by Fred McMillin
for February 18, 1998

This Granite Springs Swings


Granite Springs in the higher reaches of El Dorado County [over 2,000'] produces a bright, fresh Petite Sirah. It has a long, steady record with this grape.

..."The Wine Atlas of California," Bob Thompson

Granite Springs Petite Sirah is triumphantly successful, regularly walking away with gold medals from a variety of competitions.

..."Rhone Renaissance," Remington Norman

1997 San Francisco Fair—DOUBLE GOLD—Granite Springs Winery Petite Sirah, 1995.

...Anthony Dias Blue, Director; Carol Seibert, Managing Director; total entries over 2,300.

The Rest of the Story

In 1824 London physician Dr. Alexander Henderson wrote that Hermitage red Rhones were made from two plants, "the great and small SIRAS." So after 170 more years we now have that "small SIRA" totally identified, don't we?

Nope. We still don't know exactly what "petite sirah" is. What we DO know is that this genetic puzzle developed in California from Rhone vines and makes a vigorous red that is gaining more and more respect. I slipped that 1995 S.F. Fair winner into a recent tasting. Sure enough, it whipped seven competitors, almost all more expensive. Here it is.

The Wine

1995 Petite Sirah, El Dorado County
Granite Springs Winery, El Dorado
Original Owners—Lynne and Lester Russell
Original Winemaker—Lester was first shown the excitement of winemaking by Dr. David Bruce. He then built the winery near his childhood home in the Sierra Foothills.(UPDATE: Lester's associate Craig Boyd became winemaker when Frank and Patty Latcham bought the winery not so long ago...which we will cover later.)
Food Affinities—Robust foods...like James Beard's marinated flank steak.

Postscript—The Name Game

The vineyard soil is lean and mean granite, that makes the grape intensity higher than the elevation.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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