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by Fred McMillin
Bad News, Good News
The Bad News
Robert Mondavi sold S.F. Chronicle journalist Davis Bynum 50 pounds of Petite Sirah grapes back in 1951. "I lucked out on that vintage that totaled 3-1/2 gallons. It was really quite good. I thought, hey, there's nothing to this."
Nineteen years later, that 50-pound crush in the basement had grown to 80,000 pounds in an abandoned plumbing shop. My calculations indicate Davis was releasing something like 65,000 cubic feet of grape-scented fumes. The town of Albany (east side of San Francisco Bay) smelled like a winery! The residents were getting restless. Davis knew it was time to get out of Dodge. Bad news. He would have to move.
The Good News
Davis tried to set up shop in the Napa Valley, but met considerable resistance from the competition. Hence, he chose the lightly-regarded Russian River Valley, which merely turned out to be possibly the best Pinot Noir district in California. Not only that, in 1974 he hired a young man who merely turned out to be one of the best winemakers in California, Gary Farrell. Needless to say, Bynum made great Pinots (see WineDay March 23,1998). But what about the...
The Russian River Valley was never thought to be a good area for Bordeaux reds [like Cabernet Sauvignon].
...Stephen Brook, The Wines of California
Sounds like Bynum can't participate in the huge Cab market. BUT WAIT! Let's see what else author Brook says about the winery.
In addition to the outstanding Pinot Noir, the winery also produces a finely balanced Cabernet Sauvignon.
So, the conundrum: How does Gary turn out good Cabs in a hostile (too cool) district?
In April 1994 I received a letter from Davis' son, Hampton, with the secret. "With new advances in trellising systems, which tone down herbaceousness, our Cabernet Sauvignon is showing great promise."
Is it ever. In fact, a Bynum Cab is...
This Week's Wine
'97 Davis Bynum Cabernet Sauvignon, Hedin
Postscript—The Three Generations
Anyhow, Hampton went on to a grape education at U.C.-Davis, was the first winemaker when the family shifted to the Russian River, and has gracefully moved into a dual administrator-winegrower role since...just like his dad, a real gentleman with many talents.
This page created January 2001