by Fred McMillin
for February 8, 1999

 

A Grander Alexander


Prologue

"A poor, sickly, penniless boy, Cyrus Alexander," in 1827 left the security of his Illinois home to become a fur trader in the far West. Twenty years later he arrived in California. General Mariano Vallejo's brother-in-law sold him land in a fertile valley east of Sonoma County's Russian River. It was a land of marauding grizzly bears, panthers, wolves, squatters and swindlers, that today bears his name and exciting vineyards.

...Robert Lawrence Balzer's Newsletter

1996—The 15-mile Alexander Valley contains 20% of all of Sonoma County's vines. In the 1980s its fame was based on white wines. However, very quietly over the last five years, it has become a red wine region...Many growers are converting from white to red, that will soon change the Valley's image permanently.

...Dan Berger, Santa Rosa Press Democrat

John and Andre
Dr. John Staten, left, hired a real wine whiz, right, to lend a hand at Field Stone.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the Alexander Valley's most prestigious and successful grape variety, producing rich, ripe, intensely-flavored wines.

...Prof. John Baxevanis, The Wine Regions of America


The Rest of the Story

So what wine won my latest blind tasting? Here 'tis: 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley Staten Family Reserve, Field Stone Winery $25 range

How did this gem evolve? Dr. Staten tells the story. A professor of religion at Mills College, he was thrust into winery leadership when his vintner and father-in-law died unexpectedly. John's degrees from Stanford, Princeton and U. of Chicago weren't much help, since they were all in theology. Hence, he hired the legendary André Tchelistcheff.


Death of a Rosé (roh-zay)

André immediately spotted the Cabernet potential. Past blush and ro-zay wines were dead. Furthermore, André had made the first true Reserve Cab at Beaulieu four decades earlier. Soon, small top lots of the Estate Cabernet were being set aside...the Staten Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was born! So that's our Wine of the Day. If you like 'em big but smooth, here's your red. My panel gave it an "EXCELLENT," and I think you will, too.


Postscript

Speaking of excellence, Cyrus Alexander earned that rating, also. In spite of the primitive conditions, he found a young, Spanish bride (Ruphena), had seven children, and built a frame schoolhouse for the education of his and his neighbors' children. 'Way to go, Cyrus!

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 

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Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend.

 

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