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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for August 23, 2000


Runaway Horses & Other Vicissitudes


"This Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was made from our two-acre George's Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was planted by George Cooper in 1972 under the tutelage of Martin Ray, with cuttings from the original vineyards of Charles Lefranc's son-in-law, Paul Masson."

...Doris Cooper, Cooper-Garrod Winery

Charles, Paul, Martin and of note, as we shall see.

Death In The Vineyard

Frenchman Charles Lefranc is considered the father of commercial winemaking in the Santa Clara Valley. He was the first California vintner to import a certain French varietal and make wine from it...Cabernet Sauvignon! Then, a local paper reported that in October 1887, "Last evening, as Mr. Lefranc came out of his cellar, on his vineyard, on the New Almaden Road, he saw one of his teams running away and attempted to stop it. The horses trampled him." The great vintner was dead at age sixty-two. (Sources: Charles Sullivan, Ruth Teiser)

Fire In '41

Burgundian Paul Masson came to California in 1878. He enrolled in college at San Jose, and then went to work for fellow Frenchman Lefranc as his bookkeeper. After the Lefranc tragedy, he married a Lefranc daughter, and went on to become the Golden State's top producer of sparkling wines. At age 75, he sold the Paul Masson winery to Martin Ray in 1936. Five years later it was nearly completely destroyed by fire.

Incredibly, A Third Leader

Martin Ray during the l95Os "developed a reputation for great. wines sold at absolutley astronomical prices." Among his many pioneering achievements was to make the first 100% varietal wines from the world's best varieties. One of his neighbors was NASA research pilot George Cooper.

From Wings To Wine

In 1972, George left the sky to become a vintner, guided by the great Martin Ray. Today his flagship wine is our...

Wine of the Day

Cooper-Garrod Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 1995
Winemaking—20 months in French oak, not filtered
Composition—100% Cabernet Sauvignon, unblended
Production—360 cases; sold only at the winery
About the 240-Acre Garrod Estate—English immigrants David and Sophia Garrod purchased the land in 1893. Their granddaughter, Louise Garrod, married George Cooper.
Rating—HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (At last count, medal winner in five major competitions, and it's still improving)
Contact—Doris Cooper, (408)867-7116, FX (408)741-1169


The broad-sholdered Burgundian, Paul Masson, was the most flamboyant host of the four winemakers in our story, even entertaining the legendary Charlie Chaplin. Since this is a family-rated column we won't mention the 1917 shocker. (He gave a famous lady a bath in champagne.)

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