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Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for October 12, 2000


Oct. 12, 1492...This just in...
Columbus Lands in the Bahamas


When Columbus first landed on the shores of San Salvador, (see photo), the cargo included grapevines. They died....(From Seeds of Change, Viola and Margolis)

The Rest of the Story

Shore at San Salvador

My wife on the shore at San Salvador in the Bahamas where Columbus probably first landed in the New World.

It looks like Columbus was a better mariner than he was a vintner.

Columbus the Mariner—Michele de Cuneo sailed with Christopher and wrote, "By a simple look at the night sky, he would know what route to follow or what weather to expect; he took the helm, and once the storm was over, he would hoist the sails while the others were asleep."

Columbus the Vintner—The great mariner found that the people of the New World did not have the wheel, wheat, or rice. There were native grapes, but no wine. (It would be another 30 years before Cortez had the first wine make in America. He had to bring cuttings from Spain, since they couldn't make wine for Mass from the local varieties. In fact, the first wine from a native American grape, the Scuppernong, would not be made until 1564 by French settlers in Florida.)

So, what wine do we serve tonight to toast the master mariner? Let's use the grape that made the best wine in the world in 1492.

Our judges will be the Popes who a century earlier had lived in Avignon for 70 years. They found the red wine of Burgundy (from Pinot Noir) superior to any Italian or other French wine. In fact, it was so good they forbid the shipment of any Burgundy back to Italy while they resided in France. Finally, when they returned to Rome they took many "tonnes" of that red wine back with them. Hence, a fine California Pinot Noir is our...

Wine of the Day

1997 Clos Du Bois Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
Grape Sources—Carneros and Russian River Valley. Perfect for Pinot.
Tasting Notes—This is more cheerful cherry than purple powerhouse. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Food—We had it with rack of lamb. Divine. (The winery suggests herbed chicken or grilled salmon.)
Contact—Office of George Rose, (707) 473-2349 FAX (707) 433-3538
Price—Fine value at $15.


No Green Thumb?—OK. "The Admiral of the Ocean Sea" had no luck with grape vines. But, on his second voyage, he brought 20 agricultural experts and plenty of wheat to plant. The wheat died, too!

More WineDays About Columbus:

  • "Christopher Columbus Sipped Here", Oct. 10, 1997
  • "1492—The Best Grape", Oct. 12, 1998
  • "The Admiral" and the Vine", Oct. 12, 1999


    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 October 2000