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by Fred McMillin
for April 3, 2000


Noah to Napa

A Short Course in the History of Wine


I've seen from the air many landmarks of Western civilization during some 40 flights between Tehran and London. The most spine-tingling sight of all was a 17,000-foot, ice-capped dome standing in lonely majesty in eastern Turkey...where, it is written, Noah disembarked after the deluge and "planted a vineyard." The noble peak is Mount Ararat.

Col. Haraszthy

Col. Haraszthy.

The Rest of the Story

What grape was available then? My research (including checking with U.C.-Davis) indicates it was a Muscat. Hence, next month's course at S.F. State (Extended Ed) opens with the story of Noah's Muscat and closes with a Napa Valley Muscat. How did the variety get to California?

The Hungarian Connection

At age 18, Agoston Haraszthy became a member of the Royal Hungarian bodyguard for Francis I, Hungarian Emperor and Napoleon's father-in-law. Well educated, Agoston's future looked bright until he and some other officers became too interested in democratic reform. In 1837 several of his associates were tossed into the slammer for treason! Wisely, before long, Col. Haraszthy was in California. Minister of War General Lazar Meszaros was in Plainfield, New Jersey. It was the General who sent Agoston some cuttings in 1851...including Muscat. These and cuttings coming to California nurseries from New England were the Golden State's first Muscats. and the grape has not gone away. The 1999 crush was 45,000 tons. One of the crushers was Daryl Sattui, who made our...

Wine of the Day

1998 Sattui MUSCAT Dessert Wine
Stature—GOLD MEDAL winner. My tasters gave it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who enjoy dessert wines.
Service—Serve on and with your favorite fruit sorbet, along with assorted crunchy cookies.
Why You Can't Find It—Sattui wines are sold only from the winery. Phone (707) 963-7774, FAX (707) 963-4324.


About the Muscat—To keep this short and sweet, we've avoided the fact that the Muscat grape comes in over 200 models. Common in California are the Muscat Canelli, Muscat of Alexandria (General Meszaros' cuttings), Black Muscat, Orange Muscat, etc., etc.

Note: To enroll in Noah to Napa in S.F., phone (415) 405-7700.

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 April 2000