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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for April 17, 2000


Well Done, Byron!


1988—Byron "Ken" Brown is making small lots of wine with a keenly developed sense of style. His debut vintage makes him a man to watch.

...Critic Bob Thompson's Cellarbook

One of those watching was Aussie author James Halliday, who five years later wrote, "At his Byron Winery, Ken Brown's Chardonnay is absolutely outstanding. The emphasis is on elegance, yet there are intense melon/grapefruit flavors, with a long, lingering finish."

...Wine Atlas of California

The Rest of the Story

Byron Estate Byron milestones:
1966—Ken Brown graduates from Linfield College, Oregon and goes to work for IBM. Little does he realize that north of Santa Barbara (Santa Maria Valley) wine pioneer Uriel Nielson is planting Chardonnay vines that would become the backbone of his coveted Estate white wine.

1973—Inspired by frequent visits to the Napa Valley, he plants a quarter-acre vineyard at home.

1974—He's caught the bug. He enrolls in the graduate enology program at Cal State—Fresno.

1983—After doing an outstanding job as Zaca Mesa winemaker, Ken and wife Deborah set out to create the Byron Winery. Its first vintage is the one that impressed Bob Thompson (see Prologue).

1999—Ken writes me that "our 1996 Estate Chardonnay from the Byron Vineyard represents a new echelon of quality for Byron as we introduce our estate-grown, vineyard-designated program. The Byron Vineyard has been producing world-class Chardonnay for three decades. It is the vineyard planted in 1964 by Uriel Nielson." And that's our...

Wine of the Day

1996 Byron Estate Chardonnay
Byron [Nielson] Vineyard
Appellation—Santa Maria Valley
Winemaking—The emphasis is on gentle handling, from picking and sorting the grapes by hand to transfering the wine by gravity flow (not pumping) in the new (1966) winery.
Winemaker— Ken, naturally.
Owner—Robert Mondavi bought the operation in 1990 but wisely let Ken continue running the show.
Winery Contact—(805) 937-7288, FAX(805) 937-1246
Robert Mondavi Contact—FAX (707) 251-4386
My panel - Nice acid; toasty; grapefruit; very lively in the mouth; good oak; well balanced
Rating—Highly recommended
Price— $19 range


On Feb. 3, 1992, I pitted the Byron '89 Chard vs. the S.F. Fair's Best White of Calif. by Caymus. Byron lost by one vote!

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