by Fred McMillin
for December 24, 1999


Winery of the Week

All About Eve
(Christmas, That Is)


'Twas the month after Christmas
And Santa had flit;
Came there tidings for father
Which read: "Please remit!"

...from Paul Dickson's Toasts

Here's a gift that was not followed by "please remit." "Every President finds himself deluged with products from a happy nation at Christmastime. For example, Thomas Jefferson received a thousand-pound cheese which was delivered by horse and wagon clear from Pennsylvania."

...Francois Rysavy's White House Menus

President Jefferson could handle the cheese. In one of his cellars were "three wooded horses" supporting planks for storing large cheeses.

Wine and Cheese

What wines would Jefferson have served with the cheese? During his eight years in office, the third President of the U.S. purchased about 20,000 bottles of European wine. Many were from Bordeaux, where grow Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. So we'll assume some of them accompanied the cheese, and our Winery of the Week must be a California winery that uses these grapes to make Bordeaux-style wines. Here it is.

Renaissance Vineyard and Winery

Renaissance Vineyard and Winery French-trained Gideon Beinstock makes the wines, and says, "We use very gentle methods of extraction, employing procedures COMMON IN BORDEAUX." Are they effective? Let's look at those four varietals that probably accompanied Jefferson's cheese.
Cabernet Sauvignon—Won a GOLD at the prestigious VINEXPO.
Merlot—"Impressive...rich but beautifully restrained." (Norm Roby, Decanter)
Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc—My panel just tasted the dry '97 CUVEE BARRIQUE white blend. Won Best Blanc Blend so far this year.
Rating—EXCELLENT, $17.


I offer both red and white wines, and an assorment of white, blue-veined and yellow cheeses, with crisp water crackers that don't interfere with the other flavors.

For more about Renaissance, (pictured),

  • The 1986 Cab is covered in the Dec. 2, 1997 WineDay. It won Best of Tasting.
  • A Sauvignon Blanc scored in the May 6, 1997 WineDay.
  • For more on the Gideon Bordeaux touch, see the Oct. 14, 1998 WineDay titled, "The Renaissance Man".


    Historian David McCullough tells us Jefferson not only liked wine and cheese, but that in his garden he grew SIXTEEN varieties of PEAS!

    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

    More articles by
    Fred McMillin


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