by Fred McMillin
for February 6, 1998

Winery of the Week

Menada of Bulgaria


Bulgarian Legend—During the reign of Khan Kroum, who had ordered the destruction of all vineyards, panic broke out when one of his caged lions escaped and terrorized the city. The lion was ultimately slain by a fearless young man. The Khan summonded his mother to learn the source of such courage. Fearfully she confessed to having preserved one vine, from which was made the wine which gave her son, Mavrud, the strength and bravery to confront the lion. The king was so impressed vineyards were again planted and to this day one of the varietals is named Mavrud.

The Rest of the Story

Bulgarian-born Vance Petrunoff hasn't slain a lion, but he has just as much courage. With no connections, he jumped off a Soviet plane which was refueling in Anchorage, and ultimately gained political asylum in the U.S.A. A decade later he is leading the charge into a wine nitch. The high prestige and low yields of California wines have reduced the supply of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the $6 to $8 range. Now, Great Britain knows where to get them. This year they will import about FIVE MILLION cases of Bulgarian wine, including plenty of Cab and Merlot. The U.S.A. brings in a paltry 150,000 cases. Vance has set up shop in Sonoma. One of his brands is Menada , the first Bulgarian winery to return to private hands. It is operated privately by the Siarovi brothers. This is a very comfortable relationship, since the winery was in private hands when it opened in 1901. It won medals then, and now Menada is the first Bulgarian wine to win a U.S.A. Gold Medal. Try the $6 Merlot and $6 '92 Reserve Cab. Khan Kroum would have been impressed.

Just the Facts

Company  Bulgarian Master Vintners
Importer President, Vance T. Petrunoff
Location   650 Fourth Street East,
Sonoma, California 95476
Phone   (707) 939-8719
Other Wines 1991 Private Reserve Cab, Menada Winery, $8.
1995 VINE Merlot, Vini Winery, (earned a Silver Medal in Paris competition), $6.


Bulgaria can boast of many wine milestones. It was one of the first areas where the wine god Dionysus held sway. Homer mentioned the area's wines in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Perhaps the most significant is the recent archaeological evidence that wine was made there in the New Stone Age; there were not a lot of other wineries around in 6,000 B.C., like maybe none.

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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