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by Fred McMillin
for December 4, 1997

This Merlot Steals the Show

Prologue: Compared to the large port producers in California, wineries that make small amounts of the wine as a specialty item "yield ports of greater distinction and interest."

...Dr. Marian Baldy, Ph.D., in "The University Wine Course"

The Rest of the Story: Have I ever got a "small, specialty" port wine for you. It's the first release of Oakstone MERLOT PORT. Dr. John Smith, co-owner and winemaker, teaches a course in "The Chemistry of Wine" at San Jose State. He surely got the chemistry right for this dessert wine. His two acres of Merlot reached sugar contents of over 27% with intense fruit flavors. Also, Dr. John used some equally-ripe Petite Sirah, to add color and black-pepper spice. My 18 tasters were impressed by the distinctive flavors, and by the price...only $9 for 375 ml. Dr. Baldy SAID small producers make the more interesting ports...Dr. Smith's Merlot Port is a perfect example.

The Wine:
Non-Vintage Merlot Port, El Dorado
Oakstone Winery, Somerset, CA
Contact—Co-owner Susan Smith at (916) 620-5303
Service—To highlight the wine, pour it after the entree, accompanied by nuts and cheeses. If you prefer to serve it with a dessert, the latter should not be too sweet, say a lemony cheesecake.
Price—$9 (375 ml.)

Postscript: Whence the name "Oakstone"? The Miwok Native Americans once ground live oak acorns into edible meal on large grinding rocks. The Smith's vineyard contains a huge granite grinder. Over time a black oak tree grew up through the rock, fracturing it and creating crevices large enough to walk through. When you visit the winery, you can picnic in the shade of that ancient oak (and have your wine on the rocks?).


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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