by Fred McMillin
for March 17, 1998

Happy St. Patrick's Day


403 A.D.—The 16-year old future St. Patrick, born in Britain, is captured by pirates and taken to Ireland.

c.4l0 A.D.—Sucat (his original name) escapes to France and becomes a monk.

432 A.D.—Patricius (St. Patrick's Latin name) returns to Ireland as a missionary and establishes over 300 churches.

The Rest of the Story  

Since this is a wine column, I have to ask: When Patricius was a monk in France, was there a good wine available for mass? Well, centuries earlier Pliny the Elder tells of the Biturica grape in Bordeaux, named after the Bituriges tribes that settled in the region around 50 A.D. Later, there are records of the "Bidure" grape in Bordeaux. Bidure is none other than the world's best red wine grape, Cabernet Sauvignon! Hence, my wine for St. Patrick's day is a fine Cab with the hope that St. Patrick tasted its Bordeaux precursor.

The Wine

This is a genuine dazzler. Usually about 20% of my tasters give even outstanding wines a fairly low rating. However, with this one, 14 out of 15 felt it was super. Here it is.

Name—1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer IV
Vineyard, Napa Valley Guenoc Winery
Critical Acclaim—James Laube writes, "Each of the vintages has been superb with rich, ripe fruit flavors. FOUR STARS."
Food Affinities—Smooth enough for lamb, perfect with prime rib. With cheese plate after the entree.
Comment—Makes a wonderful gift.
Price—$40 range.


The Roman Empire was collapsing during St. Patrick's lifetime. In fact, four years after St. Patrick returned to Ireland, the last Roman troups left Britain. However, one of the many contributions they left behind was culinary...they had introduced the cultivation of oysters.

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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