by Fred McMillin
for October 8, 1999


Winery of the Week




Exactly 20 years ago, this new winery looked like it would have a very short life span.

The money came from 49 investors, some of them simply wine-buffs, not seasoned investors.

The winemaker was not a U.C.-Davis enology grad; instead he was a Toyota salesman, Larry Brooks.

The co-founder was a soft-spoken, free-wheeling Texan with credentials in teaching, not winemaking. Remember the name, Mike Richmond.

Last, they chose a virtually untested region that boasted the vast total of only FOUR wineries. It was called CARNEROS!

The Rest of the Story

So how did it turn out? A few years later, critic Anthony Dias Blue wrote, "The Acacia Winery has been a raging success from the beginning."

Critic Anthony Dias Blue

Critic Anthony Dias Blue was impressed.

The Chardonnays

The critics have been impressed: James Laube in California's Great Chardonnays..."elegant style," "very good, consistent and appealing from year to year, a big plus for the consumer seeking both quality and reliability."

Bob Thompson in Wine Atlas of California... "Acacia has rattled off a string of fine, firm Chardonnays."

Jim Woods, San Francisco Examiner: "The 1990 estate-bottled Acacia Chardonnay was elegant absolutely extraordinary, one of the finest Chardonnays I've ever tasted."

Now, about the other important wine.
Pinot Noir
Jim St. Clair tends his own Pinot Noir vineyard. There's no irrigation. The vines struggle, producing "blue pearls--blueberries on stems--the most beautiful fruit around." I've just tasted the $44, 1996 St. Clair Vineyard Pinot, unfined and unfiltered. It's bursting with flavors. And here's the most interesting part, Acacia was founded in 1979. The above Mr. Blue reviewed its first wines and gave a high THREE STARS to the 1979 Pinot from none other than the ST. CLAIR Carneros Vineyard! Within a few years authority Robert Finegan would select Acacia Pinots as California's best. He attributes the achievement to grape selection by the Texan we met earlier, Mike Richmond.

Happy Returns, Mike

In time, Mr. Richmond left Acacia. But the winery he co-founded didn't leave his heart. And last year, his dream came true. He was called back to resume the helm of his first love. He is radiantly happy. He calls his Public Relations chief, Carol Mabry, the Director of Euphoria! His vineyardist, Mary Hall, is the "Goddess of Agriculture." He returned in time to get his hands dirty, "putting the finishing touches on the 1997s." Mike is one happy camper. If you try an Acacia, you will be one happy sipper.


Why was the name "Acacia" selected two decades ago? Always thinking, Mike liked it because it would appear at or near the top of any alpabetical listings, It worked. A Quick check showed "Acacia" was first in six out of seven listings in important wine books.

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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