by Fred McMillin
for June 9, 1999


Too Good Too Soon


Vintage-style port is bottled young, after 18 months to six years in wood.

...The Vintner's Art, Johnson and Halliday

The Doctor's Dilemma

El Dorado Dr. Smith had a problem. The winemaker (and co- proprietor) of Oakstone knew well that port and age are synonymous. Yet, he had made a port from two tons of extremely ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that was delicious after ONLY EIGHT MONTHS IN OLD FRENCH OAK. It was time to bottle, but who would buy a one-year-old Port? Well, how about omitting the vintage date from the label? Legal...but not satisfying. Instead, he and Mrs. Smith (cofounder) decided that taste, not tradition, should rule. So they brought their 1997 Cab Port on the market the next year.

I tasted it blind without knowing this story. My immediate reaction was HALLELUJAH, here's a lighter port that's a natural to pair with a dessert... mine was pears in red wine with simple, crisp sugar cookies for texture. More powerful, traditional ports overwhelm anything as delicate as a pear dessert...on my palate.

Today's Wine

My panel was equally impressed. They gave it both a BEST BUY OF THE TASTING, and an EXCELLENT rating. We rarely get that combination. Best buy ratings usually are a simple "Recommended." Anyhow, here it is.

1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Port, El Dorado
Oakstone Winery, Fair Play, CA
Composition—100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Sugar—8% in the wine made from grapes with approximately 28% sugar.
Contact—Susan or John Smith, (530) 620-5303, FAX (530) 620-5304
Price—$10 (375 ml.)


About the price of California port, 750 ml. of today's wine costs about $2O. In 1860 delivered at New York City, the price was under 70 cents.

Note: For much more about Oakstone, see the Sept. 29,1997 WineDay article, "The Cab That Couldn't".

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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