by Fred McMillin
for October 20, 1998

 

The World's Biggest Vineyard


Prologue

"Vineyard managers from around the world come here to study the soils and microclimates, as well as to examine the viticultural techniques we have developed."

...Bill Petrovic, Manager of San Bernabe (san BER-nah-BAY) Vineyard, the world's largest.


The Rest of the Story

The enormous vineyard is five miles wide and eleven miles long. Here is how it was created.

1602—Spanish explorer Don Sebastian Viscano reaches the California coast and writes King Philip of Spain that the cove and valley he has discovered holds forth great promise. He hoped to establish a colonylater and name it after his sponsor, the Count of Monterey.

1771—Mission San Antonio is founded in Monterey. One of the nearby ranches is named after the apostle, St. Barnabas, i.e., Ranch San Bernabe.

1842—Petronilla Rios acquires the land and makes the first secular wine from San Bernabe.

1972—The Reader's Digest and Prudential Insurance acquire the land and generate A lot of secular wine.

1988—Fueled by the huge White Zinfandel demand, the Delicato Winery uses some of their profits to purchase the now-famous vineyard. Their premium brand is named Monterra Promise, fullfiling Don Viscano's original "Great Promise" forecast.

1998—My San Francisco State U. class tastes Monterra's first Syrah and finds more than promise... it is a good wine at a very good price, $10!


The Wine

Monterra 1995 Syrah, San Bernabe Vineyard, Monterey
Monterra—Promise Winery, Monterey
Vineyard—8,146 acres near King City in the Salinas Valley
Avg. Mean July Temperature—67.1 F. (Bordeaux - 69.5 F., Napa—66.1 F.)
Winemaker—Tom Smith; M.S. U.C.(Davis); Made a Chardonnay for another winery 10 years ago that landed in the Wine Spectator's top 100 list. Regarding this Syrah, Tom increased the pleasing light berry flavors with whole-cluster fermentation and added backbone with 22% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Contact—Lee Nordlund, (800) 758-9463
Rating—EXCELLENT VALUE
Price—$10


Postscript

Busman's Holiday—After working all day around the world's largest vineyard, what does Tom do for relaxation when he goes home at night? Would you believe, he putters around his own little home vineyard!


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. 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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