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by Fred McMillin
for January 28, 1998

Happy Chinese New Year

Prologue: "Wine-making from grapes, as with gunpowder, was first discovered in China, according to the Chinese, and their account of the discovery is very plausible.

The story goes that wine was first made by an ingenious agriculturist named I-tye during the reign of Emperor Ta-Yu, in the year 2207 before Christ.

In 1836 B.C. Emperor Kya had prepared an immense reservoir which he had filled with wine of the choicest kind, and three thousand of his subjects jumped into it."

...Written in 1902 by Edward R. Emerson in "The Story of the Vine"

The Rest of the Story: Now, during the celebration of the Chinese New Year holidays, we do not recommend bathing in wine. However, we DO recommend serving a good California Gewurztraminer with the holiday meal. Critic Bob Thompson opines that the state's best Gewurz comes from the Anderson Valley in Mendocino county, with its "memorable depth of flavor and firmness of texture." His first Gewurz benchmark is by Handley; my panel just tasted their 1996 and gave it very high marks. Emperor Ta-Yu would have loved this one.

The Wine:
1996 Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley
Handley Cellars, Philo, CA
Contact: Winemaker/Co-owner Milla Handley, (707)895-3876
Price: $11

Postscript: Milla has seen something like 20 California vintages and says, "The 1996 harvest was one of the best I have ever experienced ... The cool fall ripened the grapes gradually so we could give each lot individual attention, letting us increase the extraction of distinctive Gewurztraminer character."

Incidentally, we figure Milla has a very special fermentation gene. After all, she is the great-great-granddaughter of renowned brewer Henry Weinhard.


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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