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by Fred McMillin
for June 16, 2000

 

Winery of the Week

From Hardy to Taltarni


Prologue

Our tastings continue to indicate the country providing the best imports for the dollar is Australia. So today, we're looking at two arrivals from that country. One was the greatest Aussie wine pioneer, Thomas Hardy, who came to California in 1883 to look over the competition. The other is an Aussie winery with wines that today are providing competition.


California's Future—1883

Taltarni California vineyards increased from 56,000 acres in 1880 to twice that in five years. As Hardy was arriving in San Francisco after a 24-day voyage from Sydney, Napa County was just completing planting another 4,000 acres. Exciting times! Some of his observations:

At the large San Francisco wine houses, "people come in and pop down their five cents and help themselves to a glass of wine."

Winegrower Charles Krug was so large he had "five travellers employed [selling his wine] all over the country."

Hardy sipped a White Zinfandel in Sonoma County.

While he forecast some bumps in the road along the way, Hardy concluded that the state would be able to produce fine wines, since he had "tasted excellent old wines and very promising new wines made from old hillside vineyards." However, they were not yet ready to provide Australia competition for the European market.


Another Australian Arrival—Year 2000

So Australia was looking at export markets long ago, and now includes the U.S.A. as a major target. Our Winery of the Week has a very close connection to the outstanding Napa Valley producer, Clos Du Val. Clos Du Val is run by one of the Valley's best, Bordeaux-born Bernard Portet. Today's Australian winery, Taltarni, is run by Bernard's younger brother, Dominique. What do the critics think of his work? Some comments.

  • Shiraz (Syrah)—"Super Shiraz, deep, rich"
  • Cabernet Sauvignon—"Structure, power, profound black-currant flavor"
  • Sauvignon Blanc—One of Australia's first, and one of the leaders..."gooseberry, great charm"
  • Sparkling Wines—Taltarni is among the more serious sparkling wine producers. The rose (roh-zay) drew a RECOMMENDED in my tastings.

    If you want a single recommendation, try the $16 Cab, since a Taltarni bottle won a major U.S.A. tasting.
    Contact—Office of Elizabeth Skemp, 707/259-2231, FX 707/252-6125.


    Postscript

    There's much more about Taltarni in the May 15, 1998 WineDay titled "A Winery in the Pyrenees".
    Tidbit: Where did Dominique and Bernard first learn about Bordeaux varieties? They followed dad around, who for decades was the enologist for Chateau Lafite!

    Credits:
    Prof. Thomas Pinney
    Research Assistant Diane Bulzomi

    Note I - About the name of the winery, it is located at Moonambel on a road named Taltarni.

    Note II—The first winery in the area was founded the year gold was discovered in California, 1848. It survived until 1929 when Prohibition reigned in California. A Methodist minister purchased that Australian winery and instituted his own Prohibition. That is, he tore out the vines and shut down the winery!

     
    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 June 2000

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