On Wine  

When Will Your Wine Taste Best?

by Fred McMillin

This column is not for the experts with a temperature-controlled wine cellar. Instead it is for we unwashed masses, who bring home a couple of bottles, stick 'em in our sock drawer, and wonder how long before they will taste best. To get an answer, at our Fort Mason classes in San Francisco we tasted two groups of California wines, inexpensive Chardonnays and expensive Cabernets.

Chardonnays Under $15

The answer was very clear. Drink the wine two years after the vintage date. For example, drink a vintage 2005 in the year 2007. In the study, the four best Chardonnays were made by Huntington, Meridian, Steele and Trinchero.

California Cabernets Over $40

What a difference a varietal makes. The Cabernet Sauvignon bottles were tasted 3, 4, 5 and 6 years after the vintage date. Unlike the Chardonnay being ready in two years, the Cabs required a five year wait. So, the 2002 vintage is ready in 2007. The six year old Cabs were just as good as the five year olds, but not better.

The best Cabs were made by:

  • Chateau Julian
  • Corison
  • Jacob's Creek
  • Joseph Phelps
  • Louis Martini
  • Rodney Strong

Marilyn Merlot and More

One of our favorite conversation pieces for guests is Marilyn Merlot; the 2004 vintage from Napa Valley grapes is $26. However, you can try another Marilyn Merlot for only $10.50. In 1924 Marilyn was born "Norma Jean Baker." In 2006, the $10.50 merlot was born "Norma Jean—A Young Merlot." It's light, fruity and fun. Don't leave your wine shop without Norma Jean.


And a Final Wine Smile

At a Napa Valley winery, we enjoyed a very entertaining one-man show put on by an elderly movie star. After the show, a reporter congratulated the actor, and asked him why he didn't retire and just go fishing. His answer? "Fish don't applaud!"


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 San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


Copyright © 2007, Fred McMillin. All rights reserved.


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This page created May 2007

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