by Fred McMillin
for March 11, 1999

 

Big Winery, Small Prices


Prologue

"One of the best-value wineries I found in writing my book on American wines was Delicato."

...From my interview of Prof. John Baxevanis after publication of his Wine Regions of America.


The Rest of the Story

This is how Delicato changed from very small to very large.

  • 1925—Gaspare Indelicato, an Italian immigrant, develops a thriving business in Califonia's Central Valley, shipping grapes east to home winemakers during Prohibition...Source: Anthony D. Blue.
  • 1935—Gaspare and his brother-in-law open a wine cellar south of Stockton after Repeal.
  • 1974—The Reader's Digest and Prudential Insurance companies establish the biggest contiguous vineyard in the world at the southern end of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County.
  • 1976—Gaspare's sons and grandsons build a new 35-million-gallon winery called Delicato Vineyards.
  • 1988—Delicato buys the huge vineyard, San Bernabe.
  • 1994—Delicato founds the Monterra Promise Winery.

Let's see what the promise is all about.

John Baxevanis

Geography professor-wine authority John Baxevanis was the first to alert us to the merits of the producer of today's Wine of the Day.


The Promise

There are 22 microclimates nurturing 22 different varietals in the enormous vineyard. My last figures show it was producing over 25% of the county's grapes, much more than Winemaker Tom Smith can use. So, his promise is to produce his varietal wines only in the good years, and sell the grapes of the lesser vintages. For example, 1995 was a good year for his Cabernet Sauvignon vines; my panel was mighty glad he didn't sell these grapes.


The Wine

1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey, San Bernabe Vineyard
Monterra Promise Winery
Price—$10 range
Rating—Easily one of the best $10 Cabs tasted in the last 12 months. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED in its price range.
Contact—Laurel Purcell, (510) 654-5400


Postscript

Where did the dollars come from to buy that enormous vineyard? WHITE ZINFANDEL! The White Z. boom increased winery sales to something like thirty million gallons a year. And the purchase has been a big success, also. Exactly 60 years after Gaspare opened his little wine cellar in 1935, Delicato/Monterra was the ninth largest wine producer in the U.S.A.

 

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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