by Fred McMillin
for September 16, 1999
from England, Sept. 16, 1620
From the Plimoth [sic] Colony Cook Book...
"Muskles and slammes (clammes)
they have all the yeare long,
which being the meanest of God's
blessings, these people fat their
John Pory, 1622
The Rest of the Story
Clearly, the Pilgrims needed a good Chardonnay
to appreciate those muskles and clammes. Let's
follow the evolution of wine in the area.
1621—The Pilgrims have found "vines everywhere.
The grapes, white and red, and very sweet and
1630—Wine is being made in Massachusetts
from native American grapes. A request was sent
to England to recruit some Frenchmen experienced
in "planting of vines" but none were interested.
1642—Further down the coast, the Dutch settlers
in New Netherland planted a vineyard, probably
with EUROPEAN vines (including Chardonnay?).
The severe winter cold, and perhaps the phylloxera
insect, killed them.
1669—The English took over the colony and
the new governor granted one Paul Richards a
monopoly to grow grapes on Long Island, the
wine to be sold free of taxes. Alas, ten years
later a Dutch visitor noted the irony. There
was an abundance of healthy wild grapes, but
the vineyards (apparently of European grapes)
continued to die. "The cause of the failure
is as yet undiscovered."
So the Pilgrims and their Long Island neighbors
never produced a Chardonnay to enjoy with that
seafood. But three centuries later, insects and
climate have been conquered and Long Island is
producing outstanding Chardonnays. Critics rate
Robert Palmer's one of the best. In the Nov. 22,1996
WineDay, my panel rated the '93 Palmer over a number
of prestigious Napa Valley Chards. Robert's
vines are a mature 16 years old, he personally
selects the new French oak barrels used in the
fermentation, etc. Anthony Dias Blue likes the
results: "lush, rich with toasty oak."
Contact: (516) 722-WINE, FAX (516) 722-5364.
Note: For more about the Robert Palmer Winery
and its 55-acre vineyard on the North Fork, Long
Island see the July 4, 1997 WineDay , "A Winery George Washington Would Have Loved".
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.
More articles by
Welcome to WineDay, the electronic
Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday,
WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present
the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend.
Name The King
What's Your Beef?
We're Pro Jadot
Winery of the Week
Happy New Year!
When Bad Is Good
A Sensational Syrah
Winery of the Week
A Chic Creek
Tasting of Wine X
Seventh (?) Month