by Fred McMillin
for February 2, 1998

Welcome to February—A Toast to Februarius


Februarius (today, February) had a rough start. It was omitted from the original Roman calendar. Later, it was added as the 1ast month of the year. Then, by 400 B.C. it was moved behind January. Even worse, someone stole one of its days. Julius Caesar took one off of February and added it to the month named after him, July.

Caesar's conquest of Gaul, France, hastened the northward march of the vines. Within an astonishingly short time French wines such as those on the Rhone around Vienne were to be making a great name for themselves.

...Edward Hyams in "Dionysus".

"It is certain that the Syrah vine was established in the Rhone Valley by Roman times.

...J. Robinson in "Vines, Grapes & Wines."

The Rest of the Story

OK. To start the month of Februarius, I'm toasting the man who got Rhone winemaking organized, Caesar, with a glass of Syrah. However, in order to keep the budget balanced, I'll pass on a pricey Rhone. Instead, I'll take a Syrah that won BEST BUY in my most recent 20-wine tasting. Here it is:

The Wine

1995 Syrah, El Dorado County, CA.
Sierra Vista Winery
Placerville, El Dorado County (gold country)
Phone—(916) 622-7221
Tasting Notes—Lots of gentle, black cherry flavors plus sweet oak. Buy now, drink now.


I didn't quite finish the travails of February. Emperor Augustus was not about to be outdone by the likes of Caesar. So, Augustus took ANOTHER day off of February and added it to the month named after him, August. February, originally a robust 30 day month, had been reduced to 28.

Note: For more about this mountainous winery (elevation 2,900') see the April 15, 1997 WineDay titled, "Raising Syrah to New Heights."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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