by Fred McMillin
for February 21, 1997

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


Current WineDay

January WineDays

02/20/97
That Picky Pinot

02/19/97
This Is Dan Lee's Cup of Tea

02/18/97
The Grape Washington Loves

02/17/97
Bordeaux Down Under

02/14/97
Winery of the Week:
The Chandon Cyclone

02/13/97
A Sublime Valentine, Born of Tragedy and Triumph

02/12/97
The Queen of Chardonnay

02/11/97
The Best of Barbera

02/10/97
A Short Port Report

02/07/97
Winery of the Week:
Jekel's Rocks, Vines & Wines

02/06/97
A Grape for the Lake

02/05/97
Last Rites for Sulfites

02/04/97
From Assisi to Sonoma

02/03/97
A Zinfully Good Bargain


Winery of the Week

The Steele Appeal

Prologue: "The initial production of Steele wines was sold before it was even made.. .as one would expect, the Chardonnays were immaculately crafted, with lush fruit, sophisticated oak and a creamy, lingering finish." From James Halliday's "Wine Atlas of California.

The Rest of The Story: Jedediah Tecumseh Steele has a very unusual name and a very unusual way with Chardonnay. He LOVES that grape. Hear him talk about his second vintage. "The Chardonnay rests so peacefully in the barrel, a tranquil liquid luxuriating in its delicious, intoxicating maturity.. a barrell-based beauty sleep." He is equally lyrical about the vineyards that furnish those grapes and the dramatic differences in the wines they produce.

Examples:

    Ulysses Lolonis's 75-year-old family vineyard in Mendocino—"Smelling this wine reminds me of being in the kitchen when apple butter is simmering on top of the stove.. And you don't have to search for flavors with this brash and brawny fruit."

    Angelo Sangiacomo's highly-acclaimed family vineyard in the Carneros district south of the town of Sonoma—"Carrying the mark of its cool growing region, the strong citrus notes of this wine... are reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie, just as it comes out of the oven... due also to the vanilla and caramel from the toasted French oak barrels."

    Du Pratt Vineyard, probably the most famous in Mendocino's Anderson Valley, first planted in 1916—This high-elevation site yields Chardonnays with "a hard, stimulating, mineral edge often found in authentic Chablis."

My Scott's-On-Lombard panel found the flavors different but the quality the same: EXCELLENT! Now for the biggest suprise. Jed does all of this without owning a vineyard or a winery or having any big staff. Co-owners Jed and wife Maria Steele are pretty much it. They both previously worked for Kendall-Jackson, she in marketing, he in production.. And that's still the division of labor, except I detect Maria has added bookkeeping, financial management, and "bugging Jed to get the newsletter written."

Just the Facts

Name Steele Wines
Location Kelseyville, central Lake County, CA
Founded 1991
Owners Jed and Maria Steele
Staff Jed and Maria Steele
Owned Winery None (They rent available capacity.)
Owned Vineyard None (They purchase exceptional grapes)
Production 5,000 case range
Most Important vineyard
Designated Wines:   Chardonnays
Zinfandels
Pinot Noirs

Postscript: The Middle Name, Tecumseh—Tecumseh was a courageous Shawnee Indian chief who lived two centuries ago. Jed's father was a historian.


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.


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