by Fred McMillin
for April 2, 1999


Winery of the Week

Happy Birthday, Charlemagne


Charlemagne, born April 2, 742 A.D., was a huge man. Regarding viticulture, both in Germany and in Bordeaux, he ordered vines planted on slopes that faced south, to maximize exposure to the sun.

The Rest of the Story

I know another huge man who likes south-facing vineyards. SIZE: He's a former All-Conference basketball center (Gonzaga U.). SLOPES: "My Grenache comes from some neat vineyards whose slopes face south."

The similarity of vineyard sites is even greater. Charlemagne picked slopes on the north side of rivers, so the sunlight intensity would be increased by reflection off the surface of the water. For example, in Germany, he spotted a hillside on the north side of the Rhine River where the snow melted first due to that additional sunlight.

The Grenache grows on the north side of the Columbia River in Washington State. Which leads us to our Winemaker and Winery of the Week. He is Jed Steele and the label is Shooting Star (which Jed was at Gonzaga!)

Shooting Star  
Just the Facts

Name—Shooting Star
Location—Thomas Drive, Kelseyville, CA.
Vineyards—Jed picks and chooses distinctive grapes up and down the Pacific Coast, and names the vineyard on the label.
Shooting Star Wines—There are only small volumes of many wines (650 cases of the Grenache). Stay in touch with your wine store and grab the ones that appeal to you before they're gone. The Lemberger scored very well not so long ago.
Price Range—All very reasonable...generally in the $10 range.
Winemaker's Background—He rose to fame making Kendall-Jackson's record-breaking Chardonnay. Before long Jed was overseeing production of millions of cases. The bean counters were exotic but the winemaker wasn't. He wanted to fine tune each batch to bring out its best features. Hence, he set out on his own and now makes those small batches at small prices.
Love it!


Charlemagne's Pick of the Century: Legend says that the spot on the Rhine Charlemagne selected became the site of Germany's most famous vineyard, Johannisberg Riesling. One of those who endorsed Charlemagne's pick was a vintner with a familiar last name, Peter Arnold Mumm. He purchased the entire 1811 vintage!

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.


WineDay Annex

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Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend.


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