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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for January 28, 2000


Winery of the Week
Phil's Skills

Phil Baxter, (pictured), does it all at our "Boutique of the Week." He makes only three wines, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. He makes only 7,000 cases a year. It was 1989 when he founded his little Philippe-Lorraine winery in the Napa Valley.

How did he develop the skills needed for success? The answer is 20 years in the Valley working for these masters, Bonetti, Stewart and Webb.

William Bonetti

Born among the vineyards of Italy, Bill Bonetti became winemaker for a large California winery. However, he wanted to return to what he knew best...making a small amount of one wine (Chardonnay), guiding it all the way from vine to bottle. His Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnays were an instant success, Think small. Think thorough. Good role model!

J. Leland Stewart

Author Robert Balzer: "Retiring meat-packing executive (Armour) Leland Stewart moved to the Napa Valley and bought a small vineyard and a tiny winery." He was still in his 40s and willing to get his hands dirty very effectively. At the California State Fair "the tiny Souverain Cellars won THIRTY FOUR medals in 10 years. He thought his best wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon."

R. Bradford Webb

Last but FAR from least was Brad biochemist...pioneered the use of French oak with Chardonnay...brought Freemark Abbey immediate success by convincing them to limit production to only the top premium varietals, including a remarkable Bosche Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

With such mentors, we now understand why Phil Baxter guides every stage of small amounts of only Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. We also understand why the last Philippe-Lorraine awards I've seen were two 91s for the Merlot and two 92s for the Cab. We'll see how those compare with my panel's ratings in my next blind tasting.

Join Us

I would like to include your opinions of Phil's work in the next article. So get one or more, and give Global Gourmet your comments. Price ranges are $16 for the Chard, $25 for the reds. We will include your name with your comments, if you approve.


The winery's name. The first names of Phil's maternal grandparents?...Philippe and Lorraine.

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