2012 Retro Petite Sirah Howell Mountain: 94 points

Inky blue and purplish fruit, lavender, sage, cloves and mocha run through the 2012 Petite Sirah Howell Mountain. Super-ripe, voluptuous and sensual, the 2012 will drink well with minimal cellaring, The voluptuous, ample style is a bit out of character for this wine. Then again, that's 2012.

2012 Retro Petite Sirah Napa Valley: 92 points

The 2012 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley) is beautifully ripe, sensual and racy, all qualities that give it considerable and unusual early appeal for Petite. A host of dark cherry, plum, mint, smoke and licorice notes infuse this rich, flamboyant wine. The firm Petite tannins are nicely tamed.

2011 Retro Petite Sirah Howell Mountain: 93 points

The 2011 Petite Sirah Howell Mountain offers notable intensity, with plenty of blue/blackish fruit, lavender, mint, violet and sage overtones. Refined and super-expressive, the 2011 is an absolute joy to taste today. All the elements are very nicely balanced in a surprisingly tamed Petite that will drink well with minimal cellaring.

2011 Retro Petite Sirah Napa Valley: 92 points

Retro's 2011 Petite Sirah Napa Valley is fabulous, especially within the context of the vintage. Plums, black cherries, lavender, savory herbs and juniper berries all take shape in the glass. The 2011 is plump, juicy and forward, with terrific overall balance. This is a terrific effort from Retro.

Steve Heimoff, formerly of the Wine Enthusiast, reviews our 2012 vintage on his wine blog:

Retro 2012 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley), $40, alcohol 14.5%. It’s nice to think that I would have known this was Petite Sirah even without actually knowing it (which I did), because of the color. There’s no other California wine this black, and I do mean black, with an utterly impenetrable core. Even at the rim, there’s barely any color, maybe 1/32nd of an inch of garnet. The wine smells as dense as it looks, offering up heaps of blackcurrants, with hints of espresso, violets, unsweetened dark chocolate, grilled meat bone and graphite, with a jacket of sweet, toasted oak. In the mouth, no surprises! Big, luscious, thick in tannins, huge in blackcurrants, with a spicy finish. Serious wine, mind you, port-like for a cold winter night, if a little soft. Yes, the tannins are formidable. But they’re sweet, ripe tannins, not the numbingly hard kind, so I wouldn’t mind drinking this wine tonight. Still, it will age for many years, not necessarily getting “better” (whatever that means), but shedding sediment and seemingly gaining sweetness. Score: 93 points.

Retro 2012 Old Vine Elevation Petite Sirah (Howell Mountain), $50. They call it “Elevation” because it’s the mountain wine, as opposed to the regular Petite, which is from Pope Valley. The official alcohol is 13.4%, but it doesn’t taste delicate, the way a 13.4% Pinot Noir would. It’s a big wine, drenched in 100% new French oak for thirty months. That’s a lot of wood, but the wine handles it deftly, because the fruit—blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants—is so incredibly concentrated. The tannins are bigtime, too. There are all sort of complexing tastes: anisette, dark chocolate shavings, charred beef, prosciutto, and exotic spices: cinnamon, clove, pepper, cardamom. How is it different from Retro’s Napa Valley Petite Sirah? It’s not really. A tad more intense, more focused, better structured. Well, those are the sorts of things you pay extra for. In this case, an additional ten bucks is worth it. Interestingly, 60% of the blend comes from the Park Muscatine Vineyard, which dates to the 1890s, which must also account for the wine’s unusual depth. It’s terrific to drink now with something rich, like short ribs, and it will age for at least twenty years, softening over time as it sheds sediment. Score: 94 points.

Steve Heimhoff reviews our 2011's:

"A pair of Petite Sirahs from Retro Cellars Retro 2011 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley); $35. Retro 2011 Petite Sirah (Howell Mountain); $45. I have long admired these two bottlings from Retro, which has done a good job with Petite Sirah from both appellations. Of the two, the Napa Valley is firmer, drier and more structured. It’s quite dry, with substantial tannins and a leathery earthiness to the blackberries, raspberries, cocoa powder and soy sauce. The finish is long and spicy, like red licorice. It is a wine that can take some time in the cellar, but it’s drinkable now, although I would decant it. The vineyard where the grapes were grown is in the Pope Valley region. The official alcohol is 13.4%, which is lower than you’d think tasting it. Given the tannins, I would drink this wine with the richest, most complex foods possible: short ribs of beef, Chinese Mongolian beef, or beef or chicken in a Mexican mole sauce. Definitely for fans of big, full-bodied, complex red wines. Score: 91.

