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The Long and Winding Pinot Road, Part III

I began to search the aisles of well-stocked liquor stores for red Burgundy. In my price range, the pickings were slim, and the ones I could afford were thin, rustic, acidic and terribly disappointing. There wasn’t much California Pinot Noir worth pursuing in the early 1970s. Some early signs of success were coming out of Mt Eden and Chalone, but these were off my radar and might as well have been on another planet. Frustrated, I turned to the dark side and began to dabble in Cabernet and Petite Sirah. I was particularly drawn to Petite Sirah because of its bold sweet blackberry jam flavors and black pepper spice. It seemed to be a perfect accompaniment to my culinary skills which consisted primarily of grilling steaks on the barbecue.

There was one Petite Sirah in particular that caught my attention - Concannon Vineyard. Maybe it was the fact that Concannon ws the first California winery to label the varietal Petite Sirah on the bottle (1964), or maybe it was because the winery had some familiar kinship (founder James Concannon was born on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, the homeland of my great grandfather). Most likely, though, it was because I liked the masculine wine, and as a young bachelor, identified with its machismo style. Concannon Vineyard, located on the East Bay of Northern California in Livermore, was the first winery I actually visited. It was around 1974 when I went to Concannon and bought a case of wine, one of life’s rites of passage.

The father grape of Petite Sirah is Syrah and the mother is Peloursin, a humble grape from southern France. Since cross-regional breeding of grapes was frowned on in France, Petite Sirah was not accepted there and found a new home in the United States where, along with Zinfandel, has become America’s own varietal. It was first brought to America from France in the 1889s. It survived phylloxera in the 1890s, both World Wars, the Depression and Prohibition (Petite Sirah was a main ingredient in sacramental wines).

I began medical practice in 1975, and my marriage in 1977 and two sons who followed shortly thereafter took my attention away from wine for a few years. Mr Stox Restaurant would revive my passion. To be continued… ..

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