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by Fred McMillin
for February 08, 2000


The Flora Aura


Prologue

Flora is perhaps the most delicately aromatic of Dr. H. P. Olmo's creations at the University of California-Davis. The easiest place to find it is in the sparkling Schramsberg Cremant.

...Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, Wine Grapes Guide


The Rest of the Story

Milestones in the creation of the Flora grape...

1935—After Prohibition, California vineyards were a disaster. For example, in the Napa Valley the total acres of Cabernet Sauvignon was FIVE. Then U.C.-Davis hired a bright, young geneticist to help determine what varieties should be planted where. Harold Olmo, however, was not satisfied to work with only existing varietals, but during the next 50 years would create a dozen new ones. The one Jancis describes, the Flora, was a cross between Gewürztraminer and Semillon.

1958—From the time Dr. Olmo split open a bud of one variety and dusts it with pollen from another it's over 10 years before a commercial trial is possible. The Flora was ready in 1958.

Schramsberg Sparklers

Schramsberg sparklers
at rest.

1972—At the Schramsberg Winery, Jack Davies recognizes that no California winery makes a slightly-sweet sparkler known as Cremant. I have an old mailing from him that reads, "Since the Cremant style was not made anywhere in America, we set out to do it. We explored every grape variety and decided upon the Flora. It was the perfect choice for a somewhat sweeter and softer sparkling wine, and distinctively American."

Subsequently, it became popular at the White House, being served by both Presidents Reagan and Bush. So, our Wine of the Day is this American original. Keep a bottle in the frig so you can startle drop-in guests with a festive bubbly, gentle enough to serve anytime of the day.

'96 Schramsberg Cremant, Napa Valley
Varietal—Prof. Olmo's Flora
Characteristics—Deliberately made to avoid the shock of a typical Brut. It's less yeasty, the bubbles are not as intense, and there's a hint of sweetness.
Rating—My panel is pretty tough on sparklers, but they gave this one an emphatic HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Food Affinities—For the unexpected afternoon visitor, serve with fruit and simple cookies or pound cake...nothing too sweet. For dessert in the evening, the winery recommends fruit-nut tarts. Again, don't overwhelm the sparkler with an intense dessert.
Contact—Sales & Hospitality, (707) 942-4558, FAX (707) 942-5943
Price—$26.50


Postscript—The Hybrid Whiz Kid

Hybrids are very unpredictable. For example, Dr. Olmo's goal with Flora was to create a variety similar to Gewürztraminer but suitable for the hot Central Valley of California. However, Flora turned out to excel in a cold climate, just like its Gewürztraminer parent.(Muscatine, et.al., Calif. Wine)

 
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.

 
 


This page created February 2000

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