by Fred McMillin
for May 4, 1999


The Comeback Kid


This wine grape was headed for extinction. In spite of it's pedigree (arrived in France two millennia ago), the world-wide acreage was down to 38 in 1968. California had zilch.

Today, French acreage is around 1,500, and California has over 1,000 acres. In the Golden State in '98, it was the highest priced white wine grape, commanding $1,336 per ton, with second-place Chardonnay some $250 per ton lower. No other white prices were even close.

I like author Michael Bonadies' comment: "This wine is mysterious and enchanting. Be the first one on your block to taste it." RIGHT ON!

Our Wine of the Day

Sobon Estate The grape is Viognier (vee-ohn-yea), and the on-going comback is due to the fact that except for Chardonnay, it very possibly makes the most attractive white wine in the world. It is full-flavored, spicy with a pronounced, pleasing peach and honey aroma. Lee Sobon says that by 1997 his Viognier vines reached full maturity and appears to "have produced our best Viognier yet." Here it is...

1997 Sobon Estate Viognier
Apln.—California Shenandoah Valley
Composition—100% Viognier
Oak?—Light exposure to French and American oak.
Production—Only 1,770 cases
Rating—RECOMMENDED, particularly with rich fish and fowl dishes, as well as Oriental cuisine.
Contact—The Sobon family, phone (209) 245-4455, fax (209) 245-5156.
Price—$15 range


Proprietor-winemaker Lee Sobon, whom I've known since 1985, is a man of two valleys. He spent 20 years as a research scientist in the Silicon, and now over 20 years as a creative vintner in the Shenandoah. I think the greatest tribute to his skill and integrity is the fact that I notice he's frequently selected to be on wine-judging panels, even though I'm sure he can recognize many of the frequently unlabelled wines.

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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