by Fred McMillin
for January 19, 1999


On Behalf of Retzlaff


Retzlaff Vineyards "Livermore Valley must have a greater concentration of pure IQ and big-stuff academic degrees engaged in [winegrowing] than any other wine region in the world...Many of the small wineries have been started as weekend hobbies of scientists employed in one of Livermore's research laboratories... Generally, their wines have both personality and restraint."

...Gourmet Magazine Wine Editor, Gerald Asher

"Lawrence Laboratories research chemist Dr. Robert Taylor makes wines at weekends for his family's Retzlaff Vineyards, producing Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon."

...Bob Thompson, California Wine Atlas

Label of a bottle in my last panel tasting:
1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley, $18 range
Retzlaff Vineyards
Owners—Bob and Gloria Retzlaff Taylor
Winemaker—Robert W. Taylor, PhD.
Production—609 cases

The Rest of the Story

One of the most common requests I receive over the telephone: "Please give me the name of a good boutique winery." Retzlaff is one of my recommendations. And their success is not due solely to the size or the winemaker. Bob and Noah Retzlaff Taylor handle their vineyard, and say the soil produces "incredible grapes." Here's the reason, as explained by critics Larry and Ann Walker:

"In most of California, hillside vineyards produce the best table wines. The alluvial valley floor soil is too rich to produce the vine stress [struggle for nourishment] which is the key to superior wine." However, the Livermore Valley soil is an exception. It is rocky, gravelly...hence vines are stressed on the flatlands.

So, the soil and the people combine to make a boutique that's a beaut. To order a taste, you can reach Gloria at (925) 447-8941, FAX (925) 447-9641.


Exactly 110 years ago a California wine won a Gold Medal in international competition (1889 Paris Exposition) for the first time. Was it from Sonoma or Napa? Neither. It was from the Livermore Valley!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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