by Fred McMillin
for November 27, 1998


Winery of the Week

Highborn Elkhorn


Some of the best wines in America come from small producers. A good example is Elkhorn Peak Cellars, whose vineyards are located in the southern end of the Napa Valley in the Jamieson Canyon.

Ken Nerlove

Hands-on Co-Owner
Former banker Ken Nerlove, (pictured) has gone from the financial world to getting dirt under his fingernails. Ken: "Our fruit is producing great wines because of the cool climate and the [lean] soil. I'm not getting high yields but the flavors are outstanding."

...American critic Jerry Mead

The Winemaker
After fermenting grapes in both South Africa and Australia, Kent Rasmussen settled in the Carneros district, where he established his own winery. Also, he brings Ken's grapes to his winery to make both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Author J. Halliday notes that Kent is highly creative, "a relentless experimenter."

The Rest of the Story

Location, location, location! The nine acres of Elkhorn Peak vineyards are located on a south-facing slope just east of the fabulous Carneros District, noted for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. About Carneros Pinot, Prof. Marion Baldy reports on a serious comparison of Sonoma, Napa and Carneros Pinots for marketing purposes. Results: "Carneros consistently showed more fresh berry, cherry and spicy aromas than the rival districts." Elkhorn was the first to plant in the Jamieson Canyon. They've been so successful, the Canyon may ultimately become a federally-approved viticultural area.

Just the Facts

Elkhorn Peak Name—Elkhorn Peak Cellars
Address—P.O. Box 821, Napa, CA. 94559
The Chardonnay—Planted in 1983; four clones; about 600 cases per year; pulls 4-star rating regularly in Restaurant Wine Magazine.
The Pinot Noir—My panel has used words like "elegant," and "excellent." Orange County Fair: Highest scoring premium Pinot...Gold Medal. 800 cases.
Origin of Name—Named after the nearby Elkhorn Peak Mountain. The mountain was so named because of the abundance of wild elk, that have since vanished from the area.
Current Prices—Chardonnay, $18; Pinot Noir, $26


Elkhorn Mountain does not have a monopoly on the use of the animal's name on geographic features. In fact, the number of California names that include "Elk" is over FIFTY!


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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