by Fred McMillin
for March 19, 1999

 

Winery of the Week

The Vagabond Winery


Prologue

Frank Woods was a graduate of the Cornell University's hotel management school. He and some classmates went into the wine business in the 1960's. They decided to spend their money on Sonoma vineyards. They leased so many different winemaking facilities that Clos du Bois became known as the "vagabond winery."

Was that a good idea? Well, before long their wine was served to the Queen of England,and five years later they sold the winery-less Clos du Bois for forty million dollars!


The Rest of the Story

Early Label  
With that kind of success, Clos du Bois now has its own, shiny-new winery. Production has risen from 80,000 cases a year to nearly 800,000. What are they making?


Pumpkins and Peas

Twenty years ago the organization came to realize one of their Alexander vineyards, Calcaire, produced remarkable Chardonnay grapes...remarkable in size (ranging from "pumpkins to peas")...and remarkable in richness. and it will age. Here's what I wrote about it a while ago. "About 1990 the Wine Spectator gave the '88 Calcaire a rating of 91. Hence, I put a bottle in my cellar and pulled it out five years later for a tasting. The time was well spent. It had traded in some tartness for gracious new aromas and friendly flavors. The panel concluded that it still merited a 91...all of which proves the adage, "Wine improves with age. The older I get the more I like it." (Richard Jones, my friend and editor at the time, attributed the aging ability to the wine's high acidity.)


You've Got Mail

Clos du Bois makes much more than Calcaire from their Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley vines. To learn more, contact the office of Public Relations Director George Rose at: e-mail: George_ Rose@adsw.com fax: (707) 433-3538


Just the Facts

Clos du Bois Wines
Geyserville, Sonoma County, CA.
Phone—(707) 857-1651
Owner—Allied Domecq Wines, USA
Winemaker—Margaret Davenport (you've heard about her skills previously in WineDay.)


Postscript

I'm not the only admirer of Clos du Bois wines. At a Sonoma auction, a collection of their double magnums brought $8,000!

 

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.

 
 

WineDay Annex

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