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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for September 2000


The Foothills Versus the Coast...
Their White Wines



"East from the state capital of Sacramento rise the foothills of the mighty Sierra Nevada...The Foothills are best known for their Zinfandels, but other varieties such as Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are cultivated with growing success."

...Stephen Brook's The Wines of California

The Rest of the Story

Note that all the varieties mentioned produce red wines. Our past tastings have shown that those Foothill reds compete well with their Napa-Sonoma counterparts of the same price. That is, a $15 Amador County Zinfandel generally scores about as well as a $15 Dry Creek Valley Zin (Sonoma County).

We got to wondering about the white wine situation; at the same price, which will win in a blind tasting? Hence, we put together seven pair and here are the winners, the highest-rated wine listed last.


The Twelve Winners

Rank Winner Price Year The Wine
  Foothills Napa
7th X   $15 '98 Viognier, Sobon Estate, Shenandoah Valley
6th X   $15 '99 Viognier, Sobon Estate, Shenandoah Valley
5th X   $8 '99 Riesling, Charles Mitchell, El Dorado
4th X   $15 '97 Chardonnay, Kautz Ironstone Library Collection (see Postscript)
3rd   X $18 '98 Sauvignon Blanc, Mayacamas Vineyards, Napa Valley
2nd   X $15 '98 Chardonnay Reserve, Adler Fels, Sonoma County, Sangiacomo Vineyard
1st   X $12 '95 Chardonnay, Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma County


  • The Sierra Foothills can claim victory because they won four of the seven matches.

  • Napa-Sonoma can claim victory because all their winners were rated higher than the Foothills winners.

  • Conclusion: As with the reds, the Foothills Whites are very competitive at a given price.



    We opened with a quote from The Wines of California. Let's also close with one.

      "John Kautz, the owner of Ironstone [Wine #4], told me that the Foothills are not suited to the production of inky Napa or Sonoma blockbusters. He sees the future in 'fruit-driven' wines that are ready to drink when released." My panel certainly felt that Wines 1 thru 4 were ready!

    Research Assistance—Joe Lorentz
    Tasting Organization—Edgar Vogt



    This page created September 2000