by Fred McMillin
for May 28, 1999

 

Winery of the Week

Some Like It Hot


Prologue

1985—Jeff Baker, Carmenet winemaker, makes a proprietary "Carmenet" red wine from three Bordeaux varietals. The 1982 vintage rates four stars...great structure and fruit.

...Anthony Dias Blue, American Wine

1996—Jeff Baker, Carmenet winemaker, August 1: "The fire roared down the gully. You could barely stand up against the wind. My wife's studio was burned to the ground. Firefighters barricaded the front door of our home, which overlooks the vineyard." with Jeff was Michael Richmond, general manager. They dashed to the castle-like winery and held hoses on the wooden-shake roofs. Michael recalled, "There was a wall of flame coming at us from three sides. It was moving so damn fast...we were completely engulfed, but luckily the little embers did not ignite the roof."

...Jim Doyle, San Francisco Chronicle

1999—Jeff Baker, Carmenet general manager, writes: "Dear Fred, The fire incinerated over half of our precious Moon Mountain Estate. However, instead of viewing it as a disaster, we chose to embrace it as an opportunity to create even something better. The once-burned hillsides are now alive again with improved rootstocks, a different mix of clones and varieties, closer vine spacing and advanced trellising."

...Personal correspondence


The Rest of the Story

Carmenet So there was a bright side to the disaster...vineyard improvement. That August of 1996, I spoke with another winemaker in the area, Joe Benziger. He predicted another positive development. "Watch how the Sonoma Valley vintners will help Carmenet. They will see to it that the winery gets grapes to keep going." Sure enough. Jeff reports two adjacent vineyards on Moon Mountain sold them grapes for their Moon Mountain Reserve Cab. The 1996 will be released soon. Meanwhile, I've put a bottle of the last pre-inferno vintage, 1995, into my next tasting. It was the 14th vintage Jeff made from the vineyard, and he believes it is the best...stay tuned. Now, Carmenet (car-men-ay) is not just about Cabs. Here's a brief rundown.


Just the Facts

Carmenet Vineyard, 1700 Moon Mtn. Dr., Sonoma, CA
Capacity—30,000 cases a year range and growing.
Other Wines—Paragon Meritage White, Moon Mountain Cab Franc, Sangiacomo Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay, Dynamite (that's how they made the mountain vineyard) Cab, and more.
Winemaker—After Jeff's 17 years, Karl Wright has taken over. He's the nephew of John Wright, founder of Domaine Chandon, and grew up on his family's vineyard on Mt. Veeder. Made top-flight wines for years at Ferrari-Carrano.
Contact—Jeanine Robbins, (707) 996-5870, FAX (707) 996-5302


Postscript

The Name Game
Carmenet is a synonym for Cabernet Franc.

 
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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