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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for August 31, 2000


Rick's Picks


"I put the glass to my lips and drank. Then came the thunderclap, the drum roll. The glorious wine jolted me like nothing I had experienced before...I'll never forget that velvety, rich, explosive flavor."

...(Anthony Dias Blue, American Wine, 1985)

The Rest of the Story

Rick Sayre Those words describe just the way I felt last night as I took the first sip of today's selection. It was the initial Rodney Strong Meritage, that is, a blend of California-grown Bordeaux varietals. The thunderclap and drum roll were produced by winemaker Rick Sayre. Who is he, (pictured), and what varietals did he pick?

The University of Tchelistcheff

At the tender age of 19, Rick was corking bottles by hand, weighing trucks bringing in grapes at harvest time, and paying particular attention to the Simi Winery winemaker. and with good reason. For six years he was directed by the great California winemaker, André Tchelistcheff; that is why he says he's a grad of the U. Of Tchelistcheff.

He's now seen 29 Sonoma County vintages, and picked up various awards, including "Chardonnay Winemaker of the Year" by Wine & Spirits magazine. Based on several trips to France, he was the first California winemaker to toast barrels at the winery to better control the oak flavors in his wines. But what varieties to use in the first Meritage?

Sayre's Selections

He used:

  • Cabernet Franc for its firm, spicy character.
  • Merlot provided softness and bright cherry flavors.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon to give intensity, with overtones of tea, currant, dark berries, etc.

    Then there was the oak selection. He used:

  • American oak for vanilla and a sweetness to enhance the grape's flavors.
  • French oak to add clove and some tannin backbone.

    So, here is our...

    Wine of the Day

    1996 Symmetry Red Table Wine, Rodney Strong Vineyards
    Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
    Varietals—10% Franc, 30% Merlot, 60% Cab Sauvignon
    Oak—73% American, 27% French
    Food Affinities—At the Symmetry debut dinner, the big red was served with maple-cured duck breast with shallot-cider game jus, artichoke-fava bean ragout, and whipped sweet potatoes.
    Contact—Lee Hodo, (707)433-6521, FAX (707)433-0939
    Price—$50 range


    Eight years ago I conducted a tasting of his wines with Rodney Strong. I learned a lot from him.

    Example—In the mid-1970s there was a fine wine tasting room on Union St. five blocks from my San Francisco home. He said, "So you were tasting my wines long ago. Our label was Windsor Vineyards, and that was our tasting room!" My notes say his Cabernet was already looking very promising.

  • For much more, see the April 28, 2000 WineDay titled,"Strong Stuff".

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


    This page created August 2000