by Fred McMillin
for December 14, 1999


by Nostradamus and Martini



With the approach of the new millennium, predictions abound. Hence, let's look at some past predictions that were improbable, but came true. Since today is the 496th birthday of Nostradamus, we'll start with him, and then go to the startling prediction made a mere 64 years ago by Napa wine pioneer Louis M. Martini.

Nostradamus (1503-66)

Michel de Nostredame, a physician "learned in potions and remedies," had to flee Avignon because he was suspected of being a wizard. On the way he met a former shepherd turned monk, Felice Peretti, whom he addressed without hesitation as "Your Holiness." Forty years later Peretti became Pope Sextus V!

In 1556 he startled France's Queen Marie de' Medici by predicting the death of her husband in a jousting tournament, in which a lance would pierce his helmet. Three years later it happened. Author Norman Davis in Europe, A History, lists many other such predictions that ensured the "wizard's" reputation for all time.

Louis M. Martini

Louis M. Martini

Louis M. Martini (1887-1974)

Just as improbable was this 1935 prediction recorded by Leon Adams in The Wines of America. "I remember my first meeting with Louis Martini because he would never let me forget it. The fiery, square-jawed ex-fisherman predicted, 'Five years from now, mark my words, I'll be making the best dry wines in California."

The knowledgeable Adams must have had to supress a smile, since Martini was a bulk wine producer in the hot Central Valley of the state. But, it came true. Adams explained... "What I didn't know was that Martini a few years earlier had bought a St. Helena vineyard, had built a new winery there, and had begun amassing a hoard of fine, aged table wines, not a drop of which would be released until all were bottled and ready...In 1940 Martini moved his family to St. Helena, put his whole line of wines on the market at once, and created a sensation. He became famous overnight as a premium Napa wine producer. For decades afterward, whenever we met, he never failed to remind me of his 1935 boast.

The McMillin Prophesy

Since we're dealing with prophesies that came true, I'll add mine. You will enjoy a Martini Merlot. The winery planted its first Merlot in 1965. The plan was to blend it to soften the Cabs. However, the wine was so attractive that Martini released America's first Merlot in 1972. It created a sensation then, and remains one of the winery's best buys at a little over $10.
[Winery: (800)321-WINE]

Postscript—What's In A Number?

Nostradamus was 53 when he forecast the King's demise. Martini was 53 when he released those sensational wines in 1940..

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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