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by Fred McMillin
for June 19, 1997

Gold and Grapes

Prologue: In January 1848 John Augustus Sutter wrote General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo that "I have made the discovery of a gold mine which, as far as we have investigated, is extraordinarily rich."
-- From Winemaking in California by Teiser and Harroun

The Rest of the Story: That discovery not only brought a horde of people to the Sierra Foothills, but wine as well. In fact, the first vines went into the ground just one year later, 1849. The grape was called the Mission. Much of it was converted to a slightly sweet red wine. I told this story to my S.F. State University wine class and we agreed that it would be fun if we could step back in history and taste it. However, that's an impossible dream, since we're looking back 150 years.

But wait just one darn minute.

The Story Winery is making that very wine today. It's called Mission Gold. I suprised my class with it, and they were fascinated by the sip of history...and liked the unique Mission grape flavors...plenty of body...just a tad of sweetness.

Non-Vintage Mission Gold, Amador County (100% Mission)
Story Winery
Plymouth, CA
Contact—Co-proprietor Jan Tichenor, (800) 713-6390
$13

Category: Recommended for all serious students of wine; serve with Brie

Postscript: The Mission grape's resume includes many more milestones than making the Fortyniners' first wine. It produced the first wine in California, the first in South America and the first in the New World...when Cortez's father, Martin, sent Mission vines to his son in Mexico City about 1523. of course, the grape was not called Mission then, but we'll take that up another time. Class dismissed!


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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