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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for October 18, 2000


Wizard of the Pinot


"In his first decade of winemaking [in the 1960s], David Bruce accomplished enough to deserve a special place in the history of post-Prohibition wine."

...Norm Roby & Charles Olken, New Connoisseur's Handbook of California Wines, 3rd Ed.

The Rest of the Story

Dr. David Bruce Highlights:

1959—At medical school in Oregon, David Bruce makes his first wine, 11 gallons from the Concord grape.

Early 1960s—Back at Stanford medical school, the future Dr. Bruce buys a bottle of the legendary Martin Ray's Pinot Noir, even though it ruined his budget. It came from the Santa Cruz Mountains. "It was a wonderful wine. I decided right then to start looking for some acreage and plant some vines."

1961—He purchases 25 acres on a 2,000 foot crest. Vines planted included Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

David Bruce Pinot NoirEarly 1970s—The press acclaims his "oak-ribbed Chardonnays" and his "extraordinary, mouth-filling Pinot Noir." They are "big adventures, providing rich excitement."

Dermatologist Dr. Bruce says, "I believe the greatest wines ever produced are Pinot Noir, with Chardonnay a close second."

The Last Two Decades

Bruce Pinots went on to win various competitions, and headlines such as "Best Wine of the Year", an astronomical "ninety nine" rating, etc.

My tasters agree. When I checked their top Pinots over five years of tastings, there were eight with super scores. How many were Bruce Pinots? Five of the eight. Their best of the eight was the '92 30th Anniversary Pinot Noir, $100, which Dr. Bruce said at the time was the best wine he had ever made. (See WineDay Annex 1998, "Eight Pinot Blockbusters".) So a Bruce Pinot is our...

Wine of the Day

1997 David Bruce Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
Rating—In my last tasting there were eight wines costing more than the Bruce bottle. Nevertheless, his Pinot won Best of Tasting. The panel gave it a rare EXCELLENT.
Grape Source—While the winery's fame was built on grapes from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Dr. Bruce has been adding selected fruit from some other areas as well. He's been very happy with his cold-zone Sonoma grapes, and I think you will be, too.
Contact—(800) 397-9972, FAX (408) 395-5478
Price—$24 range

Postscript—How Does He Do It?

Dr. Bruce: You get grapes in from the field and they have a certain quality potential. You can't make anything better than that, but everything you do in the winery—racking, fining, filtering—reduces the potential quality. So I handle my wines less than many other wineries.

...1977, Robert Benson, Great Winemakers of California


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