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by Fred McMillin
for May 31, 2001

 

Who Won?

 

One hundred and forty eight carefully-selected wines were studied in our last six wine classes. Here are each week's winners.

 

White Wines

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 
1st Week—Too cool for viticulture? That's what 20th-century vintners thought of the southern end of the Sonoma and Napa counties until the 1960s. Then it was realized that the marine-cooled ranchland was a perfect home for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Angelo Sangiacomo started planting in 1969. Today he sells to about 40 wineries, including Fetzer, and here's our white winner. Fetzer Reserve Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Carneros, 1995, $17. (Sonoma County).

2nd Week—Alderbrook treasures the Gewürztraminer grown by Richard and Saralee Kunde in the Russian River Valley. They bought the entire 1998 harvest, and the class was glad they did. It topped Chardonnays costing two and three times as much...Alderbrook Gewürztraminer, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, 1998, $11.

3rd Week—Author Stephen Brook in The Wines of California tells us how Tony Peju 20 years ago bought a Cabernet-perfect 20-acre vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley. But while he's won many medals with those Cabs, "his best seller is a sweet French Colombard called Carnival." The class gave it the #1 spot... Peju Province Carnival, California, 1997, $10.50.

4th Week—Each year the Wine Spectator names the Top 100 releases. What winery produced the top bottle in 1999? Sonoma's Chateau St. Jean. They also made this winner... Chateau St. Jean Riesling, Sonoma County, 1999, $12

5th Week—Twelve years ago financier William Hambrecht took control of the Belvedere Winery, and the wines are scoring higher and higher in my classes. So, this winner is no suprise... Belvedere Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 1999, $20.

6th Week—Currently, the Biggest Blanc in the wine world may be New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. One of them certainly dazzled my class...Brancott Vineyards Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 1999, $17. (Imported by Seagram).

 

Red Wines

1st Week—Over two decades ago, before he was a superstar, Jedediah Steele found a tiny vineyard (5.5 acres) of 60-year-old Zinfandel vines in Mendocino County. Since then, the DuPratt vineyard has provided him with grapes that have landed him in the Wine Spectator's Top 100 annual list more than once. Little wonder that the class was wowwed by.. Steel DuPratt Vineyard Zinfandel, Mendocino County, 1996, $20.

Christopher Creek

2nd Week—The Mondavi family bought the Charles Krug winery for only seventy thousand dollars in 1943. Peter Mondavi was the winemaker, and the Peter Mondavi Family now sell about a million cases a year, including this fine... Charles Krug Reserve Merlot, Napa Valley, 1997, $25.

3rd Week—The Rochioli family began growing grapes in the Russian River Valley in 1938. More recently, Gary Farrell startled wine drinkers with the dimensions of the Pinot Noir he made from them, as illustrated by this week's winner... Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 1998, $60.

4th Week—Seven years before the Mondavi family bought Charles Krug, the nearby Louis Martini Napa Valley winery bought a 240-acre vineyard in the hills above the Sonoma Valley. Louis renamed it Monte Rosso ("red mountain"), and it provided the grapes for this winner... Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, 1996, $35.

5th Week—1976 Headline: Warren Winiarski's Cabernet Sauvignon Bests Mouton-Rothschild in Paris Competition. Ever since that time, his flagship wine has been his Cask 23 Cab. Needless to say, this bottle won Best of Tasting by a humongous margin... Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23, Napa Valley, 1997, $150. (pictured)

6th Week—In selecting the wines, I asked owner Fred Wasserman. how the 1991 Christopher Creek Petite Sirah (in my cellar) was holding up. He said it was "still exceptional." Sure enough, the class found it "smooth," "elegant," "deep." Christopher Creek Petite Sirah, Sonoma County, 1991, $50. (Annual production under 1,000 cases.)

 

Comments

Only a third of the entries were from Napa or Sonoma, but they walked off with 10 of the 12 winning wines, Sonoma had more entries than Napa, and landed more of the winners (seven).

The grapes for five of the winners came from named vineyards.

The highest-scoring wines of the entire 148 were the Cask 23 Cab and the Steele Zin.

Credits:
Charles Sullivan's Companion to California Wines
Research Assistance—Judy Lorentz

 

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 May 2001

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