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"Wine from A to Z"

  by Fred McMillin



Sketch The students in my S.F. State (College of Extended Learning) wanted a copy of my comments in our latest wine appreciation course. So here they are, in alphabetical order, and tuition-free!


From A (Argentina) to Z (Zelma),
A Dictionary of Names You Will Encounter In This Course

    A—Argentina. By far the largest producer in South America. Also, large consumer; per capita consumption is about ten times greater than in U.S.A.

    B—Bruce. Dr. David Bruce, former Stanford dermatologist, is a master of Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah. (see sketch)

    C—Charlemagne (800 A.D.) recommended where to plant wine vines in both Bordeaux and southern Germany. Socially progressive, he was the first to invite women to dine at the royal table.

    D—Delicato owns the largest vineyard in the world. The San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey County is five miles wide and eleven miles long.

    E—Earthquake. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed millions of gallons of stored wine and the resulting shortage lasted about two years.

    F—France, the world wine leader, has less acres of vineyards than Spain (the most) and Italy (second). Also, it IMPORTS about half as much wine as it exports.

    G—Grgich. Mike Grgich shocked the wine world when in 1973 his California Chardonnay was judged better than all the leading French competitors at a prestigious tasting in Paris.

    H—Haraszthy. The father of California viticulture Count Agoston Haraszthy jump-started the California wine industry by importing in 1862 100,000 European vines of 130 varieties. His 4,000-acre Buena Vista vineyard was the largest in the U.S.A.

    I—Italy. "Tickle Italian soil with a hoe and next month it smiles back with a vine," is the way an early writer explained the huge Italian production. This modest-sized country, about the same length as California, is the world's largest producer, according to my last figures.

    J—Jeroboam is the name of the Burgundian bottle containing 4 standard bottles of wine. The course includes a Jeroboam by the renowned House of Louis Jadot.

    K—Knights Valley. An outstanding, little-known wine distict on the eastern border of Somoma County, with no town or large winery.

    L—Langtry. Lillie Langtry was a world-famous British beauty, who became the most important female winemaker in California about 1890. Her property is now owned by the powerhouse Guenoc Winery in Lake County, which originally was the northern tip of Napa County.

    M—Mondavi. Robert Mondavi is the most important California vintner of the 20th century. He has been a leader in both technology (cold fermentation, variation in toasting of oak, etc.) and in marketing (creating the name Fumé Blanc to increase sales of Sauvignon Blanc, etc.).

    N—Napoleon took the control of most of the French and German wineries out of church control and into private ownership, increasing their development rapidly. His favorite wine was made from Pinot Noir.

    0—Oregon production is still small, but the quality of its Pinot Noir isn't. We taste a King Estate RESERVE Oregon Pinot.

    P—Perignon. Two Spanish monks visited Pierre Perignon in France. He noticed the corks in their water bottles. Voila! Just what he need to plug the wine container and hold the bubbles in the wine. I've been in the monestary where it is said he cried out, "Come quickly brothers, I'm drinking stars."

    Q—Quady. Arguably, Andrew Quady's is California's best dessert-wine winery.

    R—Russian River Valley. North of San Francisco, Russians at Fort Ross made wine before the Spanish missionaries arrived in Sonoma. They left in 1842, selling out to John Sutter, before gold was discovered on his property. The coastal section of the river that bears their name is cool and makes some of the Golden State's best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

    S—Serra. Father Juniper Serra was only about five feet tall, and had a permanent limp from a scorpion bite when he first arrived in the New World. He was over 50 when selected to lead the team of Franciscan friars that brought the first wine vines to California.

    T—Tawny is the name given to the brownish color of aged port. The name was first used by an English wine fan, CHARLES DICKENS!

    U—Ullage refers to the space in a container above a liquid. Look at it carefully in older bottles of wine. The greater the ullage, the greater the danger that too much air has entered the bottle and spoiled the wine.

    V—Vine Varieties. Over 10,000 varieties have been identified, and ampelographers are still counting.

    W—Washington State. Makes some of the best Merlot in the U.S.A.

    X—Xenophon (zen-oh-fun), 400 B.C., was a Greek general and historian who knew Socrates. His most famous work THE MARCH OF THE TEN THOUSAND, gives some of the earliest descriptions of viticulture in Asia Minor, not too far from where it all started a few thousand years earlier.

    Y—Yount. A vigorous fur-trapper and hunter, George Yount planted the first wine vines in the Napa Valley. Keep it quiet: he got them in SONOMA!

    Z—Zelma Long is one of the world's most respected female vintners. She's the CEO of the Simi Winery & more. Simi Chardonnays are dynamite.


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