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by Fred McMillin
for January 23, 1998
Winery of the Week
Entrance to the Ventana Winery
The Meador Uproar
"Walking into the 1970 Salinas wine industry was a culture shock. Agricultural methods used in grape cultivation hadn't entered the 20th century." Convinced he could do much better, he planted a 300-acre "research" vineyard in 1972, the Ventana Vineyards. His half million vines were subject to positioning shoots to vary sun exposure, varying stock spacing to see if more crowding produced more quality, changing trellises to improve ripening, etc.
It worked. His first commercial harvest in 1977, sold to local wineries, won Chardonnay and Riesling gold medals. But he needed to make his own wines to better evaluate the experiments, so the Ventana Vineyards Winery was built in 1978 ... in a leaky, 1900 dairy barn. With his laboratory completed, let's take as an example what he did with Sauvignon Blanc:
"Using the existing area clone, I could get nothing but asparagus juice. But have you ever tasted an asparagus Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc? Never." So what happened to the Blanc after it arrived in Livermore a century ago? Doug's study showed clones were selected not for flavor, but for disease resistance and high yields. Hence, he developed a Ventura Sauvignon Blanc clone. How successful was it? In 1986 he entered it in all American wine competitions and won a medal in every event but one! Similarly his White Riesling has won gold medals for over 15 consecutive vintages and his Chardonnay has medaled for over 18 consecutive vintages. So the next time you see a wine from the Ventana Vineyards, try it. It has been made by the most award-winning single vineyard in America!
Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the WineDay Annex
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