We've produced Petite Sirah wine since 1994 and are quite familiar with the highly pigmented and tannicskins of Petite Sirah grapes, as compared to Pinot Noir. In the 1880s, a French nurseryman—Durif—propagated the variety, a cross between Syrah and Peloursin Noir, both of which also have an abundance of skin pigments. Whereas the pale color of Navarro's Rosé of Pinot Noir
is achieved after two to three hours of skin-contact time, if Petite Sirah grapes macerated for just a few minutes, the resulting rosé would look more like a red wine. Al Tollini's vines, lovingly referred to as “Pets,” are approaching 90 years old. It's likely that more than 10% of the vines are actually Peloursin interplanted with the Pets, which may help explain the unique flavor profile.
Navarro has vines approaching 40 years old, but these octogenarian vines have trunks as big as a man's thigh. Think how satisfying it must be to tend vines planted by your grandfather.
Al Tollini and his dog No Mo. When No Mo was a pup getting into trouble, Al would yell “No More!,” and the name stuck. On workdays, No Mo is always trotting in front of Al's tractor.
Unlike wines produced from modern clonal selections, Navarro's Petite Sirah has some red fruit flavors and a dried herb quality which we think might be from the Peloursin. If you've never tasted Peloursin, Mike Dunn at RetroCellars.com harvests his Peloursin vines separately, and has a well-made 2015 bottling of the variety. We destemmed Al's grapes into an open-top fermenter, and punched down the same as we do for Pinot Noir, to help tame Petite's tannins. When the remaining sugars in the fermenting must reached zero Brix, we pressed the grapes and racked the juice to seasoned French oak barrels to finish primary and secondary fermentations and age for about two years. The finished wine contains 12% Zinfandel—Al also has some 90-year-old Zinfandel vines—which adds a wild blackberry note to Pet's rich, plummy flavors. Gold Medal winner.