Symphony — No it’s not the name of a blend. This is a grape varietal. It is one of the several cross-clonal hybrid grape creations by University of California, Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. He’s known for quite a few, including Ruby Cabernet (cross-breed Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignane) and Emerald Riesling (cross-breed Moscadelle and Riesling). Gaining in popularity is the Symphony grape, a hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris.
Developed by Olmo in 1948, it took him nearly 40 years to perfect the clone, and it wasn’t released for commercial use until 1984. He developed the white grape to withstand the downright hot climate of California’s Central Valley, however today it seems to thrive best in cooler temps, with most plantings found in either Lodi or the Sierra Foothills. But their’s one woman brave enough to take the plantings to her even higher, cooler climate AVA of Yorkville Highlands. And in so-doing, she’s crafted a beautifully floral-forward wine that’s unlike any other. It must be the work of the wine queen herself — Theodora Lee aka “Theo-patra.”
After tasting the Theopolis Vineyards 2015 Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir, I was absolutely curious to try Theodora’s take on the grapes from Santa Lucia Highland. While both Yorkville and Santa Lucia are mountainous regions whose climates and terroir are affected by their proximity to the ocean, my lone experience with the Yorkville expression of Pinot Noir could not have been more different than my multiple experiences of the grapes from SLH. So to taste the juxtaposition from this talented winemaker was both a treat and an educational experience.
This was my first experience with a rosé of Petite Sirah, and I’m so glad that it’s with Queen Theo-patra herself. Theodora describes this delicate take on a robust wine as “elegant,” “curvy,” and “feminine.” While I do agree, I can’t help but add that this curvaceous lady has a bit of a tom-boy streak. As beautiful as she is, she’s ready to get rough and tumble. Can you handle a woman with strength? Grab a glass and find out.
Theodora Lee, winemaker and proprietor of Theopolis Vineyards is one talented lady. Though she founded her winery in 2003, I’ve only just recently been able to taste what this hidden gem has to offer — and I can’t boast enough about the wine’s I’ve tried. Pinot Noirs from Mendocino are already a favorite of mine — I’ve had quite a few exquisite ones from Anderson Valley. (Try FourSight) But the nuances the Yorkville Highlands provides this malleable varietal are in a league of their own. And Theodora knows how to work with those nuances, creating a delicate — and dare I say feminine — beauty in the bottle.
A 100% Petite Sirah that’s friendly and approachable? Sign me up. When Theodora Lee sent me two vintages of Petite Sirah and a rosé of Petite Sirah, I knew I was in the hands of a PS expert. Until recently I’d been intimidated by the varietal whose very name seems to tease at its reality: There’s nothing petite about the flavors textures, or even aromas of a Petite Sirah. Or so I thought until I’d tried an expression from Theopolis’s neighboring vintner Halcón Vineyards. There’s something special about the tucked away AVA of Yorkville Highlands — and this refined, mature, yet full-of-life expression of Petite Sirah from Theopolis Vineyards just solidifies that fact.