by Fred McMillin
for March 31, 1998

Shall We Filter, Sir?


Prologue

Filtering is a clarifying technique that consists of passing a cloudy liquid through a porous filter bed to remove particles. It has become common only in the last 50 years...Careful tastings have proved that a filtered wine always tastes better than the same wine when it is turbid.

...1981, by Emile Peynaud, world authority on winemaking, University of Bordeaux.

There is a growing trend among top producers, especially in Bordeaux, the Rhone and California, to dispense with filtration on the grounds that it strips wine of character.

...1994, Joanna Simon in "Discovering Wine"


The Rest of the Story

Winemaker Bruce Cakebread knew he had great grapes from the Napa Valley in his 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. After 21 months in French oak the wine was ready to bottle. Did he take the Peynaud route and filter, or join the no-filtering group Simon describes?

THE DECISION
Bruce wasn't going to risk losing any character. He did NOT filter...and my tasters of his '94 Merlot were glad. They gave the wine a rousing HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.

THE GENDER GAP
The men and women nearly always give a wine the same rating. This time there was an exception. The men liked the wine a lot, but the women gave it a near-perfect rating. So, if the lady in your life likes red wine, here's an ideal $28 gift. But don't delay. Bruce turned out only 2,600 cases of this treasure.


The Wines

1994 Merlot (25% Cabernet), Napa Valley
Cakebread Cellars
Contact—Sara Cakebread, (707) 963-7443
Price—$28 range


Postcript

Origins—Bruce's dad, Jack, was a photography student of the revered Ansel Adams. Some 25 years ago he was retained to take Napa Valley pictures for Nathan Chroman's "Treasury of American Wines." Charmed by the wine country, Jack casually remarked to the owner of the Sturdivant Ranch to let him know if he ever wished to sell. Arriving at his home in Oakland, the phone rang and the ranch owners said they would consider an offer. Jack and wife Dolores jumped in their car and were off to the valley. Cakebread Cellars was born.

Note—For much more about the winery, see the Dec. 12,1997 WineDay article titled "Highbred Cakebread."


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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