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by Fred McMillin
for January 8, 1998

Whence the Flora?

Prologue: As a schoolboy gardener, his fascination with plants began in San Francisco's Mission district 50 years ago. Prof. Harold P. Olmo went on to become America's foremost grape geneticist, creating new varieties. But it wasn't easy. "You have to be very steady. To make these crosses, you use jeweler's forceps to lift the tiny cap off the flower. You operate on one flower at a time and there are often more than a thousand in a cluster," was the way the University of California pioneer described his work.

...Source—Teiser and Harroun's "Winemaking In California"

The Rest of the Story: One of the Olmo hybrids was an inspired cross between Gewurztraminer (provides floral spice) and Semillon (figs, body) which he named Flora. Not long after, the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff was working with Schramsberg owner Jack Davies. They were choosing a variety for the creation of a dessert Cremant sparkler. The selection was Flora, and it still is. California wine expert James Laube finds what would be expected from the hybrid, spice, fig, flowers, and honey. In my classes, we taste a Semillon, a Gewurztraminer and then the Flora Cremant. The heritage is clear to all, and we close with a toast to Prof. Olmo and his forceps that created it all.

The Wine:
1992 Demi-Sec Cremant Sparkler, Napa Valley
Schramsberg Vineyards, Calistoga, CA
Food Affinities—Fruit tarts, custards, light cakes
Honors—Served by Presidents Reagan and Bush; Served at S.F. reception for Pres. Gorbachev.
Sugar level—About 4%, balanced with high acids
Price—$22.50
Contact—Adrienne Asher-Gepford (707) 942-4558

Postscript: About Cremant, it's a French word referring to creaminess. Cremants are not as bubbly as conventional sparklers; they are usually lighter, creamier and very elegant.


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 and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the WineDay Annex

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