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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for August 1, 2000


The Survivor


It was a Seven-Sip tasting. After one sip, the panel had to kick out one of eight wines. Then, they took a second sip...of the surviving seven wines...and eliminated another. After seven sips, we had the winning Survivor!

The eight wines were California reds, two each of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. All entries had to be in the $16 to $20 range. Here's what happened.

First Sip

We eliminated a good Merlot...the '96 Audubon from the Hopper Creek Vineyard in Napa Valley, (pictured).

Audubon Cellars Merlot

One of the contenders, an Audubon Cellars Merlot.

Second Sip

A tasty Pinot Noir bit the dust...the '98 Chateau St. Jean from Sonoma County.

Third Sip

Ouch. We lost the other Pinot, even though it was rated by the tasters HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Buena Vista Pinot Noir from the Carneros, vintage 1996. Onward.

Fourth Sip

The other Merlot is gone...the '98 Flora Springs from the Napa Valley. The survivors are the Cabs and Zins.

Fifth Sip

A Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon drops out, the '95 Belvedere...VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Sixth Sip

We lose one of the classic Zinfandels, Gary Farrell Collins Vineyard Zinfandel from Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. Vintage 1994. Thus, the finalists are a Zin and a Cab. The odds must favor the Cab, given that grape's much greater stature.

Final Sip

A wine rated EXCELLENT was eliminated...a '97 Gundlach-Bundschu from the Morse Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley...A ZINFANDEL.

So, almost predictably, even though the bottles were wrapped so the panel didn't know what wines they were throwing overboard, the winner was a representative of the Western Hemisphere's best wine, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Winner, Our Wine of the Day

1994 Rosenblum Yountville Vineyards Napa
Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (from my cellar).
It sold for $20. Phone (510)865-7007, FX (510)865-9225.

Four years ago ace winemaker Kent Rosenblum sent me a message that "this wine will improve with cellaring." Was he ever right!


The town in the heart of the Napa Valley is named after hunter-trapper-vintner George Yount who arrived in California in 1831. He created unique roofs for General Vallejo's buildings; they were made from wooden shingles. The General was so appreciative that he tried to give George a parcel of land in the Napa Valley...18,000 acres. George argued that he'd prefer a mere 2,000. General Vallejo, who wanted the land occupied by his friends rather than the nearby Russians, was persistent. So George reluctantly agreed to receive about 9,000 acres. It included a settlement named Sebastopol, which was changed to Yountville about 1860, five years before George Yount's death.

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