'Tis the season for bridal shower and wedding
gifts. Our recommendation. Give a bottle of
the best Chardonnay we've tasted so far this
year, the $40 Joseph Phelps 1997 "Ovation."
But there nearly was no 1997 Ovation for the
bride, because it was...
A Very Scary Vintage—1997 in Napa
July-August—Too hot. August 5th hit 109 degrees.
Much more of this and the grapes
would be ripe in a few weeks and
have to be picked before flavors were
More August - Suddenly, the fog rolled in on Aug. 9.
The high was 72 degrees. The temperatures
remained low and the ripening process
virtually shut down. Winemaker Craig
Williams tells us then, on Aug.
18th an inch of rain fell, "raising
the spectre of mold!"
September— Too cool. The Chardonnay may not
ripen at all. Then, on Sept. 19th
Mother Nature turned up the heat,
and Craig soon could turn on the
grape crusher. Craig says 1997 "kept
us very humble."
Whew! Close. Ovation is Craig's 1,000-case flagship Chardonnay.
In just a few years of making this wine, he already
has critics raving over it; James Laube, "The
Ovation is dramatic, complex, concentrated."
When I last checked, orders were limited to
three bottles of...
Wine of the Day
1997 Ovation Chardonnay
Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Napa Valley (84% Carneros)
Rating—Laube has given previous vintages
a 92 and a 93. My tasters gave the 1997 a 92
and Best Chardonnay so far this year.
Contact—The office of Hilary De Puy, (707)963-2745, FAX (707)963-4831
Postscript—Why Recommend Chardonnay?
It's reasonable to ask why not recommend Cabernet
Sauvignon for the bridal gift instead of Chardonnay?
Answer: popularity. California acres of Cab 51,000, Chardonnay 93,000!
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.