineyard Zinfandel. Yet Michael and Anne Dashe have refuted the belief that great California Zin must be massive and port-like in alcohol content. Not one Zinfandel among their current releases reaches 15% in alcohol; these wines emphasize balance, elegance and perfume over power, and (refuting another notion about the power and preferences of critics) they are routinely awarded high scores. In a recent blog post, Michael Dashe set down his goal for this archetypal California grape, saying “Zinfandel needs to compete—and should compete—on the world stage, with other great varietals from other countries. It needs to taste good on its own, with fruit, acidity, alcohol, and structure all in balance.”

Wine

Petite Sirah is neither Syrah nor “petite” – at least in color, flavor or structure. In reality, it is the Durif, a hybrid that was developed in the 1880s in Southern France but never popular there, preferring drier climates in the New World. In California, the name changed early on and winegrowers have long used Petite Sirah as a blender, adding color and structure to their Zinfandel wines. In recent years, its popularity as a single varietal has grown as wine lovers have learned to appreciate its unique dark fruit and peppery character and excellent potential for aging. At the Todd Brothers Ranch, located near Geyserville in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, the rocky and steep vineyards were planted in 1958; because these vines struggle to find nourishment, they produce tiny jet-black grapes of intense flavor. Dashe Cellars produced just 147 cases of this wine. It aged 14 months in barrel and another two and a half years in bottle before release. The dark color and complex mix of fruit, earth and peppery spice may send your mind spinning to the great wines of the Southern Rhone. You can enjoy this gorgeous wine now or let it mature another 20 years!

Winemaking

Fermented on native yeasts and aged 14 months in older French oak barrels.

Tasting notes

Dark purple in color, it opens with notes of cassis, earth, pepper and licorice. The palate is full-bodied with plenty of dark fruit mixed with hints of chocolate and coffee that extend through a long and persistent finish.

Appellation

Alexander Valley (Sonoma)

Varietal

99% Petite Sirah, 1% Zinfandel

Size

750ml

Closure

Cork

Alcohol

14.6%

UPC

654884703085