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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for January 18, 2000


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Cambria Estate  

Brandishing tomahawks, the Bostonians disguised as Indians boarded the English ships in Boston Harbor. They threw 342 chests of tea into the sea, protesting the English tax on it. The year was 1773.

The Rest of the Story

Tonight, after mailing my contribution to the IRS, what wine shall I use to toast that colorful tax protest? What was the wine scene in 1773?

Well, my library contains a fragile volume printed only two years after the Boston Tea Party. The yellowed, brittle pages, written by London physician Sir Edward Barry, tell us that the best red table wines were made from the Pinot Noir, the wines of Burgundy. Bordeaux clarets at that time "were usually made with less care and judgment."

Picking a Pinot

This is a piece of cake. In the past 20 years, California Pinots have shown remarkable improvement. There are many good ones. Here's a bottle that dazzled my tasters.

1997 Reserve Pinot Noir by Cambria, Santa Maria Valley
100% Pinot, 100% from the Cambria Estate, 100% French oak
Owners—Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke
Seminar— I attended a Pinot senimar given by Barbara and Jess. The production of this reserve is typical. There were about 700 barrels of Estate Pinot from the 1997 harvest. They were tasted as they aged in the cellar. How many made the final cut and were blended to make the '97 Reserve? Only THIRTY!
My Panel's Rating—EXCELLENT
Contact—(707) 544-4000, FX (707) 544-4013
Price—$42 range

Postscript—Barry on Bordeaux

Sir Edward tells us why the Bordeaux clarets in London were so inferior to Burgundy reds (he often used "f" for "s"). "The Bordeaux merchants, encouraged by the great demand for thefe Wines, began to mix them with Spanish, though there was a fevere law forbidding this practice...However, thefe Wines are often more injured, after they are imported, than they had been in France. Vintners in London mix them with other fermented liquors, and unite them by a repeated fermentation...Few now can even recollect the peculiar tafte of [Bordeaux] firft growths, or will drink these wines in their prefent depraved ftate." Believe me, that Cambria Reserve is not in a "depraved ftate."

Credits—Diane Bulzomi, Research Assistant

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