by Fred McMillin
for February 26, 1998

What Became of That Grape From Spain?


"The white Palomino is the (Spanish) sherry grape par excellence."

..."The Wine Atlas of Spain", by H. Duijker

"The Napa Valley planting frenzy that started in the early 1860's (included) the Palomino."

..."Napa Wine" , by C. Sullivan

The Rest of the Story

So how did the great sherry grape do in the Golden State?

1867—Jacob Schram, founder of the leading Schramsberger Winery, listed the Palomino as one of his top imported white varieties. Later, his visitor, Robert Louis Stevenson, would write of its "notable bouquet."

1895—Prof. George Husmann, outstanding grape authority, wrote that the Palomino was "a very valuable grape that makes a fine dry wine of good flavor."

Then phylloxera infestation, Prohibition, etc. took their toll and by 1961, Palomino acreage in the Napa Valley was down to 332, low but still much greater than that of Chardonnay. Next, the latter's popularity exploded, and by 1991 there were but eight acres of Napa Palomino.

Thus, we've lost our chance to taste what kind of white wine the great sherry grape can make in California. WHOA! Kent Rosenblum found a patch of Palomino in Oakley, east of Oakland, which he converted to 2,500 cases of crisp history. So if you want to taste what Robert Louis Stevenson and the others were talking about, you can find out for only $8.

The Wine

1996 Palomino, Contra Costa County
Ask for "Fleur de Hoof."
Rosenblum Cellars, Alameda, Ca.
Phone—(510) 865-7007
Service—Before the meal as a conversation piece, and then with fish, fowl and spicy dishes.
Tasting Notes—Apple, spice and everything nice.

Postscript - The Name Game.

The sherry capital of Spain is the southern town of Jerez de la Frontera. It was part of the frontier against the Moors who were being driven from the country in the 1200s. King Alfonso X ruled from 1252 to 1284. The Palomino is said to be named after one of Alfonso's knights.

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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