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by Fred McMillin
for Jaunary 25, 2001
The Vintner's Parrot
(and the Pope Puzzle)
A California vintner invested in a South American winery and was sent an English-speaking parrot in
appreciation. However, the parrot spoke only revolting profanity, and the vintner couldn't
get the bird to change. Finely, in desperation, he put the bird in the refrigerator freezer.
After ten minutes the profanity stopped, the parrot was taken out, and his language was perfect. "Sir, may I ask you one question?" said the chastened bird.
"Certainly. Go ahead."
"What did that chicken do?"
The Rest of the Story
"Serve with chicken," reads the publicity for Audubon Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, so that'll be today's wine,
"The Pope Valley is located in the northeastern corner of the Napa Valley appellation. Its only proven performer is Sauvignon Blanc!"
...B. Thompson, Wine Atlas of California
The Audubon Blanc is 100% Pope Valley. Here are the details.
1999 Audubon Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Source of Grapes—Juliana Vineyards in the Pope Valley. This is Audubon's twelfth vintage of Pope Blanc.
Tasting Notes—Carefully-crafted Blanc...no offensive veggie flavors. RECOMMENDED.
Contact—Katie Calhoun, (415) 346-2929, FX(415) 346-6136
Postscript—The Pope Puzzle
These two statements are true.
A—The Pope Valley is in the Napa Valley.
B—The Pope Valley is not in the Napa Valley.
First, what's a typical valley? It has two hilly sides with a stream of water flowing on the valley floor between the sides. Thus, the Napa Valley has the Mayacamas Mountains on the west side and the Vaca Range to the east, with the Napa River in between. Folded into the Vaca Range northeast of the Napa Valley is another valley with two sides and a stream between them.
"Nombadjara" was the Native American name of the stream. Then, in 1828 a trapper arrived named William Pope, for whom both the stream and the valley were named.
Fifty years later the first substantial vineyards were planted in the valley (some 200 acres). The grapes had to go to wineries, and so most of them were shipped to the Napa Valley. There have never been a significant number of wineries in the Pope Valley.
Alright, now we can explain why Pope Valley IS and IS NOT included in the Napa Valley. There are two definitions of Napa Valley, one is geographical and one is viticultural.
Meaning #1—The geographical Napa Valley, the physical one, does not include the Pope Valley.
Meaning #2—Twenty two years ago the feds were deciding what labels could carry the prestigious Napa Valley wording on the label. Logically, they proposed that Napa Valley grapes must come from the geographical Napa Valley (meaning #1).
TROUBLE! About 2,000 acres of grapes that had traditionally gone in Napa Valley wines would be excluded. Pope Valley growers would lose the use of the magical name. After two years of deliberation, the government created another meaning (#2) of Napa Valley, that included the nearby producing areas. Pope Valley was IN the AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREA (AVA) called Napa Valley. This may sound difficult, but what if the name were still nombadjara!
Other Pope grape growers include St. Supery Winery (450 acres), Hess Collection Winery (300 acres), Flora Springs Winery (156 acres), Aetna Springs Cellars (21 acres) and growers Buttes Resources Co. Of Houston (850 acres).
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.
This page created January 2001