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by Fred McMillin
for May 28, 1997

Quiet! Woman at Work

Prologue: "Our 1994 Chardonnay sold out very quickly." Milla Handley, Co-owner and Winemaker

The Rest of the Story: Since the '94 Chardonnay was such a success, Milla used the identical steps to make the '95. Right? WRONG! If you are the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary brewmaster Henry Weinhard, each new vintage presents an irresistible opportunity to make an even better wine. Milla doesn't quit (experimenting) when she's ahead. Here are some of the innovations you can taste in her 1995 Dry Creek Chardonnay.

Direct pressing involves gently extracting the juice without crushing the grapes. The results are that the brilliant fruit flavors please the winemaker, but the drop in production from 175 gallons a ton to 160 displeases the bean counters (accountants).

Native yeast use was increased in the '95. Fermentation seems to take forever, but notice the rich texture and mouthfeel that is produced.

We could go on, but you get the idea. Noted L.A. Times critic Dan Berger called Milla "a brilliant wine stylist." This wine confirms it.

1995 Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley
100% from Handley's 10 acres of Dry Creek Chardonnay vines
Handley Cellars
Philo, CA
Phone (800) 733-3151; ask for Heidi Cusick's Spicy Shrimp recipe to serve with the wine.
$17

Category: Highly Recommended for those who enjoy a balanced Chardonnay more than an oak powerhouse; Milla uses all French oak, but doesn't allow it to dominate.

Postscript: Milla and husband Rex McClellan founded Handley Cellars in their basement in 1982. Their total production was 250 cases of???? You guessed it...Chardonnay.


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 eGGsf

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