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by Fred McMillin
for January 16, 1998

Winery of the Week

1878: The Santa Cruz Blues

Prologue: In 1875, Santa Cruz county had 262,275 vines and produced 70,000 gallons of wine. However, far too many vines had been planted in other parts of the state, wine inventories were huge, and the California wine industry sank to an all-time low within two years. John Jarvis, founder of the Santa Cruz wine industry and proud of his "claret," had his winery repossessed by the Oddfellows Savings Bank.

...Michael Holland in "Late Harvest"

Jim and June Smith, Bob and Annamaria Roudon
The Rest of the Story: A century later, 1975, that disaster was only a vague memory. The area was "becoming a hotbed of innovative, dedicated producers ranking among the finest in the state," according to Prof. John Baxevanis. Typical were new vintners James Smith and Robert Roudon, who were also making a "claret." (Not so long ago, my panel voted their $4.75 Cuvee Seven Claret the best buy of 1994.)

And were they ever dedicated. They left their engineering jobs, built the Roudon's home over a 800-square-foot basement winery, and crushed 20 tons of grapes downstairs. Their wives were enthusiastic participants. Commercial artist Annamarie Roudon designed the labels, etc. June Smith drew marketing, public relations, etc... And wrote, "Our goal is to produce wines which at maturity might achieve all the elegance and artistry of the ancient Roman amphora illustrated on our labels." It worked. They soon had to build a larger winery, including a shelf for the awards, which included a gold from the large Los Angeles Fair as early as 1979. Their 1978 Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon are STILL winning awards ... at the American Classic Wine Competition for reds at least 10 years old. Not bad for bottles that were filled in that original Roudon basement two decades ago.

Just the Facts

Name   Roudon-Smith Vineyards
Location   Scotts Valley, west side of Santa Cruz Mtns.
Founded   1972, new winery 1978
Winemaker   Wisconsin farmer Jim Smith grows the grapes and Texan Bob Roudon makes the wines. They met as fellow engineers in a large company before being bitten by Bacchus and fleeing to the Santa Cruz area where one Dr. John Stewart produced outstanding Cabernets way back in the 1890s.
The Wines   They make small amounts of ever-changing, hand-tooled wines. Call June at (408) 438-1244 for the current lineup.


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

Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend


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