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by Fred McMillin
for October 24, 2000

 

Yessir! A Best Ever!


Prologue

Tons of Sangiovese grapes crushed in California:

  • 1990—61
  • 1999—15,347


    The Rest of the Story

    Sangiovese is streaking into the U.S.A. wine market. What winery produces the most in the U.S.A.? Atlas Peak in the Napa Valley. Why is Atlas the leader?


    From Italy with Love

    Tuscany is the home of Sangiovese. Tuscany's most famous producer is the 600-year-old House of Antinori. (The King was drinking Antinori by the l6th century.) Then, 14 years ago, Piero Antinori selected his favorite Sangiovese clones and planted 120 acres of them in the Napa Valley. Where? While Pinot Noir flourishes below/in the fog belt, Piero knew his Tuscan cuttings wouldn't. So, they were planted high on the eastern slopes of the Napa Valley's Vaca Mountain Range, not far from its highest point, the 2,700 Atlas Peak.


    The Grace of Age

    Atlas Peak ReserveThose vines were about 10 years old in 1997. Winemaker John Falcone wrote me last year that his Reserve '97 was the best Sangiovese he had made from them. He said it would age well, so I put some in my cellar for my classes to taste in a few years. BUT, other critics have been mentioning the exceptional fruit flavors, so I put one into my last blind tasting. When we unwrapped the Best Table Wine, sure enough, it was John's '97 Reserve. Furthermore, by a considerable margin, it landed the highest rating we've ever given a Sangiovese since we started finding a few in 1992. If you like fruit-laden reds, then you certainly will like...


    Wine of the Day

    '97 Atlas Peak Reserve Sangiovese,
    Napa Valley (Atlas Peak)
    Wood—15 months in French oak before bottling
    Production—Only 1,000 cases.
    Rating—The highest-scoring Sangiovese we've ever poured...rated EXCELLENT.
    Contact—Office of George Rose, (707) 473-2349, FAX (707) 433-3538
    Food—Medium intensity red for medium intensity Italian dishes, so that neither dominates. Also, lamb, veal, smoked turkey.
    Price—$30 range


    Postscript

    The giant Atlas lost a close decision to Zeus. As a result, he had to hold up the world. Later, to better handle the strain and pain, he was turned to stone and became the Atlas Mountains that extend 1,500 miles along the North African coast.

    Hence, Napa Valley's Atlas Peak was named after those remarkable African mountains. Right? WRONG! In California Place Names, the late Prof. Erwin G. Gudde tells us that "it was not named after the African mountains, but instead after a Napa Valley resort called ATLAS." There's no mention of how the resort name was selected.

     

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

     
     


     
     

    This page created October 2000

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