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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for December 15, 2000


Winery of the Week

Big Talk or Big Wines??


Casey Hartlip & Dennis Patton

Eaglepoint Ranch manager Casey Hartlip (right) in his vineyard with Hidden Cellars' founder Dennis Patton.

"Hidden Cellars' Syrahs will be known for their power, structure and longevity."

"The Zaina and Hitzman old vines produce a powerful, no-nonsense Zinfandel that we will proudly put up against any other pretender to the throne of biggest and boldest."

...Dennis Patton, Hidden Cellars' founder & winemaker

The Rest of the Story

Dennis Patton made his first commercial wine, an old-vine Zinfandel, back in 1981. Here's how he turned pro.

"The California Highway Patrol car suddenly appeared in the rear view mirror of my 1958 Ford pick-up. Since all the car's papers were in order, I didn't think much about it. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My hobby was making Zinfandel and there were 90 cases of it in the back for my friends. They paid me the cost of making the wine. I'm selling this stuff! Suddenly I could see bars...from my hobby. If this guy passes me, I'll go legit."

The patrolman did, and Dennis did. That was in August of 1981, the year Hidden Cellars was founded.

About the Prologue

To check out Dennis' optimism about his Mendocino reds, we wrapped three of them and quietly slipped the bottles into our 17-taster college wine class. Would it be boom or bust?

The Envelope, Please

The Least Expensive Wine: Boom! An 88! That's a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...and these vines are young. But they are showing great character, because the vine sites and clones have been selected very carefully. At only $16, this is the wine to buy to learn what Dennis is doing. It is...Hidden Cellars 1997 Mendocino Syrah.

The Single-Vineyard Syrah: Another Boom! Rated 5% higher than the above HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Syrah. It is 100% from the Eaglepoint Ranch (photo) at 1,800 feet elevation. Dennis says these mountain-side slopes produce huge, hairy-chested Syrahs. The class was most impressed by this...Hidden Cellars 1997 Eaglepoint Syrah, $30 "Mendocino Heritage Series".

Dennis' First Love, Old-Vine Zinfandel: Bombs away! The class gave the Zin a NINETY THREE...Best of Tasting. Rating—EXCELLENT! The vines that furnished the grapes were over 50 years old, so this high rating was hardly a suprise. The winemaker said it was among the biggest and boldest. Hidden Cellars Zinfandel from the Zaina & Hitzman Vineyards, $30 "Mendocino Heritage Series".

By no means was the Prologue just big talk. These are big wines.
Contact—Jill Beaverson, (847) 853-9927, FAX (847) 853-9937


One of the original 27 California counties was called Mendocino. Where did the California State founders get the name? It was named after the state's Cape Mendocino, which sounds logical until you learn that Cape Mendocino is NOT in the county.

Tim Fish, columnist


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