by Fred McMillin
for June 20, 1997
Prologue: "Dear Fred [McMillin], I first made Green Hungarian in the late 1950's. It was the second wine I named after a grape. The first was Chardonnay"
...Letter from Fred Weibel, Sr.
The Rest of the Story: Green Hungarian became Weibel's Hallmark wine, with sales of over 30,000 cases a year. Fred first produced it near San Jose, and later in Mendocino County. Here's the story.
1869—Ex-California governor Leland Stanford owns two large tracts of land south of San Francisco. He plants 100 acres of vines on one; he founds a university on the other some years latet.
1900—Leland had given the winery to his brother Josiah. Josiah tripled the operation, which had been highly successful until falling to phylloxera and two earthquakes by the turn of the century.
1945—Swiss winemaker Rudolph Weibel and his son Fred buy the abandoned Leland Stanford Winery and vineyards.
1958—Fred produces his first Green Hungarian wine, but urban expansion is causing problems.
1971—Fred and his son, Fred Jr., pick up their vines and plant them at their new Mendocino vineyard in the Redwood Valley.
1983—The Green Hungarian likes its new digs. Noted critic Anthony Diaz Blue writes, "Weibel's Green Hungarian is sweet, crisp, clean and likeable."
1997—While Green Hungarian remains the sentimental favorite, very affordable Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines have increased total sales to over 900,000 cases a year.
Just the Facts
Postscript: Founder Rudolph Weibel's specialty was sparkling wine, which Weibel still makes today. The favorite in my beginners' Fort Mason (City College) classes has a name which we now can appreciate...it's a Brut called "Stanford, Governor's & Cuvee." Why not spring for a bottle and raise a toast to those pioneers, Leland, Rudolph, and Fred.
Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf
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