Then we come to the Howell Mountain. It is completely different, as opposite in flavor as you can imagine. The wine is softer, sweeter and riper than the Napa Valley, although the word “sweeter” is misleading, for it’s completely dry. But it does dazzle with the ripest, most succulent raspberries and red licorice, and seems oakier too, with that sweet, wonderfully toasted wood quality. It is perhaps notable that the wine was aged in 100% new French oak for 30 months. That amount of wood would swamp most red wines. Not this one. Once again, the official alcohol level, 12.8%, seems weirdly low, given the ripeness. Considering the wine’s forwardness and accessibility, I would pair it with a good steak, and drink it soon. Score: 92. - See more at: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2015/09/24/my-latest-wine-reviews/"

 A down-to-earth interview with Mike Dunn

here on the Weekly Wine Journal.





Robert Parker: "The 2010 Petite Sirah comes from an old site where Ridge Vineyards produced some limited production bottlings under their Advanced Tasting Program when this site was named the Park Muscatine Vineyard. This 2010 Petite Sirah exhibits blueberry and blackberry fruit, spring flower notes, a hint of wet rocks, and a boatload of mouth-searing tannins." Rating: 90


Shiba Sommelier - the s10155088_1483554305222663_8377261976678361671_nocial media icon writes about our 2010 vintage:

Aroooooo!! This wine from my friends at Retro Cellars is the best Petite Sirah I’ve ever had. It’s got the balance and structure for cellaring. Blackberry and cassis, pine cones and evergreen forest, clean earth, balsamic glaze, and clove on the nose. Fruit is dark but lifted on the palate. Tannins give great structure. Nice acidity on the finish. Definitely New World in style but not overly extracted. Awesome stuff!           Rating: 5/5 Bones








2009 Retro Petite Sirah Napa Valley

93 points

Interestingly, the 2009 Petite Sirah Napa Valley is much more expressive than the Howell Mountain today. Rich, explosive and beautifully layered, the 2009 shows off gorgeous fruit, expressive, floral aromatics and fabulous balance. This is one of the most refined Napa Valley Petites readers will come across. Today, the Napa Valley bottling is just beautiful.

2009 Retro Petite Sirah Howell Mountain

92+ points

Retro's 2009 Petite Sirah Howell Mountain has come together beautifully over the last few months. Some of the early wildness that was present six months ago has subsided and been replaced by silky tannins for Petite. The exuberance and intensity of the fruit are there, but today the 2009 comes across as a bit compact. My sense is that the wine is going through a bit of a closed stage, as it was fabulous a few months ago.



2009 Napa Valley Petite Sirah

93 points - Editor's Selection

"Retro makes one of the best, most consistent Petite Sirahs in California. Even though they used to source their fruit from Howell Mountain and this bottling now is from Pope Valley and Calistoga, it still shows the same qualities of complex interest based on impeccable winemaking. It's an amazing wine, dry, full-bodied and tannic, with a complex range of berries…"

“Nothing Petite About This Petite” by Prima Vini 3/11/14

2009 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah, Howell Mountain

Having just told you above that spring has sprung, I hasten to remind you that the lion of winter might have some teeth left too. In that case, ‘light, bright and crisp’ just might not cut it. How about, instead, pulling the cork on something way more substantial? How about Kara and Mike Dunn’s amazing Retro Howell Mountain Petite Sirah?
Petite Sirah, as you may already know, is a sort of misnomer. While it’s true that Syrah is one of this hybrid grape’s parents, its other, Peloursin, is a nearly black grape that develops a prodigious amount of tannin, so one wonders why anyone would dare call their kid ‘petite.’ Its history in California has been checkered, and it’s a shame to see how little is actually left from its halcyon days in the sixties and seventies.
One of the most important sites for Petite Sirah remaining is the old Park-Muscatine vineyard on Howell Mountain. This site, planted in the fifties to both Petite and what has now been identified as pure Peloursin, was the source of many famed Ridge bottlings from the seventies, and has been owned by its neighbor right up the hill, Randy Dunn owner ofDunn Vineyards, since the nineties. Randy has been selling the P-M Petite and Peloursin to his son Mike and daughter-in-law Kara Pecota-Dunn and they’ve been fashioning it into a classic, distinctly ‘retro’ wine for the last decade.
That means inky dark, deep Petite with black, black fruit, tarry minerals and unapologetic mountain tannins. There’s a bit of a sauvages element to its wine as well, but that’s kept relatively in check by the its dark chocolate and vanilla aspects creating what, for Petite, is a lovely, harmonious whole. While not willing to call it ‘elegant,’ I do think there’s a level of polish and elan that balances its old school rusticity. At its best with high fat, high flavor foods, one can’t help but think of opening it with venison and huckleberries, a barbecued pork shoulder or even a great steak as great foils for the Retro Petite Sirah, and those who have old bottles of Petite in their cellars (recently had a 1985 Concannon from Livermore that still looked and tasted like a baby!) know they can last forever!



Peak Performance


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Mike Dunn works alongside his father Randy at the family's Dunn Vineyards and also makes these Petite Sirahs at Retro, the label he runs with his wife, Kara. The flagship Howell Mountain Petite Sirah is made from Randy Dunn's Park Muscatine Vineyard. The Retro wines are big, full-throttled and fiercely tannic, but develop beautifully with time in the bottle.


