Case History
Discovering Old Vine Syrah
McDowell Valley Vineyards


 

Situation

Upon graduation from UC Davis, George began his first solo winemaking job at McDowell Valley Vineyards in Mendocino County on the recommendation of John Parducci. The property had seen grape production as early as the 1890s and the McDowell family has farmed vineyards and sold Petite Sirah to area wineries for decades. When the family decided to make wine, Bursick was hired as winemaker.

Challenge

Of all the blocks of Petite Sirah, the wineries preferred the grapes from a particular section planted in 1919. Bursick noticed the fruit from this block was bigger and softer than the others and there were observable differences in its character.

Tactics

Acting on his hunch he sent vine samples to the noted viticulturist and ampelographer Dr. Lucy Morton, trained by Dr. Gallet at the University of Montpelier, France. She confirmed Bursick’s hunch that it was not Petite Sirah at all but was fact, Syrah

Conclusion

Bursick recommended a separate varietal bottling of the Syrah vineyard. This was produced in 1980 from the 1978 vintage of the old vines. It is among the first, if not the first, varietal bottling of Syrah in California. Today McDowell Valley Vineyards continues to make award-winning Syrah and claims a legacy unique to wineries in the West.