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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for November 2, 2000


It's Derby Time

Gary Heck

Gary Heck, the owner
of Wine Derby entry
Sparkle Plenty.

The horses don't get all the glory. We set up our own White Wine Derby. Entries had to be under $15. The two favorites were both 100% Chardonnay. The difference was that entry Sparkle Plenty had bubbles in the Chardonnay. Its rival, Oakey Dokey, had no bubbles but very nice oak. We had four tasters for each quarter mile of the one-mile race. The winner will be our Wine of the Day.

They're Off!

After the first quarter mile—Oakey Dokey has a one length lead over Sparkle Plenty. The four tasters liked Oakey's complexity created by the fact that the Chardonnay grapes came from four northern California regions, the Napa Valley, the Russian River, Sierra Foothills and Dunnigan Hills (northwest of Sacramento).

After a half mile—Sparkle Plenty draws even.

With 1/4 mile left—Sparkle has taken a one-length lead. During the first half of the race, the tasters were the ladies. Now the men have taken over and they are showing a preference for bubbles in their Chardonnay.

The Winnah—Sparkle Plenty wins by three lengths. The male palates chose the bubbles.

Second Place Ain't Bad

We normally don't reveal the names of the losers in our tastings, but Oakey Dokey is such an easy-drinking, affordable Chardonnay we must tell you it is...

'98 Louis M. Martini Chardonnay, $10.50
Contact—Sam Folsom, (415) 399-1138, FAX (415) 989-2908

Now, on to our winner. Sparkle Plenty is...

Our Wine of the Day

Korbel Chardonnay Champagne, $13
Fermented in the bottle.
Korbel founded 1882.
Rating—The professionals on my panel usually rate inexpensive sparklers lower than do the less-experienced tasters. However, the pros rated this Korbel higher than did the other tasters. If you enjoy sparklers costing less than $15, try this one.
Contact—Office of Margie Healy, (707) 824-7715, FAX (707)869-2506


When the three Korbel brothers left Prague in 1850 for San Francisco, they knew how to make locks, guns and cigars. They did not plan to make wine. But with land at 35 cents an acre, they bought some 6,000 acres and soon were vintners.

A century after the Korbels boarded that clipper ship for America, the Heck family bought Korbel. Today, President Gary Heck, (pictured), of the next generation is as creative as the founders, lifting annual sales to the 1.2 million case level. (from California Wineries, Vol. Two, by Pat Latimer, who attended our cooking-wine lessons when we gave them in our San Francisco home.)


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 November 2000