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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for October 2004



Jump aboard the --
          Sonoma Steamrolla

"Sonoma County has 1 million acres of land, making it more than two times bigger than the Napa Valley."

—From K. MacNeil's Wine Bible

"Sonoma County stands on the threshold of becoming the leader [in California] in quality wine production."

—From Prof. J. Baxevanis' The Wine Regions of America

Its Best Varietals?

A recent Wine Spectator analysis advised that if you want the Golden State's best Chardonnay, "shop Sonoma." Also, Sonoma grows more Pinot Noir than any other county. The Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels have an impossing pedigree. Furthermore, winegrowers feel their Cabs & Merlots planted a bit farther away from the cool marine air are improving nicely.

My students have been tasting a number of them blind, and here's how we ranked them, with the best bottle listed last.

Rating   Wine
88 - Zinfandel, Rancho Zabaco, Chiotti Vineyard, 2002, $28
90 - Chardonnay, Gary Farrell, Rochioli-Allen Vineyards, 2002, $38
91 - Pinot Noir, Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley, 2002, $32
92 - Cabernet Sauvignon, Petroni, Sonoma Valley, 2000, $55
95 - Merlot, Chalk Hill Winery, Chalk Hill, 1999, $100

Like the winegrowers said, the Cabs and Merlots are good, too!

Postscript—Did you know this about Sonoma?

• Napa's first wine vines came from SONOMA!

• Most of us have heard how the Spanish missionaries brought the first wine vines to Sonoma. WRONG! Russians brought wine vines from tha Black Sea area a decade before the Spanish, and planted them east of their coastal Fort Ross.

• CHIEF BIG NOSE??? "Sono" was a local Indian word for "nose." A leading chief had a large one, so Sonoma meant "land of Chief Big Nose." (There are rival theories about the origin of the name.)

• An ancestor of Sonoma's first commercial winemaker brought Christopber Columbus back to Spain in chains! The first winemaker was General Mariano Vallejo, and Columbus' jailor was Admiral Alonzo Vallejo.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. 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 October 2004

Copyright © 2004
electronic Gourmet Guide, Inc.