The 'Little Grape that Could,' Petite Sirah, Celebrates 50 Years

Feb 17, 2011, 20:15 ET from Concannon Vineyard

LIVERMORE, Calif., Feb. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Petite Sirah, known for its small berries and bold, concentrated flavor, burst onto the California wine scene in 1961 when Concannon Vineyard's Jim Concannon chose to bottle the first varietally labeled Petite Sirah.  Previously used for blending, this unique grape varietal, with its jammy fruit flavors and generous, age-worthy tannins, has entranced oenophiles and consistently gained in popularity since its birth fifty years ago.  Concannon Vineyard, along with an expanding community of vintners and growers, will honor Petite Sirah with numerous celebrations throughout 2011.



The Petite Sirah grape was developed in 1880 by Francois Durif in Montpellier, France. The variety is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin, both of which may be called Petite Sirah because aged varietal vines are hard to distinguish.  First planted in California in 1884, Petite Sirah was the blending backbone of many home-made prohibition era wines.  According to Petite Sirah advocacy group, P.S. I Love You, there were approximately 4,440 acres of Petite Sirah planted in the U.S. when Jim Concannon bottled America's first varietally labeled Petite Sirah in 1961.  Fifty years later, the "little grape that could" is on the rise; acreage has nearly doubled, to 7,592 acres and there are now over 723 producers that feature a Petite Sirah in their portfolio.  

"While we have continued our leadership with Petite Sirah viticulture and winemaking, we're pleased that many others are growing and producing Petite Sirah and that the varietal becomes more popular with each passing year," said Jim Concannon, third generation vintner.  Recent Nielsen data shows that Petite Sirah is one of the most popular varietals with consumers. In 2010, Petite Sirah grew +10%, making it the second fastest growing red varietal in the industry, narrowly behind Pinot Noir, at +12% growth.*

Starting with special festivities at tomorrow's 5th annual "Dark & Delicious" food & wine event, the grape's anniversary will be a year-long celebration comprised of events and activities throughout the country that honor its past, celebrate its present and embrace Petite Sirah's future.

A special two-day public celebration at Concannon's historic Livermore Valley winery is planned for August 13-14, 2011 and will include cooking demonstrations, unique Petite Sirah products such as chocolates and ice cream, live music and one of a kind vertical tastings from Concannon's library.  "I am very proud of the fact that my father started America's love of Petite Sirah," said John Concannon, fourth generation vintner.  "I'm honored to host retrospective Petite Sirah tastings in over 50 markets across the nation this year to promote awareness of this distinctive grape in celebration of such a significant milestone."  

Concannon is also a founding member of P.S. I Love You and hosts the wine industry's annual national symposium for growers and wine producers to share vineyard and production best practices.  This year's event will be held July 26 and will feature live-streaming online, offering consumers the opportunity to ask questions directly to some of the most notable vintners and growers in the Petite Sirah community.

With four generations of family involvement, Concannon Vineyard's pioneering contributions to California winemaking and viticulture have built a landmark winery with an enduring commitment to creating outstanding, award-winning wines proudly served on American tables for over 127 years.  Founder of America's first Petite Sirah, Concannon Vineyard also introduced Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon clones 7, 8 and 11, which provided the backbone of Napa Valley's Cabernet resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s.  The historic winery earned organic certification in 2010 and preserves an agricultural way of life by protecting vineyards from urban development through its new Conservancy tier of critically acclaimed wines.  For additional information please visit:

For more information or to speak with Jim or John Concannon, contact Patricia Schneider 415/717-7595 or

*Source: Nielsen FDL, 12/11/10

SOURCE Concannon Vineyard