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by Fred McMillin
for January 30, 1998
Prologue: Notes on Wine Q by some of my 14 tasters:
The Rest of the Story: Author James Laube writes: "There is no actual [geographic] Napa Ridge in the Napa Valley, nor is there a Napa Ridge Winery. Rather, it is the name of a brand started by Beringer to compete in the fighting-varietal category of wines. It has been an enormous success, with sales now of a million cases a year."
How did it happen? When the operation was created a decade ago, Stuller and Martin wrote that Beringer "is often cited as the best managed company in the business." A good example was selecting David Schlottman as winemaker. A microbiology major at U.C. Davis, he found an enology course that proved fascinating and he graduated in winemaking, with a minor in vinegrowing.
But someone has to provide quality grapes so Dave can fill his 7,000 French and American oak barrels. That's Jim Frisinger's job. After receiving a horticulture degree at Iowa State, he earned his graduate degree at U.C. Davis. He stayed on to teach and do research until the chance came to join Napa Ridge. It was a researcher's dream, for he oversees 2,000 acres of vineyards in seven counties, ranging from Mendocino in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. So Napa Ridge has the "smarts" and a million cases of sales, but how's the quality? I took time to count the awards for one four-year period and they totaled SEVENTY FIVE! Case closed.
Just the Facts
Postscript: "Napa" is a Native American word for "plenty," and that's exactly what Napa Ridge has.
Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the WineDay Annex
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