by Fred McMillin
for March 22, 1999


Happy No Rooz


Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--
and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
And Wilderness is Paradise now.

...Fitzgerald translation, 1859

Those well-known words were written by ancient Persia's best-known poet, Hakim Omar Khayyam, in the l2th century. We mention him because yesterday, March 21, was New Year's Day for him and the rest of Persia. It was established millennia earlier by the Zoroastrians.

The Rest of the Story

Zoroastrian Fire Temple

My wife and I were escorted through their Zoroastrian Fire Temple by our friends,Mr. And Mrs. Bolandi.

So what wine did I use yesterday to toast the arrival of Persian No Rooz (literally, "new day"), and it's famous advocate of the grape? It had to be a grape that existed when he did. My choice is one that was starting to make its mark in Burgundy...the Pinot Noir. In fact, two centuries later Philippe the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, would proclaim the "Pineau's" superiority and ban the growing of the "disloyal, foul" Gamay. Here's the "superior Pineau" I chose.

My No Rooz Wine

1996 Elkhorn Peak Pinot Noir
Fagan Creek Vineyard, Jamieson Canyon, Napa Valley
Composition—100% Pinot Noir, three clones
Winemaker—One of the best, Kent Rasmussen
Oak—15 months in French
Production—Bad news...only 753 cases.
Elkhorn Peak Details—See the Nov. 27, 1998 WineDay titled "Highborn Elkhorn." Phone—(707) 255-0480
Price—$26 range


The March date for New Year's Day seemed quite suitable when we lived in Teheran. The snow was disappearing from our yard and the first green leaves shone forth. However, we chickened out when our neighbors asked us to join them in the old Zoroastrian (fire-worshipers) cleansing ritual of leaping over/through flaming bushes. Yikes!


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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