by Fred McMillin
for April 11, 1997
Winery of the WeekThe Vine and the Potato
Prologue: "In 1856 Pierre Pellier was bringing Bordeaux vines [to the future Mirassou vineyard] when the winds stopped, the ship lay still in the water...and the precious cuttings began to dry out"...by Richard Hinkle, "Central Coast Wine Book."
Meanwhile, the Pelliers had added a new Henrietta to the family. At the ripe old age of 14 she started learning the business from dad. When 20, she married the dashing young French immigrant Pierre Huste Mirassou. Thus began the dynasty of five generations that have grown wine grapes south of San Francisco continuously for over 140 years. Their label proudly reads, "The oldest winegrowing family in North America."
With such an early start, Mirassou has always been one of California's biggest produders...right? Wrong! By 1961 they were turning out a mere 1350 cases a year with a Mirassou label. The rest was sold in bulk to others.
About then, the "5th generation" decided to change all that, planting some of the first wine vines in Monterey County, etc. My notes from a 1976 visit show production had shot up to 126,000. Since then, production has more than doubled again, topping 300,000 cases. Clearly, Pierre's potatoes started something big.
Just the Facts
Postscript: Back to 1961 when all 1350 cases of Mirassou wines were sold at the winery. Records indicate "the best loved wine was Pinot Blanc." As far as I'm concerned, it still is today. Start with the inexpensive model called "White Burgundy." If you like it as well as my Scott's panel does, then graduate to the Monterey County HARVEST RESERVE Pinot Blanc...a fine change from Chardonnay.
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