Petite Syrah, 1980. Guenoc Winery | Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | June 1984


The Guenoc Valley, in Lake County, California is unique in more than one way. The vineyards in Guenoc Valley have received the first single vineyard/single owner “appellation of origin” in America. It is a small valley, about 300 to 700 yards wide, and two miles long just southeast of Middletown, CA. Somewhat unusual for California, it is planted in predominately Bordeaux varietals.

The valley is owned by the Magoon family. Orville, a world authority on coastal engineering, and his brother Eaton (Bob), a noted writer of musical comedies, have delegated the viticulture and wine-making to the Raymond brothers. Yes, the same two whose wine we had last month, from their own winery. I compliment the Magoons. They have selected from the best. The wines testify to this.

They built one of California’s “state of the art” wine producing facilities. 54,000 sq. ft. of com­pletely insulated premises, design­ed to accommodate virtually every foreseeable requirement to produce premium wine.

The most notable twist to Guenoc is the resurrection of the Lillie Langtry label. The romance of the label goes back to 1888, when Lillie Langtry, famed British beauty and actress, acquired the same property. She hired a wine-maker from Bordeaux to oversee the vineyards and produce wine. She marketed it with her portrait on the bottle label.

The Magoons reproduced the painting of Lillie Langtree by the famous British artist G.F.Watts on their winery label, and after extensive historical research, restored the Langtree house on the property. Charming!

This Petite Sirah just stood out among the crowd. It is a good example of a California style Petite Sirah. Two strains of this grape exist in California. One is called the California strain, and the other the French strain. (The June and May 1983 selections were examples of the French strain of grape, made into wine in Napa and in Australia.) There is more of the California strain planted here. It can be burly, big, acid, tannic, and bursting with fruit. Prior to the early 1970s, most all of the Petite Sirah grown and vinified in California was used as a blending wine. Since then, the number of winemakers adding a varietal Petite Sirah to their offerings has steadily increased. The interest has produced a noteworthy new varietal at a reasonable price. The home of the variety is the Rhone Valley in France, where wines of comparable quality are seen with higher price tags on wine shop shelves.

Our wine is dark, nearly inky, purplish red in color. It has an intense fruity aroma, with light peppery overtones, and some alcohol coming through. The three elements, together with the varietal character of the grape, just make it a great “sniff” (am I getting carried away?). The taste is rich. It is full bodied. It is dry. It is loaded with varietal fruit. It builds into a pepperiness in the middle, and then finishes with tannin. Serve at room temperature with hearty meat dishes. Roasts, steaks. Make a stew with it, and serve it along.

Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and improve for 5 years.

Be Sociable, Share!


So empty here ... leave a comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.