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by Fred McMillin
for March 17, 2000

 

Winery of the Week

Moonstruck


Prologue

"If the moon is new, wine must not be made for it will quickly spoil; on the other hand, vines must be planted when the moon is new, for as the moon increases, so will the vine."

...Emerson on Mediterranean vineyards, 1906

"In some parts of Brittany, vines may be planted only in the wax (gradual increase) of the moon. In some parts of Burgundy, a red moon was considered a good omen when new vines were being planted."

...Massee on French vineyards, 1961


The Rest of the Story

Since the moon is full in just two days, our Winery of the Week has a lot to do with the moon. Author Patricia Latimer tells us about it in her California Wineries:

Valley of the Moon Winery.

Valley of
the Moon Winery.


Sonoma is the Indian word for Valley of the Moon, originated by the Chucuines Sonomas tribe. The Valley of the Moon Winery is located in the Sonoma Valley near Glen Ellen, where Jack London lived and wrote a well-known book of the same title. So let's follow the evolution of the winery.


Some Moon Milestones

1840—Sonoma's first commercial vintner, General Mariano Vallejo, owned the property but did not plant vines on it.

1883—Former American consul to China and later legal adviser to Japan, Eli Sheppard acquired the property, which by now contains a vineyard. He started the construction of stone wine cellars one of which still stands (see photo). He gave it a name which would be used for six decades, "Madrone Vineyards," referring to the area's trees.

1888—A father and son took over the Madrone Vineyards and initiated serious winemaking. You may have heard of the son's subsequent venture into journalism; his name was William Randolph Hearst, Jr.!

1941—Two San Franciscans, Domenici and Parducci, buy the enterprise and rename it Valley of the Moon Winery. Norm Roby tells us that it became a major supplier of jug wines to San Francisco restaurants. (Connoisseur's California Wines)

1997—Korbel and Kenwood owner Gary Heck buys the valley, pumps in over eleven million dollars in upgrading the old stone winery, and dedicates it to making top-grade varietal wines.

2000—The new wines are now on the market. My panel is arranging to taste them. Meanwhile, we have author James Laube's assurance that they are good. with Gary Heck's huge success at Korbel (over 14 million bottles a year) in mind, these early accolades are no suprise. For more, contact Margie Healy, (707) 824-7715, Fax (707) 869-2506.


Postscript

About author Pat Latimer, she brought a sketch artist to our home, and spent the entire day gathering materia on our decades of food and wine adventures. After eight hours we all decided we had hardly made a dent, had a glass of a Sonoma Chardonnay, and dropped the project. Wanna buy some sketches?

 
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 March 2000

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