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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for January 17, 2000


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr, King left us in 1968. On this somber day, what wine will we use this evening to toast his accomplishments? Let's look at the Napa Valley that year.

Sketch of Sterling Winery

Sketch of Sterling Winery

68's Fate

We're talking about a serious holiday, and appropriately, the 1968 vintage was serious, too. The bumpy ride started with suprising April frosts that meant there would be less grapes in the fall. It ended with heavy rains too early, two inches on Oct. 13, and another drenching two weeks later. Historian Charles Sullivan: "A nerve-shattering vintage...demand for top varieties was frantic." Little wonder. The grapes that survived were wonderful. "The 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon would make California history in years to come. Locals said it was the best vintage since l947."

Today's Napa Cab

So, tonight's toast is with a Napa Cab, that had a few white-knuckle events during the growing season, too; e.g., an inch of rain on AUGUST 20th! However, Winemaker Rob Hunter is very happy with what wound up in the bottle... "I'm blown away by its finesse and elegant power." Here it is.

1997 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation—Napa Valley
My Panel's Comments:

    Good fruit.
    Will age well.
    Rich, well-structured Napa Cab
Composition—87% Cabernet Sauvignon softened with a mix of 13% of other Bordeaux varietals.
Contact—Angela Freire, (707) 255-7667, FX (707) 255-1119
Price—$22 range


Since this Jan. 17th column is rather serious, on this date in 1920 the St. Helena Star newspaper had something serious to report, too: "A new order is upon us. It came to us while we were sleeping last night and was a reality when we awoke this morning...the beautiful vineyards that have been the pride of the state are doomed." The problem? Minnesota congressman Andrew J. Volstead had drafted legislation, passed over President Wilson's veto, that had gone into effect,. It was called the Volstead Act...better known today as Prohibition!

Credits: Charles Sullivan's Napa Wine, A History

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.


This page created January 2000