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by Fred McMillin
for March 2, 1999

 

Live and Learn with Peter Stern


Prologue

Baron Herzog  
It was 1848 when the Herzog family founded its first winery in Slovakia. The wines proved so good that Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph bestowed the title of Baron on the head Herzog. Fourteen years ago the eighth generation of Herzog winemakers came to California, bought the San Martin Winery 70 miles south of San Francisco, and established Baron Herzog Cellars.

...1996 WineDay

Some years ago one of my students brought what proved to be an outstanding white wine; the label was missing but she said the winemaker was Peter Stern. Alas, I couldn't locate him.


The Rest of the Story

Happy Day! Peter has surfaced. He was hired as a consultant on the ways of California enology when the Herzogs bought San Martin. Good idea, since he came complete with U.C.-Davis credentials plus plenty of time with such heavyweights as the wineries of Robert Mondavi and Gallo.

Because the medals rolled in, Peter became the full-time winemaker. My notes mention a National Orange Show gold going to his Sauvignon Blanc. He makes it with maximum grape flavors by pressing whole clusters, and fermenting cold in stainless steel. He doesn't mask the vigorous varietal flavors with oak.


Today's Wine

Sauvignon Blanc, California, 1997
Baron Herzog
Grape Sources—Chiefly Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc lightened with a touch of Peter's highly-successful Chenin Blanc.
Food Affinities—In the afternoon, serve with assorted soft cheeses and your favorite crackers. In the evening, it's fish or chicken with an herb-flavored sauce.
Style—Dry with substantial alcohol (12.8%).
Price—Hooray. $7 range.


Postscript

Why the Herzogs Came to America—The Slovakian winery did well until the Nazi troops arrived. Being Jewish, the family went into hiding while the Germans continued the operation. So, there was a huge sigh of relief when World War II ended and Eugene Herzog returned to the winery. BUT WAIT. Here come the Communists, again taking over the land. Eugene gave up and headed for America with his wife and six school-age children. For more about Eugene in the U.S.A., or about today's Sauvignon Blanc, call Eben Gillette at (415) 346-2929.

 
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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