by Fred McMillin
for November 8, 1999


Guilty As Charged?


In The Courtroom

Judge: "You have been charged with producing a wine that scored 93 in the last McMillin tasting, while the average rating of the 25 competitors was only 83. Thus, you have caused the acute embarrassment of over two dozen hard-working California wineries. How do you plead?"

Winemaker John Clark: "Guilty, your honor."

In The Winery

Also, there are two unindicted co-conspirators...

John's wife, Kelley Clark—Actually, she should have been charged, too. Like her husband, she also has a graduate "grape" degree, and works as a consultant at the offending winery, as well as running her own outside consulting service.

Michele Le Danois—Professor Le Danois lives in Bordeaux with her husband and two daughters, but visits the offending winery in California regularly, so cannot avoid all resposibility for production of such a terrific wine from a grape of French origin.

Arroyo Grande Valley, San Luis Obispo County Here's the problem wine.

1997 Laetitia Reserve Pinot Noir
Arroyo Grande Valley, San Luis Obispo County
Origin—This is the former Maison Deutz sparkling wine property, planted in 1982. The new owner is Turkish-born retired oilman Bilo Zarif. He's VERY serious about Pinot. This year he's added another 200 acres to the original 64, and will start the new millennium by adding another 160. Geography—Pinot Noir likes cool ocean breezes. The vineyard location (pictured) is less than three miles from the Pacific.
Panel Comments:
S.F. State Wine Instructor Edgar Vogt—"What complexity!"
Wine Judge Linus Hollis—"Excellent structure. Should develop for 10 to 15 yrs."
Rating—EXCELLENT...the highest rated Pinot so far this year.
Price - $33


About the winery name, the photo shows Mt. Laetitia rising behind the guilty vineyard. It is pronounced "luh-teesh-ee-uh" or "luh-teesh-uh."

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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