2008 Retro Cellars Howell Mtn. Petite Sirah

"94+" rating

Retro's 2008 Petite Sirah Howell Mountainis deep, rich and racy. Firm mountain tannins frame an explosive cork of dark, inky fruit. An exciting, full-throttle melange of varietal aromas and flavors saturate the palate. The 2008 is intense, full-bodied and drop-dead gorgeous. Smoke, scorched earth, new leather and savory herbs inform the muscular, intense finish. I imagine it will still be compelling at age 20, but the tannins need time to soften. In 2008 frost lowered yields dramatically, resulting in an especially rich powerful wine. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2028. Tel. (707) 965-1042.


2008 Retro Cellars Napa Valley Petite Sirah

"93" rating

The 2008 Petite Sirah Napa Valley bursts from the glass with racy blackberries, black currants, exotic spices, new leather and licorice. A big, full-bodied wine, the 2008 has come together beautifully since I tasted it last year. I especially like the way the wine continues to open up in the glass. Black olives, savory herbs and melted road tar are some of the notes that develop over time, adding further complexity and depth. This is a terrific effort. The Napa Valley Petite Sirah is made from Pope Valley fruit. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2023.



2007 Retro Cellars Howell Mtn. Petite Sirah

"93" rating

"Mike and Kara Dunn make these wines from Randy Dunn's Park Muscatine Vineyard on Howell Mountain. I was especially impressed with the 2007, a vintage in which many of the wilder tendencies of Petite Sirah are handled expertly... The wine bursts from the glass with blackberries, blueberries, leather and spices, all of which flesh out beautifully in the glass. The 2007 is a deep, powerful wine bursting with dark, fragrant fruit. It shows fabulous intensity and finesse all the way to the deep, resonant finish... This is a fabulous showing from Retro Cellars."


2007 Retro Cellars Howell Mtn. Petite Sirah

92 POINTS - Cellar Selection

"Another fine, lush and ageable Petite Sirah from Retro. You can drink it now because it's so sweet and accessible in cherry pie filling, roasted meat and smoky oak flavors. But with a firm tannin structure, it will gain all kinds of bottle complexities over the next eight years."


2007 Retro Cellars Howell Mtn. Petite Sirah

Wine Spectator "90" points

"Shows aromatic details of smoke and violet and plenty of peppery highlights to the wild black berry, mineral and plum flavors. There's lots of vibrancy to the fruit flavors, with a rustic, chewy, tannic profile."


Retro Cellars: 2007 Napa Valley Petite Sirah

"I caught a glimpse of the sun this morning and still I need to don my puffy down vest. It's chilly inside TWH. No worries, I'll be fine, this won't put a damper on my mood 'cause school's out and the promise of summer is in the air! I declare it's time for outside grillin' and time to imbibe in big bold reds. To that end, I'd like to suggest the 2007 Petite Sirah from Retro Cellars."   >> read this review.


June, 2011 issue:
92 points -

Retro Cellars 2006 Howell Mountain Petite Sirah is "... a Petite Sirah that captures the structural strength and power of great Howell Mountain reds. This leads with dark, mineral-scented tannin, slowly revealing black fruit and dimpled fruit-skin flavors, as well as chocolate richness to soften some of the earthy austerity. Pungent and intense at first, this hints at elegance as it takes on air. A monumental petite, built to age."


Retro 2006 Petite Sirah

92 POINTS - Cellar Selection

Classic mountain Petite Sirah. Bone-dry, full-bodied, tannic... Shows a deep core of blackberries and black currants, with notes of pepper and dark chocolate. Despite the size, it's elegant. Hold until after 2012. Cellar Selection." - Steve Heimhoff


Retro 2004 Petite Sirah, Howell Mountain


Chocolate and earth nose, showing smoky fire cracker, herbs and bacon. The palate is dense, chewy like a chocolate macaroon dipped in blackberry and white pepper. The structure is impressive and bold. Showing spicy cumin on the finish.

Retro 2004 Petite Sirah, Howell Mountain

“Powerful Petite Sirah From One Of Napa's Prime Spots”

By John Rittmaster, Prima Wine, Walnut Creek

>> read this review.


Retro 2003 Petite Sirah

"A one-of-a-kind Petite Sirah from Howell Mountain.."

Click here for the complete article.


Retro 2003 Petite Sirah

92 Points

The vineyard is 1,800 feet up the mountain and the wine was made by Randy Dunn’s (Dunn Vineyards) son, Mike. Howell Mountain produces some of California’s densest, most ageworthy red wines, and this big, dry, tannic Pet is a sure cellar candidate. Packed with blackberry, coffee, plum, leather and spice flavors, it should start to open up by 2009 and improve for several years after. Cellar Selection. —S.H.



From the Groezinger Wine Company:

"This is a rare and limited piece of Napa’s raped and stripped heritage.   >> read this review.