by Fred McMillin
for March 17, 1999


Happy St. Patrick's Day


The Patron Saint of Ireland got there the hard way. A Roman citizen in Britian, 16-year-old Patricius is captured by pirates and taken to the land of the Irish. There, in slavery, he tends sheep for six years.

The Rest of the Story


I found grapes galore in what once was ancient Persia.

Yet, by 460 A.D. he would have baptized over 100,000 converts and founded over 300 churches. So, tonight I toast St. Patrick with a varietal that existed when he lived. What shall it be?

Rome—The Roman Empire was going down the tubes. In fact, only four years after Patricius launched his missionary work in Ireland (432 A.D.), the last Roman troops were withdrawn from Britain. Before long, Rome itself would be sacked by the Vandals. The only good gastronomic development was that the Vandals were introducing the use of butter as they moved south. Thus, no Italian wine tonight. Instead, we turn to a grape that was growing in ancient Persia at that time. In fact, I've visited the historic town of Shiraz, for which the Syrah varietal was named. The land is grape-friendly, even today (pictured). The Syrah evolved in a land with much sunshine, and consequently, does very well in California,'s a good one.

Today's Wine

'95 Lockwood Syrah, Monterey County, CA.
Rating—Won BEST RED in one of my recent tastings. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The panel liked the smooth mouthfeel. Some plan to age it.
Production—Only 1,650 cases.
Contact—Katie Calhoun, (415) 346-2929
Price—$16 range


Last year's St. Patrick's Day WineDay includes additional tidbits about those times. E.g., among the Roman invaders contribution to Britain was the practice of cultivating oysters.


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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