Berryessa Gap Petite Sirah – An Eye Opener

Today’s post is the first in a series about Petite Sirah. Let me start by saying I had tried this variety for the first time about 10 years ago, swiftly decided I didn’t like it and forgot about it for a decade.

Fast forward at least 10 years to 2020 when I was offered the opportunity to attend a zoom tasting of Petite Sirah organized by the venerable Jo Diaz out of California.

There were four producers on the screen and about 15 journalists, including me. Of the producers, three have sent me wines to try. I was so intrigued during the zoom by the comments that the journalists and winemakers made about the grape that I couldn’t wait to try it again. Lucky for me, a number of the producers sent me Petite Sirah wines including Berryessa Gap.

Nicole Salengo the winemaker at Berryessa was the person representing the winery at the zoom tasting. She has been in California for more than a decade and moved there from New England. After a degree from the UC Davis department of Viticulture and Enology and an undergraduate study of Geology, she is very well versed in what grape vines need. I liked her attitude on the zoom chat. Very down to Earth and honest.

Yolo County where the winery is located is a place that she has found herself feeling at home. She admitted on the call that at the start, she too was hesitant about Petite Sirah. The site of Berryessa Gap Vineyards is east of Lake Berryessa. It was the second group of bottles that I received but since it was under screw cap, it was the easiest to open. Screw caps are not a big focus for me, at least they weren’t before home schooling and the pandemic. Now anything that opens a bottle of wine faster, it my new game changer.

Coble Ranch vineyard is on a hillside where sheep graze. The soils have good  drainage and the nearby Gap brings cooling winds.

The wine was a keeper, elegant and rich with red and black berry fruit and spices. Long and persistent, I also got a  vein of minerality. I was extremely surprised by how light and fresh it was.

Berryessa Gap has begun the process of establishing the Winters, California AVA.  Winters looks like an appealing place to visit. It is now high up on my list when I begin to travel again.


  1. You started with a nice one Susannah! When I lived in Sacramento I drove through Winters almost every weekend to go hiking, and past Berryessa Gap. Hope you get there, the area is discretely beautiful!

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