BEHIND THE VINE
Behind The Vine with Viticulturist Sukhy Sran Petite Sirah isn’t very “petite” at Vina Robles. For us, Petite Sirah is a big part of what we do, and it consistently delivers big flavors. In fact, we have 50 acres planted to Petite Sirah in our estate vineyards because we believe that the varietal is so well suited to our Paso Robles climate. Our estate Jardine Vineyard has long been the
anchor of the Petite Sirah program, while our Huerhuero Vineyard also yields Petite Sirah for some of our blended wines. Now a third estate planting of Petite Sirah at Creston Valley Vineyard is coming on strong. Creston Valley Vineyard is located near the small town
Petite Sirah at Creston Valley Vineyard, July 2009
of Creston, about 12 miles southeast of the city of Paso Robles. The climate in Creston tends to be a bit cooler than the areas to the north, which allows for added hang time and flavor development. In 2004, we selected a particularly sandy part of the site for a 10-acre planting of Petite Sirah, knowing that the well-drained soils would inhibit the varietal’s tendency to grow vigorously. Today, we couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
Petite Sirah at Huerhuero Vineyard, July 2009
This Petite Sirah block is now well established, and the most recent 2008 crop produced some spectacular wine. The fruit from this location is atypical for Petite Sirah, in that the clusters and berries are quite small— the exact outcome that we expected from the dry, sandy soil. The smaller grapes translate to enhanced flavor and color concentration. You can expect Creston Valley Vineyard to play a
bigger role in our Petite Sirah program in the coming vintages. As a winegrower, this is perhaps the most
exciting part of the job—the quest for continual improvement. Our Petite Sirah already gets rave reviews. It would be easy to rest on our laurels, but it wouldn’t be as fun.
CHARDONNAY THRIVES IN COOLER CLIMES
The Paso Robles appellation is remarkably diverse, with considerable variations in soil and climate as you travel around the region from east to west as well as north to south. Consequently, Paso Robles can excel with a wide range of varietals, from Sauvignon Blanc to Petite Sirah, Viognier to Cabernet Sauvignon. But even Paso Robles can’t be a jack of all trades, which is why we choose to source
our Chardonnay from Monterey County, our neighbor to the north. Chardonnay is an “early ripener,” so it performs better in cool environments that allow the varietal to hang on the vine and enjoy enough time for vital flavor development. For this reason, California’s best Chardonnays come predominantly from the state’s coolest winegrowing areas, including Monterey County. Our Chardonnay grapes come from an upper bench on decomposed granite soils
near the town of Gonzales in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley, about 80 miles northwest of our winery. The two regions are connected by the Salinas River, which begins here in San Luis Obispo County, and which continues right up through the vineyards of Gonzales, ultimately terminating at the Pacific Ocean near Moss Landing. The climate in the Salinas Valley is vastly influenced by coastal air funneling inland
from Monterey Bay and down the valley. On an average summer day, when temperatures in Paso Robles reach the 90s, the conditions in the Salinas Valley are typically cool and breezy.
Therefore, the area’s growing season for Chardonnay is dramatically long, from March
all the way through October. Such hang time creates a magnificent flavor profile, with a ripe, fresh fruit character and luscious natural acidity. This acidity ensures structure and balance, while the rich flavors allow for barrel fermentation and other techniques that bring dimension to the wine. So while Paso Robles is the source for virtually everything we do at Vina Robles, we are fortunate to have a world-class alternative just up the road when it comes to Chardonnay.
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