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by Fred McMillin
for November 7, 2000

 

Risky Business


Prologue

world-class vines

Some of the world-class vines responsible for today's wine.

President Thomas Jefferson wondered what was out west, since in 1803 the United States had added a vast new territory with the Louisiana Purchase. So did his secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, who asked to lead an expedition to find out. Scary! He invited another former-Army friend, Captain William Clark, to assist him in discovering the unknown, and to look at its economic potential.

On this very day, November 07, in 1805, Lewis and Clark reached the mouth of the astonishing Columbia River, with a flow twice that of the mighty Nile.


The Rest of the Story

Talk about economic potential. Little did they know that today the Columbia River Valley viticulture district would cover 11 million acres (Napa Valley's area is only 300,000 acres).

How important is the Columbia Valley wine district? Here's what critic Ted Merideth said about it in 1986.

    The Columbia Valley grapes and vines dominate not only Washington, but the entire Northwest. More premium wine grapes are grown in the Columbia Valley than in the rest of the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) combined.

    In the production of premium vine grapes, the Columbia Valley is second only to California.

    The Columbia region is the sunniest and warmest in the Northwest, (In the summer, the sunshine lasts two hours longer than in the Napa valley.)


The Fairest of the Valley

Columbia River Valley's best grape? Piece of cake. Its Merlot is reaching world class. We just had one win Best of Tasting over 23 competitors (all carefully wrapped), so the winner is...


Our Wine of the Day

'97 Preston Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley
Harvest Date—September 24, 1997
Yields and Quality— Yields were lower and flavor intensity higher than average.
Oak—A mix of French and American; 20 months in the barrels.
Panel's Comments—The panel consisted of a mix of pros and those who could be. They were very happy with the oak treatment, and with the grape quality. Wine teacher-author Dave Jones' comments were typical: "Opulant black cherry, layered fruit, firmly structured, GORGEOUS!"
The Picky Panel's Opinion—A rare EXCELLENT.
Price—$22 range.


Postscript

As Lewis and Clark boated down the Columbia, little did they realize that 1,000 miles to the south a string of 19 Franciscan missions were making wine from European vines, something that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had tried and failed to do.

 

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 November 2000

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