by Fred McMillin
for April 6, 1999


A Valley Named Edna


1977—Disaster. Winery manager Phil Woodward said, "We blew it. We tried a different fermentation process and the wine was sub-standard. We recalled every case." It was a financial fiasco. So three years later, he spearheaded the creation of the Edna Valley Vineyard winery. How did that turn out?

...Source: Stuller & Martin, Through the Grapevine

Edna Valley  
1993—Success! "Edna Valley Vineyard is a no-holds barred Chardonnay specialist, producing exceptionally complex Chardonnays by applying sophisticated winemaking techniques [remember 1977] with great skill to very high quality fruit. The facility wants for nothing. It is hardly suprising that the wines are so good."

...James Halliday, Wine Atlas of California

1996—Would you believe, in 1996 The Edna Valley Vineyard underwent a further major upgrade, "with a new crush pad, barrel fermentation facilities, etc."

...Gerald Boyd, San Francisco Chronicle

The Rest of the Story

The Edna Valley is a small, "jelly bean-shaped" bowl just south of the city of San Luis Obispo. It did not become an official American viticultural area until 1982, but it's potential was recognized much earlier...

1772—The Mission San Luis Obispo, named after Saint Louis, the Bishop, is founded and gets off to a hot start. Three times the local Indians shot flaming arrows into the grass roof of the mission, buring it down each time. Consequently, the friars created the curved red tile that soon adorned all the California missions. Once the missionaries had learned to keep a roof over their head, they had more time for the vine. Their wine was so good that sales exceeded over 100 barrels a year.San Luis Obispo had the highest income of any of the missions.

...Source: Gerald Asher

1930s—U.C.-Davis recognizes the valley's potential for high quality wine production. No response...yet.

1974—Jack and Catherine Niven, who knew the produce business and the quality of Edna Valley veggies, started planting what became the 700-acre Paragon Vineyard. That's the vineyard that Phil Woodward joined up with in 1980 to form the Edna Valley Vineyard winery. That's the vineyard that produced the grapes for today's wine.

Our Chardonnay of the Day

1997 Chardonnay, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, CA.
Edna Valley Vineyard Winery, San Luis Obispo
Winemaker—Clay Brock, with plenty of San Luis Obispo-Edna Valley vintages under his belt. He finds this '97 has enough oomph to pair with enchiladas in a Verde sauce. We bought ours at S.F.'s Marimba Cafe, and it worked!
Contact—Renee Koon, (707) 254-4263, Fx (707) 254-4203

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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