by Fred McMillin
for June 25, 1997

Where the Rhones Roam

Prologue: "Zaca Mesa wines have been winning medals since the first vintage in 1975."
-- By Leon Adams, "The Wines of America," 4th Edition.

The Rest of the Story: Those early medals came from well-known noble grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then Zaca Mesa ("Zaca" is a Chumash Indian word meaning "land of peace and quiet") has added Rhone varietals to its arsenal. E.g., they produced the area's first Syrah in 1983. Has the effort been successful? Well, the tenth vintage, the 1993 was selected as one of the "Top 100 Wines of the Year" by the Wine Spectator. Also, last year the '93 was served with rack of lamb at a White House State Dinner honoring the President of France, Jacques Chirac.

The Syrah success led to the planting of five other Rhone varietals, most of which are present in Zaca Mesa's newest wine, a dry pink called "Z Gris." The best pink I've ever tasted was in the Rhone Valley, a Tavel, made from a number of similar varietals. Given Zaca Mesa's success with the Rhone's Syrah, it's not suprising that this Rhone pink looks like another winner.

1996 Z Gris, Santa Barbara County
Zaca Mesa Winery
Los Olivos, CA
Contact—Angela Freire, (707) 963-9661

Postscript: Quick! What is the important geographic feature present in Santa Barbara County but not in any other California wine district? Give up? Only in that area do the mountain ranges run west to east, rather than north to south. This provides an uninterrupted west to east flow of cool marine air to the vineyards, which they like.

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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