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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for December 8, 2000


Winery of the Week

Against All Odds


The year was 1913. The outlook for the wine industry in America was gloomy. World War I was about to break out in Europe. Prohibition was about to break out in the USA. For example...

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a Prohibitionist, at a dinner for the British ambassador does not serve wine, but Welch's grape juice instead.

Residence of  Macchiavelli

In Chianti country, Mrs. McMillin examines the the foreboding residence of Macchiavelli while in exile.

The following year the Secretary of Navy Josephus Daniels replaces the traditional rum grog of the Navy with more of that Welch's grape juice.

At the same time, the state of Washington bars beer sales, so owner Louis Henrich moves his Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. to San Francisco and renamed it Rainier.

Nevertheless, against all odds, the Opici family in New Jersey went into the wine business.

Bad idea? Today in New Jersey the Opici Import Company's corporate headquarters and warehouse occupy over 160,000 square feet. The third generation of Opicis ferret out European bargain wines for their national distibution system. Let's look at some Italian examples.

Michelangelo and Macchiaveli both walked on what is now the 62-acre Luiano Estate in Chianti country. (Photo shows my wife examining the rather spartan building where Machievelli lived while exiled from Florence.) Luiano makes both a Chianti Classico ($16) and a Classico Riserva ($23)

The Montagues and the Capulets lived at Verona in northeast Italy. Not far from Juliet's balcony the romantic Soave white wine is produced. Franco Cesari is one of the most respected winegrowers of the area, and the Opicis have just recently started importing a white from his Nibai vineyard. It's Soave Classico Nibai for only $10.

Centuries ago German Bishop Johannes di Fugger set out for Rome to realize his lifelong ambition of visiting the Vatican. Then, with only a few days left on the road, the wine at Montefiascone was so delightful, that he settled down and spent the rest of his life there. Grossman's Guide to Wines says the wine merchants, grateful for the publicity, pour a barrel of wine over his tomb on the anniversary of his demise. My wife and I went there to see the event, and the head of the coop said in his best English, "Oh, we don't do that anymore!" Nevertheless, you must try the white wine that waylayed the bishop. Produced by Luigi Bigi, it's Bigi Est! Est!! Est!!! for only $8. (We'll explain the name in another article.)

We'll be reporting on these wines as my panel reviews them. In the meantime, try a bottle of the romantic Soave or the seductive Est! Est!! Est!!!

In Case You Can't Find Them

Contact—Min Tak, (212) 261-2627, FX (212) 261-4288


There were some good gastronomic developments in 1913. The fabulous Androuét cheese shop in Paris was adding a restaurant on the second floor. The Michelin Guide soon gave it a star. Years later when we had fried Brie there, we felt it deserved Three Stars. If you've been to Androuét's, give us your opinion.


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 December 2000