by Fred McMillin
for June 29, 1998

The Legend of Glen Ellen


In 1983, the management of the embryonic Glen Ellen Winery in Sonoma Valley noticed a gap in the market. There were inexpensive jug wines with names like Chablis, and wines named after the grape,like Chardonnay at $10 and up. But there weren't wines named after the grape at $4 or $5. The plan had been to reach a production rate of 50,000 cases a year of $1O+ varietal wines by 1990. Instead, they switched to the $5 varietal target, and here's what happened.

The Rest of the Story

1982—Sales were 6,500 cases. The stainless steel fermentation tank was a rented milk truck. 1983—The target was changed to $5 varietals called Proprietor's Reserve.
1988—Would you believe, sales were sixty million dollars. Grapes were being purchased from 250 growers in various regions of California.
1989—A new $2 million bottling plant is built in the city of Sonoma. Glen Ellen employees exceed 200. 1994—Annual sales reach about four million cases.
1995—My panel selects the $5 1994 Glen Ellen Proprietor's Reserve Chardonnay as the Best Buy of the Year...Today they feel the latest, the 1997, is a fine value, too.

The Wine

1997 Proprietor's Reserve Chardonnay, California
Glen Ellen Winery and Vineyards, Sonoma, CA.
Rating—Highly recommended in its price range.
Contact—Tim McDonald, (707) 939-6209
Price—$6 range


About the name "Glen Ellen"—The vineyard was established in 1868. The Glen Ellen Ranch was run by Mrs. Ellen Stuart, who both grew grapes and made wine. The town of Glen Ellen was named after Ellen Stuart. (Source: Prof. T. Pinney)

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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