by Fred McMillin
for May 11, 1998

Martin's Magic


In 372 A.D., the people of Tours on the Loire forced the hermit Martin to become their unwilling bishop, bringing him to their city under armed guard. His dirty appearance, shabby clothes and uncombed hair horrified his fellow bishops. Nevertheless, he was brilliantly successful during the following 26 years, both with the cross and the vine. He had churches built all over Gaul. In fact, when he died in 397 his funeral was attended by about 2,000 monks.

Regarding the vine, he domesticated the wild Chenin of Tours, producing the Chenin Noir, which evolved into today's Chenin Blanc.

...Desmond Seward, "Monks and Wine"

The Chenin Blanc is one of the world's most undervalued treasures...However, while a superstar on the Loire, it is more of a workhorse in California, where high yields cause it to lose its distinctive damp-straw and honey flavors.

...British expert Jancis Robinson  

The Rest of the Story

Veteran California vintner Robert Pecota is not about to make a "workhorse" Chenin Blanc. His 1997 version has plenty of those more distinctive flavors Jancis treasures. They aren't Chardonnay and they're not Sauvignon Blanc. See if your friends can guess this one.

The Wine

1997 Dry Chenin Blanc, Apln.—Monterey County
Robert Pecota Winery, Calistoga, CA.
Food Affinities—A treat with pesto pasta.
Contact—Kara Pecota Dunn, (707) 942-6625


Author Desmond Seward (and I) both admire the monks, including their preservation of winemaking during the Dark Ages. However, Mr. Seward mentions someone who didn't share our admiration. The critic wrote, "Monks are the fleas on God Almighty's fur coat." His name was Martin Luther. Note: For more about the Robert Pecota winery, see the Jan. 21,1998 WineDay titled "A Muscat to Remember."

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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