by Fred McMillin
for June 22, 1999


First, Catch an Emu


Jim May  
I merely skim much of my mail from wineries, but when a winemaker, Kristi Koford, and a winery chef, Jim May, (pictured), recommend EMU BURGERS with one of their red wines, I read on. It turns out that they symbolize what's going on at their Alderbrook winery...creativity, quality, growth. Here's a thumbnail sketch.

Alderbroook Milestones

1982—Mark Rafanelli, who grew up with the family Rafanelli Winery, struck out on his own, buying a prune tree orchard near Healdsburg. Joining him were his high school buddy, restaurateur John Grace and another friend, dentist Phil Staley, who became the winemaker.

1994—Alderbrook was a successful white-wine winery, so food and wine connoisseurs Dorothy and George Gillemot bought it. They are members of such prestigious organizations as the Confrerie de la Chaines des Rotesseurs (1248 A.D.) and l'Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Degustateurs (1610 A.D.).

Now you get the idea. Emu fits right in. Few wineries can match the Alderbrook emphasis on pairing food and wine. Each release is accompanied by a Jim May creation. The winery has added reds to their repertoire, and the emu was paired with Zinfandel. Now, today's wine is their third Sonoma Cab. Let's see what Jim matches with a Cab.

Wine of the Day

Kristi Koford '96 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Alderbrook Vineyards & Winery
Composition: 78% Cab, 22% Cabernet Franc
Winemaker—Kristi Koford, (pictured), released this red in last June. We gave it a year in the cellar, and my panel gave it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Kristi has an impressive resume, including a decade as head enologist for Robert Mondavi. The upcoming vintage will be her twenty second. She works closely with Jim as he develops those original recipes.
The Cab-Compatible Dish—PLUM CHICKEN WRAPS: Marinate boneless chicken breast in plum butter, soy sauce and Cabernet Sauvignon. Grill and roll in a sun-dried tomato wrapper with seasonings. For the complete recipe, contact Catherine Bartolomei, Director of Public Relations, (800) 655-3838, Fax (707) 433-1862.


The emu is a flightless Australian bird which stands tall at over five feet. When last I checked this modest, 30,000-case winery had come in 12th on the list of medals won by a California winery in one year. That's standing pretty tall, too.

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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