"1995 Reds

  by Fred McMillin


"In 1857, European emigrant Agoston Haraszthy opened the first winery in Sonoma. In 1859, one of his employees, Charles Krug, started commercial winemking in the Napa Valley. Soon, wine caught hold in a way it did not anywhere else inCalifornia. Between them, Napa and Sonoma have led fine winemaking in the state ever since."

...Bob Thompson, Wine Atlas of California

Sonoma-Napa Taste Off

After a century of leadership, which county is making the better wines? To get part of the answer, we held a large, blind tasting of 1995 reds, using pairs of the same varietal of the same price. That is, if the Sonoma team contained an $18 Merlot, then an $18 Napa Merlot was included, too. Price of the pairs ranged from $12 to $33. After the voting, we unwrapped the top eight bottles, and here's what we found.

The Great Eight
(12 Tasters)

8th - SONOMA Alderbrook Merlot, Kunde Vnyd., $18
7th - SONOMA Simi Cab, Alexander Valley, $21
6th - NAPA Raymond Reserve Merlot, $20 (pictured)
5th - SONOMA Pezzi King Cab, Dry Creek Vly., $23
4th - SONOMA Kenwood Cab, Sonoma Vly., $18 (pictured)
3rd - SONOMA Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
2nd - SONOMA Stonestreet Cab, Alexander Vly., $33
Top - NAPA ZD Cabernet Sauvignon, $33



Cabernets clearly dominated. No Zinfandel or Pinot Noir made the final eight.

Sonoma won this mid-price contest. But note that Napa won above $30. Previous tasteoffs indicate Napa tends to take the leadership in the top price range.

Next, we'll repeat this with whites. Stay tuned. If you're interested in attending such tastings, phone me at (415) 563-5712 in San Francisco.


Until the 19th century, both Sonoma and Napa were populated only by native American Indians. In 1579 Sir Francis Drake's chaplain, Francis Fletcher, left us the first description in English of the coastal native Californians: "They were of a free and loving nature, very strong and swift in running. They were without guile or treachery." This was verified by the fact that Drake built a protective stockade, but found he did not need it.


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