Martha Stoumen - Benson Ranch Petite Sirah 2018
100% Petite Sirah
Mendocino County, California, United States
From the producer-
From our very own Benson Ranch Vineyard in Ukiah, Mendocino County; 14 year old dry farmed (no irrigation) vines; farmed according to organic principles without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fungicides. This wine has more tannic structure than a usual Martha Stoumen wine. A great wine to enjoy now with a special meal or to keep in your library for years to come. Blueberry, ethiopian coffee, raspberry dark chocolate, winter berries, and clove all come together for a beautiful aroma. Mole and blueberry flavors introduce the wine to
the palate followed by a velvety texture, bright acidity, and firm tannins.
Petite Sirah is a grape with wild flavors. Originally bred in France in 1880 where it is referred to as Durif, Petite Sirah is a cross between Syrah and the rare Peloursin grape. It was imported into the US in the mid 1880’s, so has been a part of our viticultural history almost as long as it has existed in France. Most of the world’s relatively small amount of Petite Sirah is now grown in CA, and many here have taken up its banner. It has intense fruit characteristics and tannin, and some of the highest levels of anthocyanins of any grape (an antioxidant that corresponds to color), so be prepared for a beautiful depth of purple. I suggest breaking out a decanter you if you decide to enjoy it young.
To add to Petite Sirah’s concentration, we grow this at the top of the hillside at Benson Ranch and we dry farm it (no irrigation). In the cellar we rein it back in by doing a partial carbonic fermentation assisted by very short pumpovers, and press off the skins ~⅓ of the way into fermentation. We then age in neutral oak on lees for 1 year prior to bottling. Benson Ranch is a site that gives plenty of acidity, and this, combined with the grape’s natural tannin, allow us to add a minute amount of SO2 only prior to bottling. 12.5% alcohol. At bottling (July 2019): free SO2 3 mg/L, total SO2 was 11 mg/L. Vegan. 142 cases.
Martha Stoumen Wines was founded upon the desire to recapture a farming and winemaking culture that has all but faded away: a winemaking culture of patience.
For my wines I lease and farm around half of the vineyards myself. The other half are farmed by multi-generation farmers who understand their land, and their family's land, far better than I ever will, and who farm with my same philosophies in mind. Patience in the vineyard means composting rather than adding synthetic fertilizers, allowing predatory insects the ability to outcompete pests rather than spraying insecticides, and doing proper handwork, such as pruning for vine longevity rather than high yields.
In the cellar I use a minimalist winemaking approach. Patience in the cellar means letting the natural yeast and bacteria present on the grape skins perform fermentation, and allowing longer macerations and aging to provide stability rather than using added tannin, acid, or stabilizing agents in my wines. Above all, I strive to make wines that are delicious, joyful, and truly representative of California.
Martha went to work in the vineyard, olive orchard, and winery of a small farm and learning center in Tuscany after studying traditional agricultural systems and Italian during her undergraduate degree. The majority of her farm work took place in the vineyard rather than the winery, so she entered the world of wine production through the lens of a vigneronne rather than a typical modern California winemaker who spends very little to no time in the vineyard. During this time she also worked with farm animals, bees, and vegetables, and to this day views growing grapes and making wine ideally as part of a larger system.
Besides a love of food, and therefore agriculture, Martha was drawn to wine for two reasons: she relishes a tradition in which the master-apprentice relationship is still very much alive and well, and because wine is a product that sets the pace and rhythm of the winemaker’s life, rather than vice-versa. Grape growing and winemaking aligns a vigneronne’s actions with the seasons; she can neither rush the process nor slow it down. After her initial exposure to grape farming and winemaking in Tuscany, Martha began a series of apprenticeships, sandwiched around a Master's at UC Davis. Martha has had the pleasure of apprenticing under Reinhard Löwenstein (Heymann-Löwenstein, Mosel), Jordan Fiorentini (Chalk Hill, California) Chris Brockway (Broc Cellars, California), Clive Dougall (Seresin, Marlborough), Didier Barral (Léon Barral, Faugères, France), and Giusto Occhipinti (COS, Sicily). Many of these teachers have remained a part of her life as she has moved toward her own vision of making responsibly farmed, terroir-driven wines in the land that she holds so dear in her heart, California.