by Fred McMillin
for June 11, 1998

Jarvis Bliss


1985 saw the Napa Valley focus on upgrading grape types, including the planting of considerable Chardonnay.

...Charles Sullivan, Napa Wine

The Rest of the Story

Twenty five acres of those new vines, including Chardonnay, were planted by the head of the Wiltron electronics firm, William Jarvis. He and wife Leticia planned to sell the grapes, but winemaking looked too attractive. So, he scraped together twenty million dollars, built an underground winery east of the city of Napa, and turned out the first Chardonnay from those vines in 1992. Critic James Laube called it "elegant and well balanced...excellent." Was it a fluke? Let's see.

1993—Won Best of Class (Chardonnays) and White Wine Division Sweepstakes (700 entries) at Los Angeles County Fair.

1994—Again won a Gold Medal and Best of Class at the L.A. Fair. My panel felt the same way, giving it a rare EXCELLENT rating, as described in the June 4, 1997 WineDay article,
"A Chardonnay Shootout."

1995—The latest release was put together just like the 1994..100% Jarvis -grown Chardonnay grapes...100% malolactic fermentation (adds a buttery complexity)...yeasty sediment stirred every week for nine months to increase richness... 100% new French oak (expensive!). My panel rated it 16% higher that the second place bottle, again giving it an EXCELLENT.

The Wine

1995 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Jarvis Winery, 2970 Monticello Road, Napa
Owner—William Jarvis
Winemaker—Dimitri Tchelistcheff, whose dad, Andre, was the greatest California winemaker of this century. One sip of this exquisite Chardonnay makes it obvious Dimitri had some mentor.
Contact—Denise Hammerberg, (800) 255-5280, x-105
Price—$36 range


Today there's a lot more Chardonnay competition around than when the first Jarvis vines were planted. In 1985, there were less than 29,000 acres of California Chardonnay, now there are over 83,000.

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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